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Wednesday, 21 December 2016 17:27

Federal Spending Gone Wild

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By the end of 2016, our national debt will be more than $19.5 trillion, and on our current path, it will probably reach $22 trillion by the end of the decade. Last year our federal government spent $223 billion, or 8 percent of all discretionary spending, on interest payments alone. By the start of the next decade, we will spend more on interest than we do on our national defense. For many Americans the dollar figures are so large that it is hard to actually fathom how massive they really are.
So here is another way to look at it, in the last fiscal year, 2015 the federal government spent $439 billion more than it took it in. Sadly, this year the feds have already spent over $590 billion more than we took in and we have 10 more days left in the year as of our going to press, overspending now is almost routine. However, if Congress were able to balance the budget, keep it balanced, and create a yearly surplus of $50 billion per year, it would still take 460 years to pay off our national debt. Let me give you a moment to let that sink in.
Our current spending habits are unsustainable and irresponsible. Members of Congress from both parties--with cooperation from the President have a moral obligation to our children and grandchildren to leave them a country on a path to eliminate its overwhelming national debt.
Here are just some examples from "Federal Fumbles: 100 ways the Government has dropped the ball" By James Lankford US Senator from Oklahoma

1) Kids prefer food that has not been sneezed on!
National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently invested almost $2 million in a grant to study what influences a child’s views on food.
For instance, the grantees intended to study whether a person’s gender, race, or accent influenced which food a child will select. For the one-year-olds, the grantee planned to test whether the emotion of the person providing food influenced the child’s eating habits.
NIH has funded this grant since 2012, and the grantees have published 7 papers discussing their results.
In April 2015 the grantees published a paper slating that when children aged 5-8 were given the choice between alleged­ly sneezed-on food and clean food, they chose the clean food.
In 2014 the grantees published a report stating that when given the option. children prefer being wealthy as opposed to poor. Finally, earlier this year the grantees published a report that children who learn more than one language tend to have better communication skills. This is all Clearly ground braking research.
2) Exempt from effective
government oversight, CFPB has questionable spending practices that cannot be reformed through
congressional appropriations

Created in 2010 by the Dodd-Frank Act, The Consumer Financial Protection Board was formed to implement, supervise for compliance, and enforce federal consumer financial laws. Dodd-Frank intentionally made CFPB super-independent and put all of its powers in the hands of a single director whose only oversight constitutes semi-annual meetings before Congress. Evan though its still in its infant stages, CFPB's regulatory agenda has already imposed 49 final rules at a price of $2.8 billion.
The rules adversely impact critical consumer credit products. such as mortgages, auto loans, and payday loans. 'While CFPB often bypasses standard rulemaking procedures by simply suing and setting precedent, when they do follow standard procedures, they roll out rules at an astounding pace. One report found that on average, the CFPB rulemaking process is 3.5 times faster than other agencies.
Unlike most federal agencies, CFPB receives its fundin directly from the Federal Reserve Bank, rather than through the regular Congressional Appropriations process. Each year CFPB is authorized by law to draw up to 12% of the yearly earnings of the Federal Reserve System. In fiscal year 16 CFPB was allocated 605.9 million dollars and is slated to receive it 630 million dollars in fiscal year 17. The Federal Reserve is required to turn over the money to CFPB and cannot provide oversight into how the funds are utilized, where the spending is appropriate, and where the money is used efficiently. That means neither Congress nor the Federal reserve has oversight capabilities of CFPB spending. Recently the federal courts have even ruled that the current structure of CFPB is unconstitutional.
CFPB’s freedom from congressional budgetary oversight has created questionable spending decisions by The Bureau. A report from The Wall Street Journal found that in just the first half of 2016, the bureau spent more than 15 million on internet just to direct browsers to its website. The cost included a 12.5 million contract for the same advertizing firm used by the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The CFPB spends more than twice as much of its Budget on advertising than most agencies spend: where most federal agencies use less than 1% of their budget on Advertising, the CFPB has used 2.5% of its budget.
In 2013 chairman and Jeb Hensarling of the US House of Representatives finance committee estimated that CFPB spent almost 12 million on employees travel when the bureau employed 1,168 people. That represents more than $10,000 per employee in one year. It is not surprising that CFPB is outside the authority of OMB guidelines and rules, which helped ensure effective and efficient use of federal dollars.
While there is merit to laws that protect consumers from unscrupulous financial practices, the creation of a $600 million per year federal agency empowered to create and enforce regulations impacting millions of Americans and companies and that it is completely immune from any oversight or accountability is anathema to our nation's Democratic principles.
Almost everything the CFPB does is redundant to another Federal agency; it should never have been created. The best use of funds would be to abolish the CFPB and spend the available dollars to reform and appropriately staff the other regulatory entities.
At a minimum, the CFPB authority should be reined in by making it accountable to Congress through the appropriations and authorizing process. In October 2016 the US court of appeals for the District of Columbia ruled some of the CFPB broad power is unconstitutional because there are few executive of congressional oversight authorities written into law. The Obama Administration has vowed to appeal the ruling making the certainty of congressional reform legislation essential. In May 2015 Senator Purdue and 17 other Senators introduce the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accountability act. The simple legislation brings additional oversight and accountability to the CFPB by requiring it to seek appropriations from Congress through the normal budget process instead of receiving funding from the Federal Reserve.

3) National Science Foundation funded multiple grants,
totaling nearly $500,000
to find the connection between
religion, politics and cemeteries in 12th century Iceland
Norwegians and Celts first settled Iceland in the 9th and 10th centuries. A Danish colony for centuries, Iceland gained full independence in 1944. Its economy is primarily based on fishing, and although not a member of the European Union, Iceland is part of the European Economic Area, which allows free trade and travel with Europe. Iceland has also been the focus of countless American federal grants over the years.
Some of the grants NSF authorized for studies in Iceland this year include $61,000 to study volcanoes, $375,000 to look at the “calcium and strontium isotope geochemistry of weathering,” $1.1 million to look at the flow of water from Denmark to Iceland (and Greenland), and $102,531 (so far) to study the spread of flies at a lake in Iceland.
Over the last several years, NSF also provided more than
$500,000 to study the impact of religion in Iceland, focusing on locating church cemeteries from centuries past for excavation. One grant, totaling more than $400,000,
looked at how religion impacted “the development of political
power in Iceland between AD 870 and 1300.” The researchers recognize that in the 12th century a transition occurred from family churches to communal churches.
The grantees would like to know whether community churches were originally placed on prominent farms or located on farms that later “became important political and economic centers.” The other grants, one for $46,68836 and the other for $26,680,37 attempt to determine the best method to scan the ground for churchyards and cemeteries so archeologists know exactly where to dig during excavations.
Iceland is certainly an important NATO ally and friend to the US. But that friendship does not require adding to our national debt to study the county's 12th-century cemeteries. It is difficult to justify to many hard-working American families spending more than they make in a year to fund one grant to study how to locate cemeteries in Iceland. If the Icelandic people, who already have an extremely high tax rate, view this project as important, it is one in which they should invest their own money. NSF should fund im­portant research projects in the US or in places where it will provide a benefit to the American people to invest our hard earned tax dollars. While our families continue to struggle to make ends meet" and our national debt continues to skyrocket, we should not spend money on archeological work in other countries.

Even though the federal government spends $80 billion a year on IT, much of that money goes to support legacy technology that
could be more than 50 years old

It is perhaps the greatest understatement that technology has changed a lot over the last few decades. Our cell phones can do more than any computer could manage just 10 years ago. It is now cheaper to talk to someone on
the other side of the planet than it is to drive to the next state. As technology advances, so does the type of technology Americans use. Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 who own computers decreased by 10 percent
from 2010 to 2015, while the number of Americans using smart phones almost doubled.
The federal government spends $80 billion on technology-
related expenses each year. Approximately 75 percent of that goes solely to the cost of operating and maintaining existing technology, and that percentage has continued
to increase over the last few years. As a result, the government invested less and less in new technology, which would provide enhanced capabilities and potentially decrease the cost of operation and maintenance.
In fact, Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that in Fiscal Year15, federal agencies and departments planned to spend $55 billion of their $80 billion technology budgets on “services that do not use solutions
often viewed as more efficient.” That is to say, the agencies spend money on older technology instead of utilizing cheaper and more efficient options like cloud-based computing and storage. According to GAO,the Dept of Defense still utilizes 8-inch floppy disks for a computer system that controls our nation’s nuclear weapons. Treasury
utilizes a computer code from the early 1960s to catalogue taxpayers, and the VA utilizes programing code written in the 1950s to track veteran claims for benefits and employee timecards and payroll.
In 2014 Congress passed the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, which required OMB to develop a method—with metrics—to ensure agencies updated their technology, but unfortunately agencies
have not yet universally adopted the rules. GAO reports that while Office of Management and Budget has put out a metric for agencies to follow, It has not fully developed the goals to go with the metrics, and "agencies may be limited In their ability to evaluate progress" in updating their technology. In fact, GAO states that DOD, Treasury, and the VA have not yet even set a plan to update much of their oldest technology."
If an agency believes the technology it currently has is the absolute best to complete a task, the agency should retain it. However, spending on operation and maintenance for technology continues to expand, and investment in new technology continues to decrease. Mix that with the fact that some agencies use computer systems older than the average American, and it is mostly likely time to look for something new.
Since 2011 GAO has made 800 recommendations for agencies to update their technology. By the end of October 2015, 68 percent of those recommendations had not been implemented. With more than $80 billon spent each year on technology, American taxpayers have the right to know that money is spent responsibly and efficiently. As.of now, It does not appear that they receive the best return on their investment

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