Entries in Federal Spending (13)


Taxpayer Dollars Spent on Official Government Portraits

Department of Agriculture(WASHINGTON) -- Long before cameras were invented, our founding fathers kept their images alive with painted portraits. Paintings of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson are part of American history.

But what began as official documentation of early leaders is now a formality, a tradition, a sign of prestige -- and, some say, a burden on taxpayers.

Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense argues that it’s time for a change. “You really have to really wonder, is it worth the cost?” Ellis said. “It certainly strokes their ego but at a cost to taxpayers, and we can’t afford just ego strokes when we’ve got a trillion-dollar deficit and $16 trillion in debt.”

Ellis and other watchdogs haven’t been able to stop government spending on portraits of cabinet secretaries and generals. As the Washington Times first reported, the latest portrait for outgoing EPA administrator Lisa Jackson cost $38,350. Air Force Secretary Michael Donnelly’s portrait cost $41,200.

Commerce Secretary John Bryson’s portrait cost $22,500, the paper said. He served President Obama for eight months.

In the past two years alone, the Obama administration has spent almost $400,000 on oil portraits. The administration turned down ABC News’ request to enter a building to see some of the portraits hanging. But the White House told ABC News it is spending less than previous administrations did.

Some of the oil portraits are commissioned while secretaries are still serving.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had a $22,500 portrait made, but when asked if we should stop doing oil portraits of former secretaries, he avoided the question.

“Honestly, you know, there are so many questions I’d be happy to answer about our budget, I just think that is a really small ball kind of question,” he told ABC News.

Ellis disagreed.

“It just shows how Washington has become immune to the cost of things and the actual price,” he said. “Twenty thousand dollars on a portrait, that’s real money and that’s real waste.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


House Passes Six-Month, Stopgap Measure

Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- In a rare bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives passed a measure to fund the federal government for the next six months, one step in avoiding a bitter political fight before the election.

The measure, known around Washington, D.C., as a continuing resolution, passed 329-91 and funds the government for the next six months.

Each party delivered a near-equal amount of votes to pass the bill. Democrats had 164 ayes while Republicans had 165 members voting for it. Seventy Republicans and 21 Democrats opposed the legislation.

As has been the case in recent years, the House and Senate were unable to pass all 12 appropriations bills funding various pieces of the government. The House passed seven of 12, but the Senate did not vote on any appropriations bills. With the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, many lawmakers felt compelled to vote for the Continuing Resolution to keep the government operating and avoid a nasty political fight before the election.

The Senate is expected to vote on the CR at some point next week.

Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan returned to the Capitol for the first time since Mitt Romney selected him as his running mate last month, and voted in favor of the CR. Ryan, R-Wis., also voted for the National Security and Job Protection Act, another GOP attempt to replace the defense sequester.

After the House passed the measure, House Speaker John Boehner moved onto other outstanding business left for members of Congress, and called on the Senate to extend all the current tax rates and replace half a trillion dollars of defense cuts set to take effect Jan. 1, 2013.

“Now it’s time for President Obama and Senate Democrats to work with Republicans to avert the ‘fiscal cliff’ by stopping the tax hikes that threaten our economy and replacing the ‘sequester’ that threatens our national security,” Boehner, R-Ohio, wrote in a statement.

The Budget Control Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last summer, requires $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts equally divided between defense and domestic programs in the next decade, with the first $109 billion due to take effect Jan. 2, 2013.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


President Obama Denounces GOP ‘Wild Debts’: I’m Not an Over-Spender

Alex Wong/Getty Images(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) -- At a fundraiser for his re-election campaign in Denver Wednesday night, President Obama set out to upend conventional Republican wisdom that his administration has been defined by excessive government spending.

“I’m running to pay down our debt in a way that’s balanced and responsible. After inheriting a $1 trillion deficit, I signed $2 trillion of spending cuts into law,” he told a crowd of donors at the Hyatt Regency. “My opponent won’t admit it, but it’s starting to appear in places, like real liberal outlets, like the Wall Street Journal: Since I’ve been president, federal spending has risen at the lowest pace in nearly 60 years. Think about that.”

Obama was referring to an analysis released this week by Rex Nutting, a reporter for CBS MarketWatch who is also affiliated with the Wall Street Journal. Nutting concluded that Obama has presided over the slowest growth in federal spending in decades.

“Government spending under Obama, including his signature stimulus bill, is rising at a 1.4 percent annualized pace -- slower than at any time in nearly 60 years,” Nutting wrote, citing data from the Congressional Budget Office, Office of Management and Budget and an independent financial firm.

“The big surge in federal spending happened in fiscal 2009, before Obama took office. Since then, spending growth has been relatively flat,” he wrote. “Over Obama’s four budget years, federal spending is on track to rise from $3.52 trillion to $3.58 trillion, an annualized increase of just 0.4 percent. There has been no huge increase in spending under the current president, despite what you hear.”

The Obama campaign circulated Nutting’s article by email and posted it on its website Tuesday.  The president picked up on the theme again Wednesday to hammer the point home.

“I just point out it always goes up least under Democratic presidents. This other side, I don’t know how they’ve been bamboozling folks into thinking that they are the responsible, fiscally-disciplined party. They run up these wild debts and then when we take over, we’ve got to clean it up.

“They point and say look how irresponsible they are. Look at the facts, look at the numbers. And now I want to finish the job -- in a balanced way,” he said, referring to his plan to reduce the deficit through a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes.

The Romney campaign noted that more than $5 trillion has been added to the debt during Obama’s first term, though in 2008 Obama called the $4 trillion added under Bush ”unpatriotic.”

The Republican National Committee pointed out that while growth of spending and debt may have slowed, Obama has overseen the three largest deficits in U.S. history.  (They also pass along fact-checker Politifact’s 2011 designation of Obama as the “undisputed debt king” of the last five presidents.)

Obama spoke in Denver following his appearance at the U.S. Air Force Academy commencement ceremony in Colorado Springs earlier in the day.  He then headed to California and Iowa for four more money events.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney, at Abandoned N.H. Bridge, Hits Obama Spending

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images(HILLSBOROUGH, N.H.) -- Mitt Romney ventured to the Granite State Friday to stand in front of an abandoned 19th century stone bridge to highlight what he considers to be President Obama’s “wasteful” spending.

“You all know the story of this bridge, this is part of the president’s stimulus plan,” said Romney. “He went out and borrowed $787 billion and said that if we’re allowing him as Congress allowed him to borrow that kind of money, that he would hold unemployment below eight percent and it hasn’t been below eight percent since.”

“Now a lot of people said, ‘Boy that’s just outrageous,’” Romney continued. “So they said, 'Yeah, but we put in place a whole series of elements that are critical to the future of America.’”

“And you got one behind us right there,” Romney added, pointing to the bridge behind him, which received more than $150,000 in stimulus funds meant to go toward its restoration. Despite that money, the bridge stands idle now.

“That’s what they’re saying this is the absolute bridge to nowhere, if there ever was one. That’s your stimulus dollars at work,” Romney said. “A bridge that goes nowhere. So I hope the president comes here, takes a look at some of his stimulus programs and there’s a long list by the way of stimulus programs.”

As Romney spoke, ticking off the reasons he believes the bridge exemplifies failed policies by the Obama administration, supporters of the president stood nearby chanting “Obama! Obama!”

Romney addressed the crowd, saying, “It doesn’t get better than this. And you know we have behind us a Greek chorus.”

“And I say that because they remind us that this president is leading us towards Greece,” said Romney. “And one reason we’re going to get rid of him so that we make sure that we don’t continue to have the kind of deficits that lead to Greece. So I hope they keep up with their Greek chorus over there.”

“It is without question the largest one time careless expenditure of government money in American history,” said Romney, still tweaking the stimulus. “And the bad news is it was not just wasteful spending, it was wasteful borrowing as well.”

Romney’s stop in New Hampshire rounded out a week of campaigning across the country, events that all focused on the spending and debt crisis.

Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in the statement that Romney’s speech in New Hampshire Friday simply repeated his “broken promises.”

Smith said in her statement that Romney’s values of “reaping quick profits for himself and his investors at the expense of workers and communities” are the “values that he wants to bring to the White House by giving more budget-busting tax cuts to the wealthy and letting Wall Street write its own rules-the same formula that benefited a few, but crashed our economy and punished the middle class.”

“Americans won’t be fooled by Romney’s broken promises-and Romney economics-again,” said Smith.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rick Perry to Reveal His Federal Tax and Spending Plan

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- On Monday night, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, previewed his tax and spending plan, officially called the “cut, balance and grow” plan, which aims to revamp the tax code, balance the budget, reform entitlement programs and create jobs.

“The folks in Washington might not like to hear it, but the plain truth is the U.S. government spends too much. Taxes are too high, too complex, and too riddled with special interest loopholes. And our expensive entitlement system is unsustainable in the long run,” Perry writes in The Wall Street Journal.

“Without significant change quickly, our nation will go the way of some in Europe: mired in debt and unable to pay our bills. President Obama and many in Washington seem unable or unwilling to tackle these issues, either out of fear of alienating the left or because they want Americans to be dependent on big government.”

The plan, which Perry will officially unveil Tuesday in Gray Court, S.C., proposes an optional 20-percent flat tax rate, allowing taxpayers to submit their taxes on a postcard.

“The plan starts with giving Americans a choice between a new, flat tax rate of 20 percent or their current income tax rate,” Perry writes. “The new flat tax preserves mortgage interest, charitable and state and local tax exemptions for families earning less than $500,000 annually, and it increases the standard deduction to $12,500 for individuals and dependents.”

The plan also drops the corporate tax rate to 20 percent and will temporarily lower the rate to 5.25 percent to promote companies working overseas to move to the U.S. along with implementing a “territorial tax system,” which will tax in-country income.

The plan will eliminate the death tax and end taxes on Social Security, which would help an estimated 17 million Americans receiving benefits today. It would also cut taxes on qualified dividends and long-term capital gains.

Perry sets a goal to balance the budget by 2020 by capping federal spending at 18 percent of GDP, banning earmarks and future bailouts and passing a balanced budget amendment.

Until the budget is balanced, Perry’s plan would freeze federal civilian hiring and spending, and place a moratorium on all pending federal regulations, along with auditing any regulations, instituted since 2008.

Perry promises the repeal of President Obama’s health care plan, Dodd-Frank and Sarbonnes Oxley.

On entitlement reform, Perry says his plan will stop the “raiding” of the Social Security Trust Fund and allow younger generations to set up personal retirement accounts.

“Fixing America’s tax, spending and entitlement cultures will not be easy. But the status quo of byzantine taxes, loose spending and the perpetual delay of entitlement reform is a recipe for disaster,” Perry writes.

“Cut, balance and grow strikes a major blow against the Washington-knows-best mind-set. It takes money from spendthrift bureaucrats and returns it to families. It puts fewer job-killing regulations on employers and more restrictions on politicians. It gives more freedom to Americans to control their own destiny. And just as importantly, the cut, balance and grow plan paves the way for the job creation, balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility we need to get America working again.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Issa Introduces Federal Spending Transparency Reforms -- The House of Representatives' top cop, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., introduced legislation Monday that he says will increase transparency and digitally track federal spending.

Issa, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and a staunch government transparency advocate, explains that at a time when Americans are concerned with how their money is being spent, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA) will provide simpler access and more awareness for the public to track government spending.

“Incompatible technologies, inaccurate data and a lack of common standards impede transparency. The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act will revolutionize the accessibility of government information,” Issa says.

To combat the tracking and transparency issue, DATA will establish a single electronic platform consisting of financial information reported by agencies and information reported by recipients.

The Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Board (FAST Board) will permanently succeed the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (Recovery Board) and track federal spending including grants, contracts, loans and agencies’ internal expenses.

The legislation would establish consistent standards for reporting spending data across government agencies. Lastly, the legislation will eliminate the current spending reports and databases (,, Consolidated Federal Funds Report) and replace them with a single platform by combining the current systems.

In November, Issa met with Vice President Joe Biden to discuss spending transparency. In a statement Monday responding to Biden’s announcement of a White House executive order on transparency in federal spending, Issa says, “We are on the same page on the goals we want to achieve.”

Issa also says that the vice president mentioned that several House and Senate leaders in both parties have a shared goal to develop a “transparent and accountable government.”

On Tuesday, Recovery Board Chairman Earl Devaney will testify before the committee at a hearing examining federal spending and potential solutions proposed in the new legislation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Despite Calls to Cut Spending, States Rely Heavily on Federal Funds

Adam Gault/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As debates over the budget and the deficit escalate and the small-government, cost-cutting Tea Party gains more clout in Washington, federal programs are coming under fire.

But at the same time, federal dollars increasingly are in demand, according to an ABC News analysis.

For all the rhetoric against federal spending and encroachment on states' autonomy, governors rely heavily on federal funds, especially given the slow economy.  Not one governor turned away all the federal stimulus money their states received and, despite opposition to the Democrats' health care plan, governors continue to take in the money that law allocated.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., founder of the Senate Tea Party caucus, has advocated for the abolishing of the Department of Education.  But doing so could have heavy consequences on the Bluegrass State.  Federal funds accounted for about 20 percent of public school funding in fiscal year 2010, according to the Kentucky Department of Education.  Cutting the department could take away more than $1 billion from Kentucky's schools.

Even in other areas, Kentucky is heavily dependent on federal funds, even though Paul and the state's other outspoken Republican, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have railed against government spending.  Per capita federal spending amounts to more than $11,500 in fiscal year 2009, making Kentucky the 12th-ranked state for dependence upon federal funds, according to the Census bureau.

Other conservative states whose leaders have assailed federal money also rely heavily on dollars from D.C.

Today, through about 1,200 grant programs, the federal government allocates about $600 billion annually to states, representing close to one-third of the typical state's budget, including Republican-leaning ones like Texas and Tea Party-heavy states like Arizona and Oklahoma.

At the same time, the proportion of money that states give back to the federal government in the form of taxes relative to what they get in return has shrunk. Virtually all states -- whether red or blue -- get more than $1 per capita back for every tax dollar paid to Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


As Gov't Shutdown Looms, Senate Shoots Down Dueling Spending Proposals

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With only a little over a week to go before the government could shut down, the Senate on Wednesday shot down dueling spending proposals from each party.

The votes were merely symbolic since the two sides are $50 billion apart in proposed cuts.

Democrats denounced the Republican bill to make $57 billion in cuts as "reckless," "extreme," and "one of the worst pieces of legislation ever drafted in the history of this Congress," arguing that it would slash hundreds of thousands of jobs and stall the country's ongoing economic recovery.

The House-passed GOP bill was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 44-56. The vote was strictly along party lines -- Democrats against, Republicans in favor -- except for three Tea Party Republicans: Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Republicans countered that the Democrats' plan to make $4.7 billion in cuts is "unacceptable," "indefensible," and showing that they are "in denial" about the nation's soaring deficits, especially in the wake of a report this week that the government last month racked up an all-time record deficit of $223 billion.

That bill was also defeated, 42-58. Eleven Democrats broke with their party to oppose the measure: Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Mark Udall of Colorado, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Jim Webb of Virginia, Carl Levin of Michigan, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.

Both bills were attempts to fund the remaining six months of the current fiscal year.

Ultimately, Wednesday's votes in the Senate were exercises in futility since neither Democrats, with their 53-seat majority, nor Republicans, with their 47-seat minority, had nearly enough votes to reach the chamber's 60-vote threshold. But that was sort of the point -- now that the votes are over, the bipartisan negotiations involving congressional leaders and representatives from the Obama administration are expected to resume.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


House Passes Two-Week Spending Bill 

Photo Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The House has passed the two-week continuing resolution by a count of 335-91. Six Republicans opposed the temporary spending bill while 104 Democrats joined the Republican majority in supporting it.
The bill cuts about $1.24 billion from eight programs that President Obama has signaled he would like cut from his 2012 budget, and also eliminates $2.7 billion in earmarks.
The House had previously passed a seven-month spending bill, but the Senate has been resistant to bring the measure to the floor for a vote.
As ABC News reported earlier Tuesday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid signaled the Senate would vote on the House’s two-week spending bill within the next 48 hours in order to buy Congress more time to work out a compromise on a long-term solution.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Report: Duplication, Waste Costs Taxpayers Billions Each Year

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With Congress currently embroiled in a contentious spending fight, a congressional watchdog has found that a staggering level of duplication is plaguing the bloated federal budget -- and chewing up billions of dollars in funding every year.

In a new report obtained by ABC News, the Government Accountability Office determined that “reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap, or fragmentation could potentially save billions of taxpayer dollars annually and help agencies provide more efficient and effective services.”

For instance, the GAO found, the Department of Defense could save up to $460 million every year by undertaking a “broader restructuring” of its military health care system.

The cost of such programs with duplicative and overlapping purposes is eye-opening. The military came in for special scrutiny: over $10 billion on defense-wide business systems every year; $49 billion in military and veterans health services; and at least $76 billion since 2005 in urgent processing systems for the military.

But the military is by no means alone. The Department of Transportation listed $58 billion dollars for over 100 separate surface transportation programs. And the Treasury Department listed almost $1 trillion in government-wide tax expenditures, some of which the GAO found “may be ineffective at achieving their social or economic purposes.”

“Considering the amount of program dollars involved in the issues we have identified, even limited adjustments could result in significant savings,” the GAO said.

According to the GAO, not only has Congress been busy spending money on duplicative efforts, but the government has neglected to investigate numerous programs, making the expenditure of some funds not only redundant but wasteful.

For instance, only five of 47 job training and employment programs surveyed by the GAO had been studied to evaluate whether outcomes were the result of the program itself or another cause altogether.

“Little is known about the effectiveness of most programs,” the watchdog observed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio