Tag Archives: debt

Republican tax plan unveiled

As expected, the Republican leadership has unveiled a new tax proposal that would consolidate the number of tax brackets while increasing the rate of the lowest bracket and increasing the standard deduction.

I admit that I have grown very cynical about these proposals. They never end up simplifying anything. Instead, each time Congress has done this in the past three decades they have only made the tax code more complicated. I see no evidence so far that this Congress and this Republican leadership will do anything different.

Moreover, Congress and Trump continue to make little effort to rein in spending, so I expect the result here will also be a significant increase in the crushing federal debt.

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Federal debt tops $20 trillion

The coming dark age: Because of the Democratic/Trump deal raising the debt limit, the federal government’s debt officially topped $20 trillion last week.

From March 16 through Sept. 7, every Daily Treasury Statement showed the total federal debt subject to the legal limit opening and closing each day at $19,808,747,000,000. That was because the previous suspension of the debt limit had expired on March 15 and the debt limit had been reset at the level the debt reached at the close of business that day–which was $19,808,772,381,624.74. The Treasury then started using what it calls “extraordinary measures” to keep the debt subject to the limit about $25 milion below the limit.

This is all a fraud. Not only do they cook the numbers to make the debt ceiling appear legal for as long as possible, the debt is actually far larger, as this doesn’t include the raids to the Social Security trust fund that Congress has routinely been making for the past few decades, and never paying back.

But hey, who cares? What is really important is that we call looters “heroes” and any cops who try to arrest them “racists!”

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Trump teams up with Democrats on debt limit deal

Trump today backed a Democratic proposal to only extend the debt limit by three months, instead of the Republican plan to extend that ceiling first 18 months, than six.

While it is clear the Democrats want more debt ceiling negotiations in order to force the Republicans to make repeated concessions each time, I find it disgusting that the Republican leadership is more interested in kicking the can down the road than to address the problem now. In a sense, this might be why Trump is siding with the Democrats, as it keeps the debt ceiling on the table as a political issue, and might eventually force these brainless cowards to eventually do something to gain some control over the budget.

Then again, it might not. It could also be that none of these politicians, including Trump, has any interest in controlling the budget, and are merely playing petty politics with the nation’s future.

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Senate/House budget conflicts over science and space

Link here. The article gives a good overview, from a pro-science, pro-big spending perspective, of some of the significant budget differences between the proposed House and Senate budgets for 2018.

Except for NASA’s planetary program, the House generally wants to cut more than the Senate. This once again reflects the overall political trends. Because House membership changes more frequently (its members must face the voters every two years), the positions of its membership tend to reflect more closely the wishes of the voters. The Senate meanwhile (with only one-third of its membership facing re-election every two years and with six year terms for all senators) has historically trailed behind, defending past positions that are no longer popular with the voters.

If you want to predict the political future, look at what the House proposes. The budget proposals here reflect the increasing desire of the voters to trim back the federal government. Congress (and the establishment Republican leadership) might not yet realize this, but the trends show it. Soon (I hope after 2018), the resistance by that leadership and within the Senate will break, and we shall finally see some major budget cutting.

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Republican Senate committee restores all cuts to NASA climate budget

Failure theater: The Senate Appropriations Committee today marked up NASA’s budget, restoring almost all of the proposed cuts, including cuts to the agency’s climate programs that both the Trump administration and the House had proposed.

The only program it appears the Senate cut was NASA’s planetary program, which they trimmed by almost 25%.

This only provides more evidence that the large number of the Republicans in the Senate are not really Republicans. They certainly aren’t conservative. And it sure appears that they aren’t very smart either, considering that NASA’s planetary program is one of its most successful endeavors.

We shall see how this budget shakes out in the coming months. Overall I am not hopeful. It appears to me that this Republican Congress wants to spend big bucks, and is hell bent on doing it.

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House appropriations approves NASA and NOAA budgets

The squealing of pigs: The House appropriations committee yesterday approved the budgets for both NASA and NOAA, essentially accepting the budget numbers approved by its subcommittee.

Overall, the House increased spending over the Trump administration’s proposed cuts. Only in the area of climate did the legislators appear to support those cuts, and even here they pumped more money in.

The Trump Administration proposed a deep cut to [NOAA’s Polar Follow-On mission] saying it will re-plan the program ($180 million instead of the $586 million NOAA said last year it would need for FY2018). The committee went even further, approving only $50 million, but added it would reconsider if NOAA provides a better explanation of how it is restructuring the program. NOAA’s plans for new space weather satellites also fell far short of what the agency planned last year, although the committee provided more ($8.5 million) than the Trump Administration requested ($500,000).

In general, do not expect this Republican Congress to gain any control over the federal deficit. They are as spendthrift as Democrats. The only difference is their choice of programs.

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House Republicans push for big spending in Defense and NIH budgets

Failure theater: Two different House committees have chosen to ignore the budget cutting recommendations of the Trump administration and add billions to the budget of the National Institute of Health while approving — against the objections of the administration — the creation of a military “space corps.”

The first story is especially galling. Instead of cutting NIH’s budget to $25.9 billion, which is about what the agency got in the early 2000s, the increase to NIH would raise its budget from $31.8 billion to $35.2 billion. Worse, the House proposal would continue the policy where NIH pays the overhead for any research grants, which has been an amazing cash cow for American universities, most of which are leftwing partisan operations whose focus these days is often nothing more than defeating Republicans and pushing agenda-driven science.

Trump was right to push for those cuts. The Republicans are fools to eliminate them.

As for the second story, as I noted yesterday, the limitations of the Outer Space Treaty are almost certainly what is pushing Congress now to create a separate military space division. That and a greedy desire to establish another bureaucracy where they can take credit for any additional pork barrel funding. While such a force will certainly be necessary should the Outer Space Treaty not be revised to allow sovereignty and the establishment of internationally recognized borders, it is simply too early to do so now. The result will be a bureaucratic mess that will only act to waste money and possibly hinder private development in space.

But then, that’s what too many Republicans, like Democrats, want. They aren’t really interested in the needs of the country. They are interested in pork and power, for themselves.

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Republican Senate restores spending in NASA budget

The Senate subcommittee marking up the proposed NASA budget has followed the House lead and restored most of the cuts proposed by the Trump administration.

The bill provides nearly $780 million more for NASA than the administration’s request, including an increase of more than $615 million for exploration programs, such as the Space Launch System and Orion. “We made sure the Space Launch System is fully funded, and that astronauts will have the ability to go beyond low Earth orbit in the Orion crew vehicle,” Culberson said.

The bill restores funding for NASA’s Office of Education, which was slated to be closed in the budget proposal. The bill provides $90 million for the office, including funds for two programs in that office, Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, that would have been shut down.

More here.

It appears that Republicans, like Democrats, have no interest in gaining any control over its out-of-control spending. The Trump budget was a very reasonable document, and would have done no harm to NASA’s overall mission, and in many ways would have helped focus it. Congress however can’t stop spending, no matter who the voters put in power.

The only area where Republicans seem willing to fight for cuts is in NASA’s climate budget. With both the House and the Senate bills, the Republicans supported most of these cuts, though not all.

Overall, this whole process, and the contempt Congress and Washington has for the American people, was best demonstrated by this quote from Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia):

“I’m not sure the private sector is going to step in with so much left undone.”

In other words, private enterprise can’t do it! We need big government, routinely over budget and behind schedule, to make it happen!

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Republican House restores spending in NASA budget

The House committee marking up NASA’s budget has added about $800 million to the budget proposed by the Trump administration, restoring the proposed cuts in the SLS/Orion budget as well as in NASA’s education programs.

NASA’s exploration account receives the largest increase in the House bill: a $616 million increase over the request to $4.55 billion. The bill would fund the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System at the same levels as in the 2017 omnibus bill, rather than the lower levels in the budget proposal. It increases funding for ground systems and exploration research and development above both the request and the 2017 omnibus bill.

The bill would also restore much of NASA’s education program, which the administration proposed closing in its 2018 budget request, offering $37.3 million in closeout costs. The bill offers $90 million for education, $10 million below the 2017 level. The bill specifically funds two programs in that office, Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, that would have been shut down in the budget request.

Plans to end those education programs faced bipartisan opposition when the CJS subcommittee held a hearing on NASA’s budget proposal June 8. “I’m concerned about, in your budget, your cuts to the Office of Education,” said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), a former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee who is now a member of the CJS subcommittee. “I can’t understand why you would want to cut that.”

The budget also adds money to the planetary budget, but also micromanages NASA by ordering it to fly two missions to Europa.

What this budget tells me is that the Republicans in Congress have no idea why Trump was elected. The public likes space, but it does not like its tax dollars wasted, and the public who voted for Trump (and the Republicans) considers much of what the federal government does to be a big waste. They want that budget trimmed. The Trump budget didn’t gut NASA, but it did try to refocus its effort away from pork. These House changes reinstate much of that pork.

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Illinois facing budget collapse

Leftist governance: Having now gone three years without an official budget and having expenses exceeding revenues by large amounts on a monthly basis, Illinois now faces a budget collapse.

A mix of state law, court orders and pressure from credit rating agencies requires some items be paid first. Those include debt and pension payments, state worker paychecks and some school funding. Mendoza says a recent court order regarding money owed for Medicaid bills means mandated payments will eat up 100 percent of Illinois’ monthly revenue.

There would be no money left for so-called “discretionary” spending – a category that in Illinois includes school buses, domestic violence shelters and some ambulance services

More here. Essentially, this state, run for decades by Democrats (and Republican helpers) and their union buddies, has unfunded pension liabilities that make it impossible to pay its real bills. I saw this happen in New York City in the 1970s, after almost a century of one-party Democratic rule. Watch it happen again here, as well as in California and several other radicalized blue states. They have decided to go full socialist, and as such are guaranteed societal failure.

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California passes single payer health plan, without a way to pay for it

Running out of other people’s money: The state senate of California today passed a single payer health plan, essentially proposing to take over the health industry in that state.

It is estimated that the proposal will cost California $400 billion per year, which is twice more than three times that state’s annual budget. A Massachusetts study claims the government health plan can be paid for by adding additional taxes, including 15% payroll tax, but I am exceedingly skeptical. When have any of these kinds of studies ever correctly predicted the true cost of a government program? In truth, never. The cost is always higher than predicted, and the revenues raked in by taxes always less.

The article at the second link about the study has this interesting tidbit about the typical California voter:

The first-ever question to Californians on the topic by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that the vast majority of state residents were in favor of a universal, government-run health care system — as long as it doesn’t raise their taxes. But the prospect of paying the government for health care through new taxes caused support for the proposal to fall from 65 percent to 42 percent.

Another poll, commissioned by the nurses’ union, found that 70 percent of Californians were in favor of a universal, single-payer health care system — a percentage that dropped to 58 percent after those surveyed heard arguments from the opposition about the cost.

In other words, Californians want this stuff given to them, for free. They are living in a fantasy world, which might explain the behavior of their government, dominated by pie-in-the-sky Democrats.

Despite this, I expect California to pass this bill, and then find they can’t pay for it. They will then demand that the U.S. government bail them out.

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Connecticut: sinking in debt with a fleeing population

Running out of other people’s money: Connecticut, run for years by Democrats, is sinking in debt with a population that is shrinking as people flee.

The administration of Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat who has been in office since 2011, projects a budget deficit of more than $5 billion over the next two years, thanks to generous pension benefits and the burden of servicing its big debt, plus falling tax revenue due to the exodus of large employers and residents reaching retirement age.

Its budget woes, as well as concerns that they will be repeated year after year, helped lead General Electric in 2015 to consider moving its headquarters out of the state. Last year, it did exactly that.

The state’s population is falling: Its net domestic out-migration was nearly 30,000 from 2015 to 2016. In 2016, it lost slightly more than 8,000 people, leaving its population at 3.6 million. Indeed, recent national moving company surveys underscore the trend, showing more people leaving Connecticut than moving in. In 2016, the state also saw a population decline for the third consecutive year, according to Census Bureau estimates.

One of the companies, United Van Lines, reported that of all their Connecticut customers, 60 percent were leaving compared to 40 percent who were moving there. Only three other states had higher rates of people moving out – New York, New Jersey and Illinois. One out of five of those leaving said they were retiring. [emphasis mine]

Isn’t it interesting that the four states with the most people leaving are four states that have been largely run by Democrats for decades. And in those cases where Republicans have been in charge, they have taken the moderate go-along-to-get-along approach, essentially rubber-stamping the high spending and high tax agenda of the Democrats that dominate the political region.

Unfortunately, it is this agenda that dominates Washington and the federal government, and the Republican leadership there seems quite willing to do the same as the moderate Republicans in this states. Worse, we don’t have another country we can escape to.

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Sixty-six programs slated for elimination in Trump budget

The Trump budget followed through in one area very clearly: It proposes to completely eliminate sixty-six government programs.

The programs eliminated would only save $26.7 billion, which in terms of the deficit is chicken-feed. Still it would be a step in the right direction.

The pigs are squealing however, including one recent failed presidential candidate:
Clinton: Trump Budget Shows ‘Unimaginable Level of Cruelty’

Based on past experience, expect the Republican leadership in Congress to gut most of these cuts. The budget will grow. The deficit will grow. The federal debt will grow. The power of the people in Washington will grow. And we will be one step closer to bankruptcy and collapse.

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Trump budget released only to be immediately trashed

Today the Trump administration released its proposed 2018 budget for the federal government. Here is a good article on what that budget proposed for NASA.

The Trump administration’s fiscal 2018 budget request includes $19.1 billion for NASA, a $561 million decrease over previously enacted levels that would reduce the number of Earth science missions, eliminate the agency’s education office and do away with the Obama administration’s plans to robotically retrieve a piece of an asteroid as a precursor to eventual flights to Mars.

The budget closely reflects the administration’s blueprint, released in March, and overall, NASA’s acting administrator said America’s space program remains healthy and suffered relatively modest cuts compared to other federal agencies.

Though the NASA budget did include the cancellation of a handful of Earth Science projects as well as a cut in the Earth science budget, those cuts were nowhere near what had been hinted at previously.

The Trump administration has made no secret of its skepticism about global warming and its presumed causes and impacts and as expected, the budget eliminates funding for five Earth science missions and instruments. Earth science would receive $1.8 billion overall, reflecting a reduction of nearly $170 million. “The hard choices are still there, and we can’t do everything,” Lightfoot said. But the budget “still includes significant Earth science efforts, including 18 Earth observing missions in space as well as airborne missions.”

That’s a reduction of less than 10% in the total Earth science budget, hardly a catastrophe. The overall budget proposal was a little more daring, calling for a 30% cut at the EPA, and a 16% cut at Commerce, mostly in NOAA.

What does this all mean? Nothing. A president’s budget proposal is generally only a statement of desires. It has no force of law. Congress decides how to spend money, and the Republicans controlling this Congress are not really interested in cutting anything. In fact, the pigs have already begun to squeal, including a complete rejection of the budget by many Republican leaders in Congress.

‘President Trump’s $603 billion defense budget request is inadequate to the challenges we face, illegal under current law, and part of an overall budget proposal that is dead on arrival in Congress,’ said Arizona Sen. John McCain.

The administration didn’t seem to signal its own vote of confidence by releasing the document during President Trump’s first overseas trip.

Longtime GOP Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, a longtime appropriator, declared proposed cuts to safety net and environmental proposals ‘draconian.’

‘I don’t think the president’s budget is going anywhere,’ said Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, asked if he’s concerned about the message sent by slashing the Medicaid program for the poor and disabled.

That’s only a sampling. Essentially, these Republicans have no interest in gaining control of the out-of-control federal budget. They like having that budget out-of-control, as it feeds money to their friends and partners whom then line their pockets with campaign contributions.

I should note that I fully expect Trump to bow to their demands, and back off. When it has come to budget matters, he has so far shown no stomach for the fight.

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In 2016 federal government improperly paid out $144 billion

Our government in action! In testimony before the Senate Budget Committee yesterday, the controller general revealed that the federal government improperly paid out $144 billion in 2016.

The problem is growing, he said, from $125 billion in 2014; to $137 billion in 2015; to the most recent estimate of $144 billion in 2016. “This includes estimates for 112 programs at 22 federal agencies, so it is a pervasive problem,” he added.

Since 2003 – when Congress required many executive departments and agencies to estimate the amount of improper payments annually – the cumulative total is estimated to be “in excess of $1.2 trillion,” Dodaro said. “So it’s a significant amount of money.” Dodaro said three big federal programs – Medicare, Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit — account for most (75 percent) of the improper payments. “But there are a number of programs across government where this problem is an issue,” he said.

And the problem is worse than the numbers indicate, because 18 “risk-susceptible” programs – including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — do not report estimates at all. SNAP (food stamps) stopped reporting in 2015. And the $144 billion in 2016 does not include estimates from the Defense Department, which could be a sizeable number, Dodaro said.

Obviously, the solution is to hire more auditors and increase the budgets at these agencies so they can better track the improper payments. Simply cutting these budgets, well now, that’s a terrible idea.

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Senate passes $1 trillion continuing resolution 79-18

With friends like this, who needs enemies? The Republican Senate today passed the $1 trillion continuing resolution that contains none of the promised cuts to the federal budget promised by the Republican Party and by Donald Trump.

The vote was 79-18. The resolution now heads to the White House, where Trump is expected to sign it eagerly.

A look at the names in the Senate who voted against this bill essentially lists the few remaining real conservatives left. Such people are now a minority, surrounded by corrupt deal makers who have no interest in the needs of the nation.

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Trump threatens shutdown in September after caving in May

Paper tiger: After agreeing to a budget deal that gives everything to liberals but nothing to conservatives, Trump today threatened to force a government shutdown in September when this deal expires.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to call for a government shutdown later this year in response to a bipartisan spending deal that looks set to pass Congress this week.

In tweets, the president contended that the agreement — which funds the government through Sept. 30 — shows that Republicans must get more senators elected or change the Senate’s rules so they can push spending through with only a majority vote, rather than 60. He then wrote that the country “needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September” to fix a “mess.”

The last sentence of the article tells it all, however: “It is unclear if Trump truly wants a shutdown, as he has often taken extreme positions on issues before backing off. “

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19 federal agencies eliminated in proposed Trump budget

This article provides a clear and detailed list of the nineteen federal agencies that the Trump administration proposes to eliminate in the budget blueprint it issued last month.

The total budget for all these agencies is only $3 billion, so the cuts are only a mere drop in the bucket in the federal deficit. Still, it is a start, though I have doubts the Republicans in Congress will have the spine to follow through on these cuts, especially with the elimination of National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. All three have essentially become propaganda operatives for the left and the Democratic Party, so there is good reason for Republicans to cut their funding. The problem is that the left will squeal like pigs if these cuts go through, and the ability of the Republican leadership to withstand that squealing has generally been nil.

Nonetheless, it is definitely worthwhile to read this list of agencies that are on the chopping block. Almost all of them have accomplished little with their funds, other than pay the salaries of the bureaucrats who run them. In the private sector they would be gone in a nanosecond.

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Major budget cuts and agency eliminations coming from Trump?

It appears that the first budget Trump administration is putting together will include some dramatic budget cuts and the outright elimination of many government agencies, and are based on numerous recommendations made by a variety of conservative policy proposals.

Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years. The proposed cuts hew closely to a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition. Similar proposals have in the past won support from Republicans in the House and Senate, who believe they have an opportunity to truly tackle spending after years of warnings about the rising debt. Many of the specific cuts were included in the 2017 budget adopted by the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC), a caucus that represents a majority of House Republicans. The RSC budget plan would reduce federal spending by $8.6 trillion over the next decade.

Read the article. I can’t quote it all here, but the cuts would dramatically weaken the Washington leftwing community’s ability to push its agenda. More important, the generally conservative make-up of Congress means that, for the first time in decades there is a real chance these cuts will happen.

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Republican Congress passes National Park bill that raises fees

More bull from the House Republicans: In an effort to fix budget problems at the National Park Service, caused by years of Congressional and Presidential budget malfeasance, the lame-duck Republican-run House today passed a bill that would raise the lifetime fees for a park senior pass.

The House of Representatives moved quickly Tuesday to pass legislation designed to provide the National Park Service with badly needed funds to help the agency chip away at a staggering $12 billion maintenance backlog. However, without concurrence by the Senate by week’s end, the measure could die.

As passed by the House, the National Park Service Centennial Act would increase the price of a lifetime pass for senior citizens 62 and older to $80 from its current $10 lifetime fee. Seniors who don’t want to pay the $80 could purchase an annual pass for $20. Park Service staff estimate that the increase in the cost of a senior pass would generate $20 million a year.

It appears that already purchased lifetime passes would still be valid, though I am willing to bet that, given time, these bastards will change that as well. What really annoys me about this is that the reason the Park Service is short of funds is not really because they don’t have enough money. The budget isn’t really any smaller than it’s been for decades. The reason it is short of money is that the federal government, and the Park Service, wastes enormous amounts on things that are not essential, on pork (such as dozens and dozens of tiny park facilities spread throughout the country that are really outside the Park Service’s original purpose and exist mostly because some elected official pushed for their creation).

What these idiots never do is find ways to reduce or rearrange spending to pay for things that are important. Instead, they constantly work to suck more money from the taxpayer, endlessly. And they wonder why they got Trump.

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Pentagon buries report documenting $125 billion of waste

Why the revolt? The Pentagon purposely buried a 2015 report that documented $125 billion in wasteful Defense Department spending because they feared Congress would use it to justify sequestration.

The report, which was issued in January 2015 by the advisory Defense Business Board (DBB), called for a series of reforms that would have saved the department $125 billion over the next five years. Among its other findings, the report showed that the Defense Department was paying just over 1 million contractors, civilian employees and uniformed personnel to fill back-office jobs. That number nearly matches the amount of active duty troops — 1.3 million, the lowest since 1940.

The Post reported that some Pentagon leaders feared the study’s findings would undermine their claims that years of budget sequestration had left the military short of money. In response, they imposed security restrictions on information used in the study and even pulled a summary report from a Pentagon website. “They’re all complaining that they don’t have any money,” former DBB chairman Robert Stein told the Post. “We proposed a way to save a ton of money.”

The corruption in Washington today runs very deep. It will take many years and a lot of change to fix it. Don’t expect a lot from Trump or this Republican Congress. They might be a start (maybe), but even if they worked entirely to get the federal cleaned up they couldn’t do it in the next four years. And no one should expect them to work entirely to clean this up.

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House passes new tax on concrete companies

The swamp is winning! The Republican House today passed a new law that not only imposes a new tax on concrete industry, it creates a crony Concrete Masonry Products Board to help keep its buddies in that industry in charge.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky. (F, 45%), would create a Concrete Masonry Products Board composed of 15-25 members appointed by the Department of Commerce after a referendum approval by producers of concrete masonry products. This board will have the power to establish, finance, and carry out a “coordinated research and education program,” ostensibly to “promote masonry products in the domestic market,” according to a legislative bulletin email from the Republican Study Committee. This program will be paid for by a “federally administered assessment.”

This is corruption, pure and simple. We don’t need this. All it accomplishes is to force the public to pay for this fake board whose only real purpose, when you strip it down to its essentials, will be to favor the already established U.S. concrete companies.

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House Republicans to vote on ending ban on earmarks

The swamp is winning! A group of House Republicans have put forth a proposal, to be voted on tomorrow, to partly lift the ban on earmarks imposed in 2010.

Reps. John Culberson of Texas, Mike Rogers of Alabama, and Tom Rooney of Florida are listed as sponsors of the amendment, a copy of which was obtained by The Daily Signal. The amendment would bring back legislative earmarks for some government agencies, including the Department of Defense, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Bureau of Reclamation. It also would allow lawmakers to provide earmarks for state and local governments, except for recreational facilities, museums, or parks. If the amendment is adopted by a secret-ballot vote Wednesday, lawmakers would be able to request earmarks once again as long as the sponsoring member is identified, the earmarks initiate in committee, and they don’t increase spending.

A senior House aide told The Daily Signal this was the first step to completely ending the earmark ban by slowly peeling it away.

The earmark explosion that occurred under Republican control during the first six years of the second Bush administration was one of the main reasons they lost Congress in 2006. It showed that their claims that they were fiscal hawks was hogwash. And now it appears that some Republicans are trying to pull the same crap, all over again.

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Republican budget deal backed by more House Democrats than Republicans

Betrayal: The just passed budget deal worked out by the Republican establishment got more Democrats to vote for it than Republicans.

The continuing resolution spending deal that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed at 9:56 p.m. on Wednesday night, won more votes from Democratic members than from Republican members. 172 House Democrats and 170 Republicans voted for the spending deal, according to the roll call published by the Clerk of the House. 75 Republicans and 10 Democrats voted against it. 5 members did not vote.

More betrayal: The continuing resolution is set to expire on December 9, 2016, thereby allowing a lame duck Congress and President to negotiate a new budget, after the election, when they will be able to spend money any which way they want, for their crony friends.

What good is a Republican majority if its leadership is going to work hand-in-glove with the Democrats to pass Democratic Party proposals, while also working to make corrupt backroom deals that bust the budget? No wonder the outsiders cleaned the floor with the Republican establishment’s favorite son, Jeb Bush. No wonder Donald Trump became the Republican party’s presidential candidate.

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Republican leadership pushes Democrat-approved budget deal

Betrayal: Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has finally released the language of the next short term continuing resolution that would fund the federal government through December 9, 2016, and it appears it was written by the Democratic leadership in the Senate.

As far as conservative priorities go, the bill is a failure. Among its many obvious flaws, it funds the government through Dec. 9—setting up a lame-duck session of Congress. In the lame-duck session, which occurs after the election but before new lawmakers are sworn in, unaccountable legislators are likely to pass a bevy of backroom deals, to the detriment of representative democracy (and, we can assume, to the wallets of the taxpayer).

Even though it only funds the government for a scant 69 days, the McConnell continuing resolution manages to do it at the bloated Boehner-Obama spending levels that were jammed down the throats of conservatives in 2015. In doing so, the continuing resolution sets up yet another spending cliff that will spawn a false panic in the lame-duck session, and lay the groundwork for more “must-pass” terrible deals. In other words, in December, lawmakers will once more have to pass yet another spending bill in order to ensure the government continues normal operations.

There’s more. Read it all. The bottom line is that McConnell has forged a deal that allows Democrats to gloat and Republican conservatives to tear their hair out in horror. No wonder outsiders like Trump and Cruz did so well in the primary season, and why Trump is now their Presidential candidate. The Republican leadership, which still doesn’t comprehend why this happened, also has no idea why the public gave them strong House and Senate majorities in 2010 and 2014. Maybe they don’t care and simply want to cash in quickly even if it destroys the country. Either way, they continue to betray the very people that voted them into power.

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The powerless GOP

Obama is imposing an unprecedented number of new regulations in his final months in office, and the Republican leadership says it is helpless to do anything about it.

Data compiled by the Heritage Foundation found that the Obama administration issued 184 major rules during its first six years. The conservative organization, citing regulators’ estimates, says those could come with a price tag of almost $80 billion a year. The American Action Forum, which dubs itself as a “center-right” think tank, concludes that since Jan. 1 of this year, the administration has picked up the pace, finalizing 60 new rules and proposing 60 more at a potential cost of $16.5 billion next year alone.

Republican lawmakers and independent experts expect more to come. But Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas told Roll Call that his party cannot do much because “the framers of the Constitution didn’t give us a lot of tools that didn’t involve a presidential signature to overturn them.” [emphasis mine]

Excuse me, Senator Cornyn, but the framers of the Constitution gave Congress all the power. All you have to do is read the Constitution, a document only 16 pages long (excluding amendments), to find out. One would think a sitting Senator might do that once in awhile.

The problem is that Congress for decades has abdicated its responsibilities to the bureaucratic wing of the executive branch, and in the recent years the Republican leadership has further chickened out when voters demanded that they take some of those responsibilities back. The Republicans could very easily shut the whole shebang down, which might finally force some compromise from the Democrats. Until they do, however, expect no compromise from the left, which keeps getting exactly what it wants.

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Russian government going broke

The Russian government, faced with low oil prices, a weak ruble, and a big budget, has been depleting its cash reserves and could run out of money within a year.

The government’s reserve fund is designed to cover shortfalls in the national budget at times of low oil and gas revenues.

Russia’s 2016 budget is based on the assumption the country would be able to sell its oil for $50 per barrel. But the average oil price in the first eight months of the year was less than $43 per barrel. Oil now makes up just 37% of all government revenues, compared to roughly 50% just two years ago.

When their reserve funds run out, they will then dip into another fund reserved for pensions and investment projects. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Kind of like the approach the big Democratically controlled U.S. cities like New York have used to continue to spend money they didn’t have.

It is interesting to compare Russia and China these days, especially considering the state of both of their space programs. Despite the fact that many say that China’s success is hollow, they have still been able to fund and build what is now a very vibrant and new manned and planetary space effort. Russia however cannot build anything new, and is now faced with reducing its ISS crew complement because it can’t afford to launch the supplies required for three people.

It will be very interesting to watch this story in Russia unfold.

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House committee reshapes NASA budget

The House appropriations committee has outlined its recommendations for NASA’s 2017 budget.

Like the Senate the House is pushing more money for SLS and is demanding NASA use it to fly two missions to Europa in the early 2020s (likely delaying SLS’s first manned mission), In addition, the House wants NASA to abandon any plans for an asteroid mission and instead go back to the Moon. They also pumped up the planetary program, and express reservations about the manned commercial program.

Finally, in a wonderful example of congressional micro-managing, the committee ordered NASA to begin work on flying an interstellar mission to Alpha Centauri by the 100th anniversary of Apollo 11.

While some of the changes the committee is recommending (increasing planetary research funding for example) make sense, the overall priorities of Congress continue to appear to me to be misplaced. Their continuing emphasis on SLS while questioning commercial space illustrates their focus on pork rather than actual accomplishments. And their continuing effort to micromanage many NASA missions does not bode well for the success of those missions.

There is one takeaway from this House budget recommendation that most news sources are missing: The first manned flight of Orion is almost certainly not flying in 2021. I have seen numerous indicators in the past four months suggesting that NASA is going to delay it, and this budget recommendation’s insistence that NASA use SLS to fly Europa missions in 2022 and 2024 almost guarantees that delay.

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Congress pushes for Europa missions

A new House budget bill stipulates that NASA fly two unmanned missions to Europa, including a lander, and do it soon.

The bill also includes several hundred million per year for the missions, at least at the beginning. Even though planetary scientists have recommended that NASA do at least one mission to Eurpoa relatively soon, it appears that these missions are the particular pet projects of the committee chairman in Congress.

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