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“The ‘I Don’t Wanna’ Caucus”: Who The Hell Gave Republicans A Monopoly On Morality And Spending Of Public Dollars?

Of all the arguments put forth against everything from the Affordable Care Act to social safety net programs, the “I don’t want to pay for X” argument from the right has to be the most asinine. The upcoming decision on the Supreme Court’s King vs. Burwell case – which could yank subsidies out from under anyone using the federal health care exchange – is a prime example.

As Robert Schlesinger has pointed out, the lawsuit’s proponents are relying on a known falsehood about the intent of the law because they don’t want taxpayer support going to people who otherwise couldn’t afford health insurance. It’s “I Don’t Wanna” as a Supreme Court test case.

Newsflash to the right: I don’t want to pay for a lot of things either, starting with Exxon subsidies, Bush’s wars and the millions we paid to sociopaths to come up with torture techniques for the CIA. Who the hell gave you a monopoly on morality when it comes to spending public dollars? Do you think you’re the only ones who object to where our tax dollars go? Because if we only have to pay for the things of which we approve, I’ve got a long veto list.

The I Don’t Wanna Caucus is willfully oblivious to the fact that a whole lot of people pay for them, too. Texas is more than happy to accept Federal Emergency Management Agency money – they actually got more than any other state in 2011 and 2012 – at the same time Texas Gov. Greg Abbott deploys the state guard against an imaginary Obama takeover and sues the federal government over the environment and health care.

Here in Colorado, as the Colorado Springs Gazette has reported about its home of El Paso County, “The county is more dependent on federal money than most other places in Colorado and the nation … Federal spending accounts for one-third of the local economy.” Yet Colorado Springs would rather have its parks go brown and its streetlights fade than increase taxes locally to pay for them.

The I Don’t Wanna Caucus is not only ideologically hypocritical, it’s also irresponsible. The I Don’t Wanna Caucus of Colorado Senate Republicans killed our highly-successful program that slashed the teen birth and abortion rate by providing free long-acting reversible contraceptives to low-income women. Every $1 invested in the program saved the state $5.85 in Medicaid costs. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment estimates that the program could have saved Colorado $49 million to $111 million in Medicaid dollars per year in birth-related costs.

Likewise, insurance is cheaper than no insurance. People without insurance end up in the emergency room, where they have to be treated and where the cost shifts onto someone else. Guess who pays for that? People with insurance. But now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, hospitals saved at least $7.4 billion in 2014, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

All of us have someone else paying for us in some form or another, through paved roads and clean drinking water and home mortgage tax deductions. Those of us without kids subsidize schools and teachers for other people’s children. Living in a civilized society means we all share in the cost and responsibility. Living in a civilized society also means we all pay for things we find morally objectionable – conservatives and liberals alike.

Because the alternative – the I Don’t Wanna Caucus – doesn’t belong in a first world country.

 

By: Laura Chapin, U. S. News and World Report, June 12, 2015

June 13, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Public Spending, Taxpayers | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Your Dollars At Work — For The Rich”: We’re Not Talking Trickle Here, We’re Talking Cascading To Privatize Everything

Conservative pundits and politicians routinely divide our U.S. economy into two totally distinct spheres. We have the noble private sector over here, they tell us, and the bumbling, bloated public sector over there.

In reality, of course, we have just one economy, with the private and public sectors inextricably entangled. Each year, in fact, hundreds of billions of tax dollars end up flowing directly into the private sector.

The federal government alone, a new Congressional Budget Office report calculates, annually spends $500 billion — that’s half a trillion dollars — to purchase goods and services from private companies. State and local governments spend many billions more on top of that.

We’re not talking trickle here — we’re talking cascade, as our elected leaders rush to privatize services that public employees previously provided.This massive privatization of everything from prisons to public schools hasn’t done much of anything to make the United States a better place to live.

On the other hand, this privatization has paid off quite handsomely for America’s most affluent. They’re collecting ever more generous paychecks, courtesy of the tax dollars the rest of us are paying.

In Washington, D.C., for instance, top officials of the private companies that run many of the city’s charter schools are taking in double or triple what traditional public schools take in, or even more.

The CEO at one company that runs five of these charters, The Washington Post recently reported, pulled in $1.3 million in 2013. That’s nearly five times the pay that went to the top public official responsible for the District of Columbia’s 100-plus traditional public schools.

America’s taxpayer-funded military contractors would, of course, consider that chump change. The CEO at Lockheed Martin, for one, personally pocketed over $25 million in 2013.

So do you like this idea of executives in power suits raking in multiple millions of your tax dollars?

Rhode Island state senator William Conley sure doesn’t. He and four of his colleagues have just introduced legislation that would stop the stuffing of tax dollars into the pockets of wildly overpaid corporate executives.

Conley’s bill directs Rhode Island to start “giving preference in the awarding of state contracts” to business enterprises whose highest-paid execs receive no more than 25 times the pay of their median — most typical — workers.

Back in the middle of the 20th century, only a handful of top corporate executives ever made more than 25 times the pay of the average worker. Today, by contrast, only a handful of top execs make less than 100 times median pay.

If Conley’s bill becomes law, the ramifications could be huge.

That’s because we may soon know, for the first time ever, the exact ratio between CEO and median worker pay at every major American corporation that trades on Wall Street.

Five years ago, legislation that mandates this disclosure passed Congress and made it into law. Intense corporate lobbying has been stalling its enforcement, but the stall may soon end. The federal Securities and Exchange Commission finally appears ready to issue the regulations needed to enforce full pay ratio disclosure.

CEO-worker pay comparisons for individual companies will likely start hitting the headlines the year after next. With these new stats, taxpayers will be able to see exactly which corporations feeding at the public trough are doing the most to make America more unequal.

With this information, average taxpayers could then do a great deal. They could, for starters, follow Senator Conley’s lead in Rhode Island and urge their lawmakers to reward — with our tax dollars — only those corporations that pay their workers fairly.

 

By: Sam Pizzigati, Columnist, OtherWords; Associate Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies: The National Memo, March 25, 2015

March 27, 2015 Posted by | Corporations, Economic Inequality, Taxpayers | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Your Money”: Speaker Boehner’s Lawyer Is Charging The American Taxpayer $500 An Hour To Sue Obama

Last January, a Washington attorney named David Rivkin co-authored an article in Politico Magazine that laid out a legal theory that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) now plans to use to sue President Obama because the president is not implementing Obamacare fast enough. Yet, as ThinkProgress laid out shortly after Boehner announced that he would file the lawsuit, Rivkin’s legal theory rests upon “a glaring misrepresentation of a recent Supreme Court decision that undermines much of the basis for this lawsuit.

Nevertheless, Boehner decided to hire Rivkin to represent the GOP-led House in its suit against the president. Rivkin’s price? $500 an hour, all charged to the American taxpayer.

The contract caps Rivkin’s fees at a total of $350,000, although, if past is prologue, this cap will rise quickly. During the litigation challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, Boehner hired former Solicitor General Paul Clement to defend anti-gay discrimination at a fee of $520 per hour. Although an early iteration of Clement’s contract capped his total fees at $500,000, the total cost of Boehner’s legal services rose to $2.3 million. Clement’s legal fees were also charged to the American taxpayer.

However much money Rivkin ultimately collects from the American people, he is unlikely to win his lawsuit if the judges who consider it follow existing law. As a general rule, a plaintiff bringing a lawsuit must have actually been injured in some way by the person they are suing. Neither Boehner nor any other member of Congress, however, has been injured by President Obama’s decision to delay implementation of the provision of the Affordable Care Act at issue in this case. Additionally, in a 1997 case called Raines v. Byrd, the Supreme Court explained that suits brought by members of Congress alleging that their institutional rights as lawmakers have been injured are highly discouraged.

Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that the Roberts Court has shown a willingness to abandon established law when Obamacare is involved, so there is no guarantee that Rivkin will lose.

 

By: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, August 25, 2014

August 28, 2014 Posted by | House Republicans, John Boehner, Taxpayers | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Your Money At Work”: Taxpayers Are Footing The Bill For The Site Of This Year’s Super Bowl

The tenth Super Bowl played in New Orleans, and the first since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005, will kickoff in a stadium that has received more than $470 million in public support since the storm, as taxpayers have footed the bill for renovations and upgrades in the face of threats from ownership and the National Football League to move the team to another city.

In the aftermath of Katrina, New Orleans was desperate to keep the Saints from skipping town. The NFL and Saints owner Tom Benson seem to have taken advantage of that desperation, leveraging it into hundreds of millions of dollars in public support — from the city, state, and federal governments — for renovations to the decimated Superdome, which housed Katrina refugees during and after the storm. In 2009, the state committed $85 million more to keep the Saints in town and attempt to woo another Super Bowl, all while signing a lease worth $153 million in a nearby building owned by Benson.

While investors and Benson have profited from the deals, taxpayers haven’t been as lucky, Bloomberg reports:

Talks headed by then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue led to a plan to fix and renovate the Superdome with $121 million from the state, $44 million from the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, which oversees the facility, $156 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $15 million from the league. Blanco said a rushed bond deal followed.

Ultimately, the financing cost the district more than three times its $44 million commitment, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from state documents and interviews. […]

In April 2009, Louisiana negotiated a new lease to secure Benson’s promise to keep the team in New Orleans through 2025. The state made $85 million in fresh Superdome improvements, adding luxury seating and moving the press box. A company owned by Benson, Zelia LLC, bought the 26-story tower next to the stadium that had stood mostly vacant since Katrina and renovated it. At the time, Benson put the total cost at about $85 million. The state then signed a $153 million, 20-year lease for office space in the building, which now houses 51 state agencies, according to the Louisiana Administration Division. […]

“A lot of folks in New York made a ton of money,” [former state Treasurer John] Kennedy said. “Louisiana taxpayers didn’t do so well.”

The Superdome certainly needed renovations following Katrina. But its original construction was financed solely by taxpayers, and Benson, who is worth roughly $1.6 billion, didn’t contribute and repeatedly hinted that the Saints would move to San Antonio, Los Angeles, or another city unless taxpayers ponied up. Kennedy, the state treasurer, told Bloomberg he went into negotiations with the NFL and Benson “with a gun against my head.”

Benson isn’t alone. Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wylf used the threat of relocation to help secure public funding for a new stadium, and owners across the NFL are doing the same. Owners of the Miami Dolphins are using the promise of future Super Bowls (even though the event rarely provides the promised economic boost) to lure more money from taxpayers who are already on the hook for the city’s new baseball stadium.

The NFL’s program that provides loans to teams for new facilities is contingent on taxpayer support for at least part of the cost, and only one current NFL facility was built without some sort of public funding.

 

By: Travis Waldron, Think Progress, February 1, 2013

February 3, 2013 Posted by | Sports, Taxpayers | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

State Loan Program That Rick Perry Touted Had To Be Bailed Out

Gov. Rick Perry has anchored his presidential campaign to his claims of  creating jobs.

With no business record of his own, Perry must contrast his ability to create  jobs with public money against the records of two front-runners, Mitt Romney  and Herman Cain, who tout credentials as private employers.

His GOP opponents already have sniped at his gubernatorial record, saying  Perry inflates his job-creation numbers and takes credit for a business climate he inherited. Perry’s efforts to create jobs and spur agribusinesses as the state’s agriculture commissioner during the 1990s might provide even more fodder for the opposition.

Over his eight years as Texas’ farmer-in-chief, Perry oversaw a loan guarantee  program with so many defaults that the state had to stop guaranteeing bank  loans to startups in agribusiness and eventually bailed out the program with  taxpayer money.

The state auditor panned Perry’s claims of creating jobs and criticized Perry  and his fellow board members at the Texas Agricultural Finance Authority for  not following their own lending guidelines.

In some instances, the auditor said, Perry and the authority guaranteed loans  to applicants with a negative net worth or too much debt. Citing growing debts, the auditor finally suggested that state officials consider dismantling the program.

Even as the first alarms were sounded, Perry defended the program, saying no  taxpayer money was at risk, blaming others and claiming he had fixed it.

It only got worse.

By 2002, Perry’s successor, Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs, a  Republican, stopped making loans as the percentage of bad loans neared 30  percent.

By 2009, her successor, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, also a  Republican, asked the Legislature to pay off the loan guarantees with a $14.7 million appropriation. The finance authority could no longer afford the $541,000 to cover the annual interest on the bad debts, almost all of which dated back to Perry’s tenure.

“It’s bad,” Staples told the American-Statesman at the time. “Unfortunately,  taxpayers are on the hook for something that happened as long ago as 1987.”

In effect, Perry, as governor, signed his own government bailout when he  approved the 2009 appropriations bill.

The Perry campaign did not respond to questions about whether Perry, as  president, would use public money in economic development programs and what  lessons he learned from his experience guaranteeing risky business loans  with public money.

Mired in partisan politics

When the Legislature created the Texas Agricultural Finance Authority in 1987,  the intent was to boost the state’s agricultural economy by selling state-backed bonds to guarantee bank loans to entrepreneurs who could not get commercial loans. The goal was to create small businesses and jobs by  processing — rather than simply growing — Texas agricultural products.

The program immediately got mired in partisan politics, with Agriculture  Commissioner Jim Hightower, a Democrat, on one side, and the Republican  members of the finance authority appointed by Gov. Bill Clements on the  other.

The impasse ensured that no loans were made during Hightower’s term.

In 1990, Perry campaigned on a promise to create jobs and expand the rural  economy by making loans to agribusiness startups that would process the  state’s agricultural products.

Clements’ appointees to the finance authority board gave Perry, a board  member, sole authority to guarantee loans before newly elected Gov. Ann  Richards, a Democrat, could replace them.

Under the program, the state would guarantee 90 percent of a lender’s loan — up to a maximum of $5 million — to an applicant.

Entrepreneurs lined up for money to spin cotton into yarn, process meats,  develop cotton insulation, market canna bulbs to wholesale nurseries and sell pinto beans as a ready-to-eat frozen meal, to name a few.

‘This has not cost Texans money’

Perry had made four loan guarantees for $5.8 million by the time the attorney  general ruled that he had to share that authority with his fellow board  members. Even then, Perry and his staff drove the decisions.

Mary Webb, a Richards appointee who joined the finance authority as chairwoman  in 1992, said the part-time board members had to rely on Perry’s staff at  the agriculture department when screening loan applications.

“They did the legwork,” she said. “We looked at the deals to  see if they fit with the legislation: Would they create jobs and help the  agriculture community?”

By the time Webb left the board in 1995, she said she knew a couple of loans  were in trouble. She said she learned only later the scope of the problems with other loans.

The first loan guarantees were financed by selling $25 million in bonds.

Twice, in 1993 and 1995, Perry campaigned for voters to approve more bonding authority.

Perry claimed the first two years of the program had created 4,100 jobs and  pumped $390 million into the economy by guaranteeing loans to 47 companies.  He predicted more than 40,000 jobs could be created with the additional  bonding authority.

He didn’t mention troubled loans as he touted the program’s virtues at a 1993  Capitol press conference: “We think that this Texas Ag Finance  Authority is, without a doubt, one of the finest programs that the Texas Legislature, that the citizens of Texas have ever gone forward with.”

At another stop, Perry said, “We can truly say it has not cost the taxpayers of Texas any money.”

Voters turned him down in 1993, but Perry finally won an extra $200 million in  bonding authority two years later.

“This is one of the few government programs that truly has worked,”  Perry said. “This has not cost Texans money.”

In January 1997, State Auditor Lawrence Alwin first alerted state officials,  saying Perry and the board had violated their own lending guidelines.

He said 10 of the 48 companies had defaulted, and six more were in trouble.  The first bad loans were written off as uncollectible in 1995, according to  records.

Alwin also debunked a $40,000 report by a state-paid consultant claiming the  program had created or retained more than 5,000 jobs at a cost of $412 per  job as well as contributing $600 million to the economy.

The consultant’s data, which Perry submitted to the Legislature, were “unverifiable,  incomplete, untimely, and inconsistent” and based on unrealistic  assumptions about job creation, Alwin concluded.

A year later, Alwin warned that the situation had gotten worse. The program  was $5.7 million in the red because of bad loans.

The issue hit the newspapers.

Perry and his lieutenants defended the program.

Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Larry Soward told The Dallas Morning News that  the audit reflected a number of bad loans made early in the program to  farmers and ranchers trying their first business ventures.

“The business acumen of the people behind them might not have been as  strong as possible,” Soward said.

But he insisted the program would rebound: “The fact that there is a negative balance does not mean the program is in trouble.”

Perry echoed a similar refrain in a guest column in the Amarillo Daily News.

“By their very nature, TAFA loans are considered higher risk. Because of  this, some defaults were inevitable and a negative balance was expected in the early years of the program,” he wrote.

He blamed the problems on “some unfortunate decisions made by the previous TAFA board early in the program.”

Perry promised the problem was fixed. “Today, TAFA is on solid footing with a positive balance projected by 2010,” he wrote.

He reminded readers that the loans were funded by debt — commercial paper: “No  taxpayer money has ever been used to make TAFA loans.”

In 1998, Perry was elected lieutenant governor, and Combs succeeded him as  agriculture commissioner.

She talked of expanding the loan guarantee program to other borrowers beyond  food and fiber processors. But she asked Alwin to do a follow-up audit.

His warning was prescient. He said a program that guaranteed loans to people  who typically couldn’t qualify for commercial loans would have a hard time  finding enough good loans to generate the income to offset the losses from the bad ones.

In 2002, Combs and the agricultural finance authority bowed to that reality,  suspending any new loans.

Twenty-nine of 102 guaranteed loans defaulted, almost all of them during  Perry’s tenure, according to the records provided this month by the agriculture department.

While the majority of the loans were in good standing, the majority of the  original $25 million — $14.7 million — was bad debt. Just as the auditor  warned, the income from the good loans could not generate enough cash to  make the program self-sustaining.

“We hit a brick wall,” Staples said in 2009.

By: Laylan Copelin, American-Statesman Staff, Statesman.com, October 22, 2011

October 24, 2011 Posted by | Banks, Conservatives, Corporations, Elections, GOP Presidential Candidates, Public, Republicans, State Legislatures, States, Taxpayers, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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