Bankrupting America’s Spending Daily

| March 29 2013

Spending Daily | March 29, 2013

“Feds Spending $880,000 to Study Benefits of Snail Sex”
CNS News reports, “The National Science Foundation awarded a grant for $876,752 to the University of Iowa to study whether there is any benefit to sex among New Zealand mud snails and whether that explains why any organism has sex. The study, first funded in 2011 and continuing until 2015, will study the New Zealand snails to see if it is better that they reproduce sexually or asexually – the snail can do both – hoping to gain insight on why so many organisms practice sexual reproduction.”

HHS Report: Medicare Lost $70 Million Due to Overpayments
According to The Hill, “A bipartisan group of Senate Finance Committee members said Thursday that the federal Medicare agency isn’t doing enough to prevent overpayments. The senators pointed to a new Health and Human Services Department report that says Medicare has lost $70 million due to overpayments to companies that supply durable medical equipment — heavy-duty items like hospital beds and wheelchairs. Most of the $70 million won’t be recovered, Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said.”

White House Considering Entitlement Reform
According to The Wall Street Journal, “The White House is strongly considering including limits on entitlement benefits in its fiscal 2014 budget—a proposal it first offered Republicans in December. The move would be aimed in part at keeping alive bipartisan talks on a major budget deal. Such a proposal could include steps that make many Democrats queasy, such as reductions in future Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security payments, but also items resisted by Republicans, such as higher taxes through limits on tax breaks, people close to the White House said.”

Medicare Reform Talk Could Pave Way for Fiscal Deal
The New York Times reports, “As they explore possible fiscal deals, President Obama and Congressional Republicans have quietly raised the idea of broad systemic changes to Medicare that could produce significant savings and end the polarizing debate over Republican plans to privatize the insurance program for older Americans. While the two remain far apart on the central issue of new tax revenue, recent statements from both sides show possible common ground on curbing the costs of Medicare, suggesting some lingering chance, however small, for a budget bargain. Mr. Obama assured House and Senate Republicans duringrecent separate visits that he could support specific cost-saving changes to Medicare and deliver Democratic votes, though only as part of a ‘balanced’ package that had additional revenues. Several changes are likely to once again be in his annual budget, which will be released on April 10, after Congress returns from its break. Mr. Obama also plans a dinner with Senate Republicans that night. In particular, participants say, the president told House Republicans that he was open to combining Medicare’s coverage for hospitals and doctor services. That would create a single deductible that could increase out-of-pocket costs for many future beneficiaries, but also could pay for a cap on their total expenses and reduce the need to buy Medigap supplementary insurance.”

Energy Department Approved $3.5M in Bonuses to 10 Employees
The Washington Guardian reports, “Federal employees are facing unpaid days off and salary cuts due to the sequester, but several contract workers inside the Energy Department are still raking in the cash. Ten individuals at the department’s Oak Ridge nuclear laboratory are set to make an extra $3.5 million above and beyond their normal pay, according to an Energy Department inspector general investigation that exposes a lavish bonus system. The 10 people are executives at the company UCOR, which the department hired for environmental clean-up.  And despite watchdog warnings that the executives’ salaries are as much as 82 percent above the market rate, Energy Department officials continue to pay out the bonuses.”

Obama’s Budget Coming April 10, More Than Two Months Late
Bloomberg reports, “President Barack Obama will send his long overdue fiscal 2014 budget to Congress on April 10, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. The budget, more than two months late after the legal deadline of Feb. 4, was delayed by the year-end debate over taxes and spending, compounded by across-the-board spending cuts that took effect on March 1. … Obama’s budget probably won’t change the political debate. Still, it gives the president a chance to align himself with a vision of modestly reduced U.S. deficits through higher taxes on top earners and ending special tax breaks.”

“Sequester: Republican Theory Of The Case”
POLITICO reports, “To figure out why Republicans are winning the sequester wars, look at two numbers. Federal employees have so far taken no furlough days. And the stock market hit an all-time record earlier this month, with the Dow closing Thursday at 14,578. Amid all that, it’s pretty hard for most of the public to understand what the Democrats were talking about, with all their gloom-and-doom chatter earlier this year. But so far, even the White House admits there’s little chance of reversing all the cuts. There’s been no sudden shock to the system. In fact, the economy seems on the mend, with housing starts higher than before the Great Recession. And if this drip-by-drip rollout continues, GOP activists say they’ll keep the political high ground as the cuts slowly sink into the public consciousness — much in the same way people forget that before Sept. 11, they could make a dash for the airport gate without taking off their shoes.”

“Sequester: Democratic Theory Of The Case” 
POLITICO reports, “The public has largely tuned out the Democrats’ repeated warnings about mid-air plane crashes, troop deaths and mass illness from tainted meat if the sequester cuts stay in place. But Democrats aren’t dropping the threat of disaster, seizing now on the line they think can beat the Republicans: law and order. Prison riots, cocaine flooding the streets, terrorists on board airplanes — even hurricanes and tornadoes left undetected by budget-slashed agencies — have moved front and center as Democrats try to get the public behind blaming the Republicans. Spending cuts undermine the ability to ‘catch the bad guys, whether it’s white-collar crime, like mortgage fraud, or street crime, or despicable things like trafficking women and children,’ Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski said in a recent floor speech. The Maryland Democrat noted that the spending cuts hurt local law enforcement officials who rely on federal grants to help in staffing and equipment purchases. ‘It’s not the biggest thing in the federal budget but it’s the biggest thing to cops,’ she said. ‘Why? Because it buys bullet-proof vests.’ The whole thing leaves Democrats looking a little like they’re rooting for bad news— though they insist that they’re only saying what is likely to happen if the money isn’t replenished.”

Carbon Tax Fails Twice in Congress
The Wall Street Journal reports, “Proposals for that hardy Al Gore perennial, a carbon tax, are making a comeback. But if last weekend’s votes in the Senate are any guide, the idea is going to require a lot more political persuasion. … First up was Rhode Island liberal Sheldon Whitehouse, who wanted to reserve any carbon-tax revenues to reduce the deficit or redistribute to certain voters. Apparently Mr. Whitehouse sees a carbon levy as inevitable and wants to make sure he’s the middleman. The Democrat waxed liturgical in support: ‘We have a new pope, Pope Francis, who said last week that our relation with God’s creation is not very good right now. God’s creation runs by laws—the laws of nature, the laws of physics, the laws of chemistry—and God gave us the power of reason to understand those laws’… To which Missouri Republican Roy Blunt replied: ‘I know the pope also mentioned, more times than he mentioned carbon tax, helping the poor.’ And ‘I would just say, when the poor family cannot pay their utility bill…’ The Whitehouse amendment lost 58-41, with 13 Democrats joining every Republican in opposition.”

Obama to Promote Plan for Miami Infrastructure 
The Associated Press reports, “President Barack Obama will promote a plan to create jobs by attracting private investment in highways and other public works during a visit Friday to a Miami port, a senior administration official said. The president will flesh out details of his proposals in a speech at the port, which is undergoing $2 billion in upgrades paid for with government and private money. … The administration official was not authorized to discuss the proposals before they were announced publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The president made private-sector infrastructure investment a key part of the economic agenda he rolled out in his State of the Union address last month. He also called in his address for a ‘Fix-It-First’ program that would spend $40 billion in taxpayer funds on urgent repairs. Obama’s focus on generating more private sector investment underscores the tough road new spending faces on Capitol Hill, where Republican lawmakers often threaten to block additional spending unless it is paid for by tax cuts or other measures.”

Senate to CBO: Give More Credit to Economic Power of Tax Cuts
POLITICO reports, “Here’s one Republican victory that went virtually unnoticed in the slew of budget votes last week: The Senate told the Congressional Budget Office it should give more credit to the economic power of tax cuts. It won’t have the force of law, but it was a big symbolic win for conservatives — because it gave them badly needed moral support in an ongoing war to get Washington’s establishment number crunchers to take their economic ideas more seriously. The amendment endorsed a model called ‘dynamic scoring,’ which assumes that tax cuts will pay for at least part of their cost by generating more economic activity. The measure by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) called on CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation to include ‘macroeconomic feedback scoring’ in all future estimates of tax legislation.”

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