Congress, the Fiscal Cliff and Tee-ing Off at Taxpayer Expense


Congress has adjourned until after the November election, but much is left on the table. Perhaps most notable are the “fiscal cliff” and Sequestration. In addition, they’ve done nothing yet wit the Farm bill which expired on Sept. 30, eliminating certain farm policies.

The Fiscal Cliff
Reports are coming in that Congress will attempt a long-term fix for the “fiscal cliff” during the lame duck session, establishing a framework for large reforms to be discussed in 2012. The “fiscal cliff” refers to the combined effects of the expiring Bush tax cuts and the mandatory Sequestration — both of which take effect in January 2013 if Congress takes no action. (The Job Protection and Recession Prevention Act, HR 8, lays out the House Republican proposal for tax reform negotiations.)

One tax break set to expire at the end of the year is the temporary payroll tax reduction (reducing rates from 6.2% to 4.2%), which was put in place as part of the ARRA (Stimulus package) and extended in December 2011. (See bill report for HR 3630.)

The Farm Bill
The 2008 farm bill officially expired on Sept. 30, eliminating certain farm and dairy policies. While the Senate passed its version of the 2012 farm bill (S 3240), the House did not pass their version, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM Act, HR 6083) before they adjourned.

Sequestration

In August 2011, bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate passed the Budget Control Act, which established “Sequestration” — automatic, across-the-board cuts to federal spending to take effect on January 2, 2013 — if Congress does not act on further deficit reduction. The Sequestration requires $109 billion annually in federal spending cuts, resulting in a 9.4% reduction in defense discretionary funding and an 8.2% reduction in nondefense discretionary funding.

As far as I’m personally concerned, defense can use a serious haircut. Congress will scream and hollar about not being able to cut military spending for our troups, but believe me, there’s a lot more waste, fraud and abuse going on in the military complex that steals resources away from our troops that needs to end.

It’s time to stop maintaining things like championship golf courses on a large number of those bases as well as stop funding golf tournaments on those courses. It’s time to end the practice of high government officials and military elites being able to tee-off worldwide at taxpayer expense. They may only be spending “millions” ($15M) not “billions” with which to support their habits, but you and I know that when you’re out of work, a mere $15 can make a big difference in your life.  If the GOP is so gung-ho on privatizing things … hey, why don’t they sell those assets, apply those monies toward debt reduction, and privatize the courses.

The supply chains for the military services need some serious re-organization efforts.  Each “supply” division in each services suffers from some very serious waste, fraud and ineffectively-managed cost over-runs on contracts for goods and services.  Why do we have separate supply organizations for each service?  Why do we not have one over-arching supply division with subdivisions for each service to better take advantage of efficiencies? Why do they keep awarding contracts to suppliers who continually experience cost over-runs or time-delays, or who provide inferior products (body armor)?

It’s time to close an inordinately large number of overseas bases that were set up for “cold war” defense … well … the cold war ended under Reagan.  Why do we continue to send large amounts of taxpayer money beyond our shore to enrich private base contractors, like corruption-plagued former Halliburton subsidiary KBR?

“Why” have we never closed a huge number of overseas bases, and for “what purpose” are we still staffing and maintaining them?  Are they truly for our nation’s defense?  Or, are they merely for the protection of the interests of the multi-national corporations?  If their sole purpose is to protect the interests of the multi-national corporations, that’s another candidate for the GOP’s favorite activity: privatization.  As far as I’m concerted, they should closed and the multi-national corporations, that believe they should pay NO taxes, should pay for their own security.

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