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Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Today in Washington, D.C. - Feb 16, 2011 - Mitch McConnell: "I’ll tell you what’s extreme"

The Senate resumed consideration of S. 223, the FAA reauthorization bill. Roll call votes on amendments are expected today.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has filed cloture on the bill and on the pending Inhofe amendment concerning slots and flight times at Ronald Reagan National Airport. An amendment from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) concerning the perimeter rule for Reagan airport is pending to the Inhofe amendment.

As reported yesterday, the Senate voted 98-0 to adopt an amendment from Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) making illegal the unauthorized recording or distribution of security screening images.  51 Democrats later voted to kill an amendment from Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) that would have prohibited TSA employees from joining unions.  The same 51 Democrats susequently voted down an amendment from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to cut FAA funding to 2008 levels.

Also, the Senate voted 86-12 to pass H.R. 514, which extends through May three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act.

While much of the discussion of President Obama’s unserious budget proposal this week has focused on its timidity, its “failure of leadership,” its unending deficits, and trillions of dollars in new debt, there are some other newsworthy aspects of it worth pointing out.

Indeed, according to U.S. News & World Report’s Washington Whispers column, “The Internal Revenue Service says it will need an battalion of 1,054 new auditors and staffers and new facilities at a cost to taxpayers of more than $359 million in fiscal 2012 just to watch over the initial implementation of President Obama's healthcare reforms. Among the new corps will be 81 workers assigned to make sure tanning salons pay a new 10 percent excise tax. Their cost: $11.5 million.”

Washington Whispers points out the IRS’ own explanation for the funding increase: “‘The ACA [Affordable Care Act] will require additional resources to build new IT systems; modify existing tax processing systems; provide taxpayer outreach and assistance services; make enhancements to notices, collections, and case management systems to address and resolve taxpayer issues timely and accurately; and conduct focused examinations to encourage compliance,’ said the newly released IRS budget. In its request, the IRS explained that the tax changes associated with health reform are huge. ‘Implementation of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 presents a major challenge to the IRS. ACA represents the largest set of tax law changes in more than 20 years, with more than 40 provisions that amend the tax laws.’”

But the column also notes, “Unsaid: The requests are just the beginning, since the new healthcare program is evolving and won't be fully implemented until about 2014.”

And Washington Whispers also reports, “The detailed IRS budget documents spell out exactly what most of the new workforce will be doing. For example, some 81 will be tasked just to handle the tax reporting of 25,000 tanning salons. They face a new 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning services. Another 76 will be assigned to make sure businesses engaged in making and imported drugs pay their new fee which is expected to deliver $2.8 billion to the Treasury in 2012 and 2013.”

But the IRS isn’t the only agency slated for a big boost of taxpayer funding to implement President Obama’s unpopular health spending bill. The Hill reported yesterday, “The Obama administration health department office tasked with selling the healthcare reform law is looking to quadruple its budget while almost doubling the size of its staff. Under the Department of Health and Human Services’ fiscal 2012 budget request, the assistant secretary for public affairs' office would get a bump from $4.8 million to $19.9 million in fiscal 2012. Meanwhile, the office would grow from 24 to 46 full-time equivalent employees. Almost all of the new funding would be used to improve healthcare.gov and to conduct an educational outreach campaign ‘designed to help Americans understand and access their benefits and information under the law,’ HHS wrote in its budget justification. The efforts were funded in fiscal 2010 and 2011 under the reform law, according to the budget document.”

Unveiling his budget Monday, President Obama said, “[W]e’re going to have to get serious about cutting back on those things that would be nice to have but we can do without.” But the president’s priorities seem out of touch. He’s already threatened to veto House Republicans’ continuing resolution that cuts tens of billions of dollars from this year’s budget. Yet the Obama’s plan for next year would then spend $359 million on IRS agents to enforce the tax hikes in his health care bill and another $15 million to sell a skeptical public on the unpopular legislation.

Democrats in Congress have made a big show recently of branding Republican attempts to make dent in the deficit as “extreme” while rushing to the defense of their favorite spending programs. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell responded on the floor today,
I’ll tell you what’s extreme: extreme is to insist in the middle of a jobs and debt crisis that government has to spend a trillion dollars more than we take in every year. That’s extreme.

Extreme is a view of the world that says government will not live within its means, even when the American people demand it. Extreme is a view of the world that says the survival of this or that program is more important than the survival of the American Dream itself. Extreme is telling our children they may have to do without because we refuse to do with less.

So I would suggest to my Democrat colleagues they stop thinking about what they can get away with and start thinking about what’s actually needed to solve this crisis.

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