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Citizens Against Government Waste Releases Taxpayer Tricks and Treats for Halloween 2021

(Washington, D.C.) –
As if 2021 wasn’t scary enough, today Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) released its 22nd annual compilation of hair-raising, harrowing, and horrifying Taxpayer Tricks and Treats: graphic files

Trick: The American Rescue Plan Act Terrorized Taxpayer’s Wallets

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) was designed to help the economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, but the petrifying price of $1.9 trillion and the massive spending unrelated to the pandemic will diabolically damage the economy.  The total cost of ARPA is more than double that of the 2009 Obama stimulus package.  Taxpayer funds were wasted on grim provisions that have nothing to do with the pandemic, including funds for frightening pet projects like $135 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, $135 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities, and a $140 million earmark for an underground transit system in Silicon Valley.  When ARPA was signed into law, more than $1 trillion from previous COVID-19 relief bills was still sitting in the Congressional candy jar waiting to be spent.  Excessive government spending, including ARPA, is a significant reason why inflation is ravaging the country and eating up the value of every Americans’ hard-earned money.

Treat: President Biden Says His Reconciliation Bill Will Cost $0

On September 25, 2021, President Biden tweeted to all of America that “My Build Back Better Agenda costs zero dollars. Instead of wasting money on tax breaks, loopholes, and tax evasion for big corporations and the wealthy, we can make a once-in-a-generation investment in working America. And it adds zero dollars to the national debt.” 

Thank you, Mr. President for promising not to add to the crushing national debt!

Trick: “Free” Doesn’t Mean Free

Surprise! It turns out that President Biden and his team cannot do math and the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill isn’t free after all.  Just like rotten eggs thrown at a house, the massive and gross bill has $2 trillion in tax increases, which does not equal $3.5 trillion, and the government can only get money from the people, so it is not “free.”  The legislation is full of harmful policies like raising the corporate tax rate higher than China’s; increasing the capital gains tax, which will stifle investment; increasing the death tax, which will devastate families and small businesses; and massively increasing taxes on e-cigarettesand other tobacco harm reduction products, which falls disproportionately on people making less than $400,000 a year.  The President is not only math challenged, but he is also not telling the truth about who will pay.

But the most chilling aspect of the bill is the $80 billion provided for the IRS to hire 80,000 more agents to supposedly close the tax gap.  Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is insisting that the IRS should have access any bank account with transactions greater than $600 regardless of tax status.  Given the IRS’s long history of wrongly targeting Americans, these provisions should cause nightmares across the country.

Treat: Mid-Band Spectrum for 5G Networks Continues to Expand

Nationwide, 5G networks have become increasingly available, which should keep the U.S. in its place as the global leader in wireless technology and innovation.  During the last administration, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) increased the amount of mid-band spectrum available for 5G deployment as part of its 5G-FAST plan.  This candy-coated gift to taxpayers and consumers continued to move forward in 2021.  This sweet tweet will spread across the country like fudge on a marble table as c-band spectrum, which garnered more than $80 billion in auction proceeds in February 2021, gets deployed for 5G use.  The c-band spectrum is not the only spectrum auction being conducted in 2021.  On October 5, 2021, the FCC started an auction of the 3.45-3.55 GHz band.  This mid-band spectrum will enable an expansion of wireless broadband across the nation helping to connect schools with students, patients with healthcare providers, and businesses with consumers across the country through next generational wireless services.  Opposition to progress on 5G would sour this otherwise tasty technological treat.

Trick:  Resurrection of Earmarks Continues to Scare Americans

To paraphrase Miracle Max in The Princess Bride, “earmarks were only mostly dead.” 

After an 11-year absence, members of Congress decided to resurrect evil earmarks for fiscal year (FY) 2022.  It is worth revisiting why earmarks were eliminated in the first place.  The practice cruelly circumvents the competitive process under which the merits of spending projects are considered and approved at the local level and then go to state and federal agencies, after which they are funded by Congress. 

Under the resuscitated and regurgitated earmarking process, members of House and Senate leadership and the most powerful committees are highly likely to get the sweetest deals at the expense of everyone else.  For example, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was imperially provided with a $200 million earmark for the Presidio Park in San Francisco, where she is a “regular” at a place that is “just so beautiful to walk and see the bridge and then walk back and see the city.”  Perhaps on her next walk she will see how she is wasting the taxpayers’ money on a place that is supposed be self-sufficient and pay for itself.

The 2021 Congressional Pig Book uncovered 285 earmarks costing taxpayers $16.8 billion, and it is likely that the number and cost of earmarks will increase.  At least in 2022, taxpayers will know the names and identities of the dastardly perpetrators of pork.

Trick: The Socialist Apocalypse Is Even More Frightening Than Last Year

Socialist policies keep rising from the dead.  Like a Zombie Apocalypse, behind almost every terrifying corner, toxic programs are being peddled to vastly expand the scope and power of the federal government while threatening individual freedom and liberty.  In 2021, there are more of them than ever and they are showing up everywhere.  The “The Invasion of the Green New Deal” has permeated Capitol Hill, as Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) claimed that “Without question, the Green New Deal is in the DNA of this green [$3.5 trillion] budget resolution.”  These congressional body snatchers want to spend $2.25 billion to turn ordinary citizens into “climate activists,” who will line up in standard-issue government uniforms to pick up the trash and tell Americans how to think, feel, and act about climate change, all on the taxpayers’ dime.  The entire Green New Deal will cost a petrifying $93 trillion and destroy the economy.  Everyone should fear other spooky ideas like “free” public college that would cost $47 billion annually, forgiveness of student loans that would cost $2.2 trillion over 10 years, and “free” childcare that would cost $70 billion annually.  Taxpayers should make sure their elected officials run far, far away from the Socialist Grim Reaper.

Treat:  Net Neutrality’s Crystal Ball Was Wrong

Instead of the doom and gloom demise predicted by net neutrality proponents for the internet when the Restoring Internet Freedom Order was adopted in December 2017, the internet has continued to blossom, and companies providing service have continued to invest, grow, and expand their footprint across the country.  At no time was this more apparent than when tens of millions of Americans were forced by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 to adapt to a virtual environment, with video conferences, and online access becoming more necessary to attend school, conduct business meetings, and buy groceries.  U.S. networks performed far better than their sad, weak, and overregulated European counterparts.  Since 1996, private companies have invested more than $1.8 trillion in new broadband networks, improved the technology used to provision broadband access, and set the stage for next generation connectivity through licensed 5G networks and unlicensed Wi-Fi devices, all with a light-touch regulatory regime.  Giving the big bad government more control through policies like net neutrality would make it more frightening (and expensive) to go online in the future.

Trick: The National Debt Will Haunt the U.S. Forever

The current national debt of $28.9 trillion is set to grow at an unnerving record pace over the next decade.  A February 2021 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report forecast an average annual deficit of $1.2 trillion between fiscal years (FY) 2022 and 2031.  The deficit will rise to $1.7 trillion by the end of the decade, adding a bloodcurdling $12.3 trillion to the national debt and bringing it to $41.2 trillion. 

A March 2021 CBO report found that the horrifying budget deficit in FY 2021 stood at 10.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the second largest since the end of World War II, and exceeded only by the 14.9 percent in FY 2020.  The report also noted that debt held by the public will reach 102 percent of GDP by the end of 2021, 107 percent by 2031, and 202 percent by 2051.  Charles Cooke’s October 8, 2021, article in National Review made the scary spending spree personal:  It will “add to the $235,000 of debt our government now owes for each American household by borrowing another $25,000 per household next year, and then $9,000 per household every subsequent year until the sun explodes.”  The numbers are mind-numbing, and the consequences are frightening, unless something is done to prevent this financial plague.

Treat: States have Sweet Success with Occupational Licensing Reform

States continued their sweet success with occupational licensing reform from 2020 into 2021.  Legislators in Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming opened the door to varying degrees of licensure recognition, helping millions of Americans avoid all of the dreadful and unnecessary requirements to get recertified in other states.  In addition, Arkansas, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Utah reduced regulatory burdens on hair care.  Under these new laws, Arkansans will no longer need a cosmetologist license to wash, cleanse, comb, blow dry, or brush hair; South Carolinians and Utahns will be free to take their businesses on the road with mobile units; and New Hampshirites may perform at home haircuts, all without the fear of being tarnished by a misdemeanor or scary felony conviction.  And in West Virginia, legislators reduced barriers to gaining a license to work as an elevator mechanic, HVAC technician, electrician, or plumber.  Although there is still room for improvement, these reforms grant workers across the nation a clear path to finding work free from the terror of unseen regulations looming in the shadows.

Trick: Pharaoh’s Price Controls Leaves His Tomb

Just like The Mummy, a menacing monster came alive in April 2021 when H.R. 3 was reintroduced in the House of Representatives.  Mercifully, when it first came to life in 2019, it could only wander in the House as James Madison’s spirit reminded the Senate to act like the “necessary fence” it was created to be.  But with the socialist progressives, who believe everything can be free, in firm control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, this demonic legislation could become law.  H.R. 3 is loaded with innovation-killing price controls and a paralyzing 95 percent excise tax on drugs if pharmaceutical manufacturers do not agree with the Pharaoh’s pricing decrees.  Even though the ugly fiend’s initial focus is Medicare Part D, its diabolical powers could overcome the private market too.  Seniors and the general population would pay dearly for H.R. 3’s policies through higher costs and fewer life-changing pharmaceuticals for deadly diseases like ALS, cancer, and sickle cell, as bungling bureaucrats will decide what life-saving drugs they may or may not get. Price controls in government programs like Medicaid, the Medicare coverage gap, the 340B program, and the VA have already distorted the pharmaceutical marketplace.  Allowing H.R. 3 to become law would send American pharmaceutical research and development into a dark and dreary sarcophagus. 

Treat: CMS Report Showed State Innovation Waivers Have Been Divinely Successful

One Trump administration policy that has so far missed the Biden executioner’s axe is the sweetly successful state-based Section 1332 State Innovation Waivers, which were created under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare.  Section 1332 allows states to apply for waivers from certain ACA requirements to “pursue innovative and individualized state strategies that provide their residents with access to affordable, quality health care.”  An August 5, 2021 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid data brief, “State Innovation Waivers: State-Based Reinsurance Programs,” showed that when 14 states were allowed to create and operate state-based reinsurance programs, they were able to stabilize their individual insurance markets and significantly lower premiums in their first year  by as much as 30 percent while increasing enrollment and protecting those with pre-existing conditions.  The CAGW has urged other states to adopt similar reinsurance waivers but remains concerned that the Biden administration’s robotic nature is to destroy anything created by President Trump is meant for extinction, even if it benefits taxpayers.

Trick: Tobacco Tax Increases Will Smoke Taxpayers

Legislative ghouls at the state and federal level, along with bureaucrats at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), continue to haunt and criminalize tobacco harm reduction (THR) products like vaping devices, heat-not-burn e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and snus with exorbitant excise taxes and restrictive flavor bans.  Vaping360 reports that prior to 2019, nine states and Washington D.C., taxed vaping products but as of July 2021, there were 29 states that do so.  “Fair is Foul, and Foul is Fair!” screech congressional warlocks and witches as they declare there are no taxes on those with incomes under $400,000 in the $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” bill for “human infrastructure,” while sneakily adding federal excise taxes of $9.6 billion annually on tobacco products to the $11.4 billion that is already collected yearly.  These regressive taxes will fall mostly on low-income Americans.  Meanwhile the FDA’s unreasonable regulations for e-cigarettes continue to hurt small manufacturers and the efforts to ban flavors make it more difficult for smokers to wean themselves off harmful combustible cigarettes.  The new taxes and expanded regulations will make it more difficult than ever for smokers to move from cigarettes to less harmful tobacco products. 

Treat: The Overseas Contingency Operations Disappeared into the Darkness

The Biden administration handed taxpayers a delightful victory in its fiscal year 2022 budget request, which eliminated the Pentagon’s Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account nearly 20 years after its inception.  Originally intended for emergency defense spending in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, the OCO transitioned into a gruesome slush fund designed to inflate spending at the Department of Defense (DOD) far above the baseline budget and for purposes unrelated to foreign wars.

The continued justification for the OCO had long since reached the stage of parody, with spending far outpacing the military’s presence in combat zones.  The DOD has received approximately $2 trillion from the OCO since 2001, including an alarming $68.7 billion in FY 2021.  Were it considered to be a federal agency, the FY 2021 OCO funding would have made it the fourth largest, dwarfing spending at all other agencies except the DOD, and the Departments of Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs.  In a year when spending has reached Biblical proportions, the termination of the OCO is good news.

Trick: The Fiscal Nightmare Continues at the Department of Defense

The very embodiment of the DOD’s broken acquisition system, the nightmarish Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program has been under continuous development since the contract was awarded in 2001 and has faced innumerable delays and cost overruns.  Total acquisition costs now exceed a whopping $428 billion, nearly double the initial estimate of $233 billion.  The total costs for the F-35 are estimated to reach $1.727 trillion over the lifetime of the program which should make taxpayers shake in their boots.

The JSF has attracted more bad reviews than the last-minute Halloween costume.  On January 14, 2021, then-Acting DOD Secretary Christopher Miller labeled the JSF a “piece of [expletive].”  Then, on March 5, 2021, House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) called the program a “rathole,” and asked whether it was time to stop “spending that much money for such a low capability?” 

Burying the JSF deep underground entirely will prove difficult.  Only two states (Hawaii and North Dakota) do not have at least one supplier for the aircraft.  This gives all but two representatives and four senators more than enough incentive to not only keep greasing the wheels, but also to add 32 evil earmarks for the JSF program, costing $10.6 billion, since FY 2001.  This is one of many ways that defense programs rise from the dead even on the rare occasion that they get killed off.

CAGW is the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.