As conservatives rage about the cost of Obama’s Africa trip, it is important to remember that George and Laura Bush made a combined 7 trips to Africa all on the taxpayers’ dime.
We’ve played this game before, but anytime the nation’s first black president spends more than a dollar, the right wing freaks out about Barack Obama “wasting taxpayer dollars.” Back in 2011, the right claimed that First Lady Obama’s Africa trip would cost taxpayers millions, but even if you use numbers that the White House disagrees with ($424,000), they weren’t even close.
This time the right has whipped up the fake outrage over a leaked document showing that President Obama’s upcoming Africa trip could cost $60-$100 million. What these same people don’t tell is that George and Laura Bush loved to go to Africa on the taxpayers’ dime…a lot.
During Bush’s second term alone, Laura Bush made five “goodwill” trips to Africa. President Bush made the trip twice during his presidency. Here is former First Lady Bush at an event the night before their trip in 2008, “Tomorrow, President Bush and I leave for what will be my fifth trip to Africa since 2001, and his second trip to Africa since 2001. I’ve seen the determination of the people across Africa — and the compassion of the people of the United States of America.”
Wow, that’s a lot of trips to Africa. In 2007, Laura Bush also took her daughters with her, and they went on a safari. You know, the same kind of outing that President Obama just canceled.
Not much was going right for George W. Bush. Even before the economy crashed, his legacy was 9/11, the unpopular Iraq invasion, and Hurricane Katrina. Back in 2003, Bush laid the groundwork for making aid to Africa his legacy. One of the areas where Bush drew praise was that he spent billions of taxpayer dollars on aid to Africa. It’s funny how conservatives don’t utter a peep about George W. Bush dishing out more than ten times the amount of taxpayer money on aid than Obama will spend on his trip.
Walmart’s wages and benefits are so low that many of its employees are forced to turn to the government for aid, costing taxpayers between $900,000 and $1.75 million per store, according to a report released last week by congressional Democrats.
The Republican controlled house of representatives created this cliff, and has spent months burning every possible bridge they could use to cross it. If the house can’t create a budget that will pass without a veto, then they are failing in their prime duty, and probably need to be recalled through the whatever the various mechanisms are in individual states.
If the Representatives can’t muster enough votes to do that, then the house needs to reasonably extend the time frame — since this is just an arbitrary timeline that they created they can also change that timeline before the ten days are up. So there are two easy ways to avert the cliff, that mentioned by the president, and that of extending the deadline. If the house fails, I say recall them.
President Obama sharply curtailed his ambitions for legislation to avert the year-end “fiscal cliff” on Friday, urging Congress to adopt a stopgap measure to keep benefits flowing to unemployed workers and prevent taxes from rising on income under $250,000 a year.
The plan should also “lay the groundwork” for action next year to spur economic growth and rein in the national debt, Obama said at a White House news conference. But with taxes set to rise for virtually every American in just 10 days, Obama conceded that time was too short to enact far-reaching legislation now.
“I am still ready and willing to get a comprehensive package done. . . . I remain committed to working towards that goal, whether it happens all at once or whether it happens in several different steps,” Obama said.
“But in 10 days, we face a deadline,” he said. Protecting unemployed workers and 98 percent of taxpayers is “an achievable goal that can get done in 10 days.”
With that, Obama and his family boarded a flight to Hawaii for Christmas, leaving congressional leaders to untangle a long-standing political knot: how to push a tax hike of any kind through the fractious Republican House.
In another conservative experiment with tax dollars there are vouchers going to some highly questionable religious schools, and a lot of Catholic Schools. 8 years later it’s time for the Feds to stop bailing out religious schools and instead invest more in public schools.
When Congress created the nation’s only federally funded school voucher program, advocates said the plan would improve the education of some of the poorest urban youths.
Eight years later, it seems clear that things haven’t gone as planned.
A lengthy investigation of the Washington, D.C., voucher program by The Washington Post showed that many parents use the voucher money to send their children to schools that are unaccredited and unaccountable.
In addition, the program has become a type of bailout for Catholic schools. More than half of 1,584 students who receive vouchers use them to attend Catholic institutions.
Some of the schools examined, which include a K-12 school operating out of a storefront, a Nation of Islam school based in a converted house, and a school built on the teachings of an obscure Bulgarian psychotherapist, could not survive without federal funds, The Post said. In some cases, more than 90 percent of a school’s students pay with federal vouchers.
Congress allocated $20 million for the D.C. voucher program for this year, The Post reported, and since 2004 the federal government has set aside $133 million for the program. Students who meet the household income requirements can receive about $8,000 per year for elementary school and around $12,000 per year for high school.
And yet, the schools are not accountable to the taxpayers who are forced to fund them. No government official has say over the curriculum, academic quality or management of the schools.
In fact, the only requirements for D.C. schools that accept voucher students are that the institutions must have a certificate of occupancy and employ teachers who are college graduates. One requirement that is glaringly absent from that list is accreditation. D.C. private schools aren’t required to be accredited in order to enroll voucher students, and The Post found that at least eight of the 52 schools that accept vouchers lack accreditation.
Who are we, anyway? Collectively, I mean—politically, as Americans. Whom do we believe we are? What do the words we use to name ourselves reveal about the way we think we stand in relation to one another, to the whole? The word you hear most often is consumers. We are all consumers. Which means what? That our main job, in this enterprise that we all share, is to use stuff up. Not a political role at all, but only an economic, and what’s more, a passive or recessive—an, as it were, alimentary—one. We aren’t even workers, which sounds too militant, only consumers. Our chief responsibility is just to keep on swallowing.
When we’re not consumers, we’re taxpayers. Political actors, but of a curious kind. To regard ourselves as taxpayers is to think of politics, precisely, in economic terms. To think of politics, in fact, as consumers. As customers. And notice how invidious it is, that term. Because everyone knows that not everyone pays taxes. Taxpayers means that the government should do for those who pay for it, just as much as they pay for it. For every quid, a quo. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. The poor, the disabled, the unemployed: the freeloaders—taxpayers means they don’t deserve a thing.
In answering the tax question, Romney also noted, “The top 5 percent of taxpayers will continue to pay 60 percent of the income tax the nation collects. So that’ll stay the same.”
But by referring to the “top 5 percent,” Romney may have changed his definition of the middle class. If he now means that his relief for taxpayers in the middle ends at the top 5 percent, that means in effect that the middle class ends somewhere below $200,000 in adjusted gross income.
In September, by contrast, Romney said, “Middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less.”
Roughly the top 3 percent of US households have incomes of $200,000 and higher. Romney’s other 2 percent would come from the top end of the next group tracked by the Internal Revenue Service, the roughly 10 percent of tax filers with adjusted gross incomes of between $100,000 and $200,000.
So after Tuesday night, where are we in the debate over Romney’s tax plan?
Here are some important parts of the answer:
Skeptics of Romney’s tax math still abound. Among them is Mr. Obama. Here’s an excerpt of what the president said Tuesday night:
“Look, the cost of lowering rates for everybody across the board, 20 percent, along with what he also wants to do in terms of eliminating the estate tax, along with what he wants to do in terms of corporates, changes in the tax code, it costs about $5 trillion.”
The General Services Administration, already under investigation for lavish spending, allowed an employee to telecommute from Hawaii even though he is based at the GSA’s Kansas City, Missouri, office, a CNN investigation has found.
It cost more than $24,000 for the business development specialist to travel to and from the mainland United States over the past year.
He is among several hundred GSA “virtual” workers who also travel to various conferences and their home offices, costing the agency millions of dollars over the past three years.
Under the program, employees work from home and may live in another state from the region in which they’re actually assigned.
The Kansas City employee, who started his job in January 2011, is paid $84,440 and works from his home in Honolulu, a GSA representative confirmed.
In the past year, according to GSA travel records, the employee has flown back to the mainland nine times for conferences and meetings. Four of those trips were to St. Louis; four were to Washington, with a side trip to Cincinnati; and one was to San Diego. The total cost to taxpayers was $24,221.
When is a hamburger not just a hamburger? When it costs Amtrak $16 to make. They sell it for $9.50, and taxpayers cover the difference — every time. Then it becomes a glaring symbol for spiraling costs, crippling deficits, and the inherent inefficiencies of big government.
Thirty years ago, the idea of Amtrak losing money on food sales was as outrageous as it is today. (Hungry customers on a moving train with nowhere else to go. How hard can it be?) In fact, it was so outrageous that Congress passed a law against it. The Amtrak Improvement Act of 1981 prohibits the government-owned company from selling food at a loss. Nice try. Today, Amtrak is selling more and losing more than ever before.
This month the Government Accountability Office reported that losses on food service exceeded $80 million last year and totaled $834 million during the past decade. Auditors blamed the staggering losses — most of which occur on Amtrak’s 15 long-distance routes — on waste, theft, and lack of oversight. That’s only a fraction of the total losses from long distance operations, but it’s real money nonetheless.
For many of Amtrak’s congressional overseers, a $16 hamburger is a juicy target — an opportunity to grill the company’s managers and rake the bungling operation over the coals. Rail boosters, meanwhile, will rush to the usual defenses — that these are simply the costs of maintaining passenger rail, that the services are essential, and that scaling back Amtrak means scaling back jobs.
During congressional testimony, Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman tried to explain that, if Amtrak didn’t lose so much selling food, fewer people would ride the trains, and the company would lose more money on operations. Such tortured logic makes for a bad business plan. Ridership did reach a record last year, a 5 percent increase over 2010. Unfortunately, operating losses rose by 20 percent, cresting above $500 million.
President Barack Obama’s administration launched a new partnership with private insurance companies, state officials and other stakeholders to scale up efforts to tackle widespread and increasingly sophisticated healthcare fraud.
Speaking from the White House at a table surrounded by leaders from many of the country’s biggest health insurers, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder launched the new initiative, which builds on past efforts to root out crimes that cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars every year.
“Bringing additional healthcare industry leaders and experts into this work will allow us to act more quickly and effectively in identifying and stopping fraud schemes, seeking justice for victims, and safeguarding our healthcare system,” Holder said.
The project increases a focus on data sharing between public and private health insurers, using new technology that helps track medical claims in real time. Many large insurers have already signed onto the program, including Humana Inc, UnitedHealth Group and WellPoint Inc.
“In the past, we followed a â€ pay-and-chase’ model, paying claims first - then only later tracking down the ones we discovered to be fraudulent. Now, we’re taking away the crooks’ head start,” Sebelius said.
Over the past two years, Holder and Sebelius have sought to identify major centers of healthcare fraud, meeting with local organizations, investigators, prosecutors and state officials to better understand the nature of common fraud schemes and to bring new stakeholders into the conversation.
Government promises to public employees have created “zero-risk” Wonderlands protected from the market forces of risk and consequence. These islands of privilege are snapping back to join the real economy.
Every government entity that reckoned it was moated from the market economy will be snapped back to “discover” risk and consequence. Let’s lay out the dynamic:
1. Every government can only spend what its economy generates in surplus.
2. Every government transfers risk and consequence from itself, its employees and its favored vested interests to the citizenry and taxpayers.
3. Every government collects and distributes the surplus of its private sector to its employees, favored constituencies and vested interests.
4. Since the government (State) promises guaranteed salaries, benefits and entitlements to its employees and favored constituencies, these individuals believe they are living in a risk-free Wonderland that is completely protected from the market economy.
5. Risk cannot be repealed or eliminated, it can only be masked or transferred to others.
6. The Federal government and the Federal Reserve have pursued a policy of inflating serial speculative credit-based bubbles.
7. These bubbles inflated assets, profits and taxes, creating the illusion that blow-off speculative tops were “the new normal.”