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This Week – The House plans to take up several measures this week. The first will be a resolution disapproving the President’s recent decision to impose steel tariffs. House Joint Resolution 84, “Disapproving the action taken by the President under Section 203 of the Trade Act of 1974,” does not have any legislative power to stop the decision but expresses opposition. The House also expects to take up House Joint Resolution 87, the ”Yucca Mountain Repository Site Approval Act,” to approve the site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, for the development of a repository for the disposal of high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel, pursuant to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. Finally, the House anticipates the debate of H.R. 4546 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003. This bill would authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2003 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction and to prescribe military personnel strengths.
The Senate this week continues to debate the trade package that includes the Andean Trade Act and Trade Promotion Authority. They are also expected to pass the conference report on the Farm Bill. More on that below.
Are the Foxes Watching the Henhouse?
As taxpayers, we have a growing problem in the Capitol: no one is looking out for our interests. While spending excess always represented a problem in your nation’s capital, the threats to our economic sovereignty have become bigger and more sustained. Just some examples from the last few weeks exemplify the problem. After months of wrangling, the House and Senate finally decided on a Farm Bill. Re-named the Farm Security Act after September 11th to capitalize on national sympathies, this $180 billion boondoggle provides giveaways of astronomical proportions. Not only does this bill make farmers MORE reliant on federal generosity as opposed to weaning them off subsidies, it provides grants to such needy ‘farmers’ as Ted Turner and Scottie Pippen. To top it all off – this exploitation of the American taxpayer STILL isn’t enough for some lawmakers. Several farm state representatives want money immediately and plan to tack an additional $2 to $3 billion on any bill possible because their farming conglomerates just can’t wait for the money to be disbursed through normal channels!
Another example of how Congress abuses the American taxpayer is their rush to provide a prescription drug benefit to seniors. Despite the fact that the Medicare system is fatally flawed and going bankrupt, Congress wants to include a new prescription drug benefit to a broken system. Estimated to cost $350 billion at a minimum, the addition of prescription drug coverage to Medicare will either come from further increasing the payroll deduction or from general revenue. In either case, this is not free money - it comes out of our pockets.
As covered in last week’s Capitol Hill Round Up we also have a supplemental spending bill being considered on Capitol Hill. And despite the protestations of the president and fiscally conservative organizations, it appears that this bill will indeed exceed the recommended $27.1 billion – as if that amount weren’t egregious enough.
Additionally, Congress and the administration are developing a terrorism re-insurance bill, which will place the burden of bailing out the insurance industry squarely on the taxpayers. While no legitimate cost estimates can be established, the potential is for tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize and industry that used to be governed by market forces. And, we have not even begun the annual appropriations dance – which, since this is an election year, will prove positively devastating to your wallet.
My question is what do we, the taxpayer’s get out of all of this? It is estimated that under the Farm Bill 3% of the farms will receive two-thirds of all commodity subsidies – is that fair? With over 8,000 earmarks inserted into last year’s appropriations bills, has your neighborhood benefited? Has doubling the amount of federal spending in education made a dramatic difference in our schools? It is hard for congressional leadership, the president and others to say no to this gorging at the federal trough – advocates claim for instance that their program only costs $.03 per person after all!” Or that to win the election a new bridge is imperative. However, if you have 50,000 programs (which is an underestimate) at $.03 each, that is $1,500 a year per taxpayer – AND many people don’t pay taxes, leaving you holding the bag.
As discerning citizens, we can no longer just expect our politicians to look out for our interests. The administration once thought as a panacea to out-of-control spending by Congress has gradually fallen victim to these excesses as well. The push for additional federal resources in homeland security and defense, the support for ever-increasing education funding, the farm bill boondoggle, and efforts to provide terrorism re-insurance raise more than a few fiscal eyebrows.
And, under the Republicans in the House and Senate, spending has risen to levels not seen since the Great Society. If we want to make sure that our federal government is being responsible with our money and spending it cognizant to the fact that it is OUR money, it will take a strong, sustained grassroots movement. They will not and cannot police themselves.
Call or email your Representative and Senators and let them know that you are watching them. As stewards of your tax dollars they have to learn to curb excessive spending.