The massive spending bill, or continuing resolution, released by the Senate this week continues spending on programs which are inappropriate or wasteful and fails to adopt good policies in many areas. Here’s a rundown of some of the worst offenders in the Senate bill:
Obamacare. The CR fails to stop the massive spending in Obamacare. Obamacare obligates an estimated $1.2 trillion for subsidies to individuals for purchasing coverage through the government exchanges and $638 billion for states agreeing to expand their Medicaid programs. Congress should eliminate the exchange subsidies and the enhanced federal match for the Medicaid expansion. Stopping these provisions would save the federal government more than $1.8 trillion over the next 10 years. Nor does it take steps to defund implementation of Obamacare.
—Nina Owcharenko, Director, Center for Health Policy Studies and Preston A. Wells, Jr. Fellow
Inadequate Defense Funding Levels. The detailed defense appropriations provisions in the House-adopted appropriations bill (H.R. 933), and now its Senate companion legislation, provide inadequate overall funding levels for defense, in part because they will continue to apply the reduction in defense spending for the current fiscal year required by sequestration. Nevertheless, the defense provisions continue wasteful spending practices. These defense appropriations provisions were agreed to by House and Senate appropriators earlier, and therefore the wasteful practices were also preserved in the Senate version of the same legislation.
The Heritage Foundation has identified at least $70 billion in annual savings within the Department of Defense through a combination of military health care and retirement reform, hiring freezes, expanding performance-based logistics, and reforming the acquisition process.
Clearly, this is money that could be kept within the defense budget and put into more militarily useful programs, such as improving space technology for use in missile defense or developing new classes of nuclear weapons delivery systems. The more productive approach to funding an effective military posture for the U.S. would be for Congress to return to the regular budgetary order, set aside sequestration, adopt higher defense appropriations that are applied in a more disciplined fashion and look to restrain federal spending growth in the areas of foreign aid, domestic discretionary programs, and entitlements.
—Baker Spring, F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy
Head Start. Increasing Head Start funding is the antithesis of good early childhood education policy. The Senate CR provides $33.5 million in new funding for one of the most ineffective federal education programs in existence today: Head Start. While the new funding is earmarked for the Obama Administration’s plan to make the worst-performing Head Start centers re-compete for funds, it represents new spending on a program the federal government has deemed totally ineffective at meeting the needs of poor children.
In December, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its long-overdue evaluation of Head Start. The agency’s scientifically rigorous evaluation of more than 5,000 Head Start children from the time they entered the program through third grade revealed that the $8 billion per year federal program had little to no impact on cognitive, social-emotional, health, or parenting practices of participants. On a few measures, access to Head Start had negative effects on children.
In addition to the evidence presented by HHS of Head Start’s ineffectiveness, in 2010 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported widespread fraud at Head Start centers. GAO sent undercover investigators into Head Start centers in various states, and in half they found fraudulent activity, such as Head Start employees counseling families to underreport their income in order to appear eligible for services.
Since 1965, taxpayers have expended some $180 billion on Head Start yet have not received a return on that “investment.” And now, in the wake of an objective report by HHS demonstrating that Head Start is failing the poor children it was designed to serve, the Senate CR would increase spending and eschew any suggestion of eliminating or reforming the Great Society relic.
Head Start should be eliminated. At a minimum, it should be reformed to allow states to make their Head Start dollars portable, following low-income children to a private preschool provider of choice, instead of relegating them to underperforming Head Start centers.
—Lindsey Burke, Will Skillman Fellow in Education
Energy. The Senate CR continues to fund a failed energy policy that empowers Washington bureaucrats instead of American families and businesses. Though it does cut some programs minimally, it does the equivalent of removing a used napkin from a full trash can. There’s much more waste that needs to be removed. For example, section 1203 reduces Department of Energy (DOE) funding by $44 million when more than $5.3 billion could be cut. The $44 million is equivalent to 0.8 percent of what should be cut.
Perhaps most egregious is the meager $11 million cut from the $1.8 billion request for Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. In total, the DOE budget funds applied-research programs on conventional fuels, renewable energy sources, and nuclear energy that the private sector should be undertaking. American families and business are far better equipped than government to determine what types of energy technologies work for them. Eliminating these programs alone would save $3 billion in taxpayer money and help to return energy choice back to Americans.
Though the bill cuts $10 million from nuclear energy spending, based on the 2013 request, it would still fund over $150 million for nuclear waste disposal and management programs. None of this funding would go toward Yucca Mountain, the waste repository mandated by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, as amended. Given the complete lack of any nuclear waste disposal or management policy by the Administration and its insistence on terminating the Yucca project, there is little justification for this spending. Instead, Congress should provide $40 million for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to finish its review of the DOE’s Yucca Mountain permit application.
—Jack Spencer, Senior Research Fellow, Nuclear Energy, and Nick Loris, Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Unlike the budget passed by the House, the Senate bill seeks to restore government spending to fund the failed CPSC product safety database. CPSC decision making with respect to the database has previously been called “arbitrary and capricious” by the courts.
Since it was implemented in 2011, manufacturers have shown that the CPSC database is seriously flawed. The database allows the public to submit unproven claims of harm with the CPSC and gives manufacturers only 10 days to challenge these claims; however, the CPSC itself has final authority to publish reports of such claims, even if they are disproved by the manufacturer. The accuracy of the CPSC reports is thus seriously questionable, and is a one-stop shop for tort lawyers seeking new clients or seeking “evidence” for their current lawsuits.
Furthermore, last October, in Company Doe v. Inez Tenenbaum, a federal court in Maryland overturned a decision of the CPSC to publish a report as “arbitrary and capricious,” because the CPSC report was “misleading and fail[ed] to relate to the [manufacturer’s] product in any way.” Indeed, the CPSC database is a concrete example of government waste: It is a shame that the Senate bill seeks to restore government spending to publishing misleading claims that damage business growth and likely lead to additional frivolous lawsuits.
—Andrew Kloster, Legal Fellow
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): $77.2 billion. The recommendation continues record-high food stamp benefits. Food stamp spending has approximately doubled since President Obama came to office. It is one of the largest and fastest growing federal welfare programs. The federal government operates 80 federal welfare programs at a cost of nearly $1 trillion a year. Over 10 of these provide food assistance.
Food stamp spending should be rolled back to pre-recession levels. Able-bodied adults without dependents who receive food stamp benefits should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving benefits.
—Rachel Sheffield, Research Associate
Job Corps: $30 million added to the funding level already provided under sequestration. This program should be terminated, because a scientifically rigorous impact evaluation of Job Corps participants were less likely to obtain high school degrees, were no more likely to attend or complete college, and earned only $0.22 more in hourly wages than non-participants. Further, the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General estimates each Job Corps participant who is successfully placed into any job costs taxpayers $76,574.
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grants: $416.5 million. VAWA grants should be terminated, because these services should be funded locally. Using federal agencies to fund the routine operations of domestic violence programs that state and local governments could provide is a misuse of federal resources and a distraction from concerns that are truly the province of the federal government.
Office of Justice Programs (OJP) grants: $1.1 billion. OJP grants should be terminated, because these grants assign functions to the federal government that fall within the expertise, jurisdiction, and constitutional responsibilities of state and local governments. Further, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants ($392 million) within OJP have been used to place criminals on the street without posting bail.
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP): $279.5 million. OJJDP grants should be terminated, because these grants fund juvenile justice and prevention programs that fall under the unique responsibilities of state and local governments. Further, there is little evidence that these grants are effective at preventing delinquency.
Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS): $225.5 million. COPS grants should be terminated, because these grants assign functions to the federal government that fall within the expertise, jurisdiction, and constitutional responsibilities of state and local governments. Further COPS grants were used to supplant local funds and had little to no effect on reducing crime.
FEMA Fire Grants: $675 million. Fire grants should be terminated. Fire grants, which subsidize the routine operations of local fire departments, are ineffective at reducing fire-related deaths and injuries of firefighters and civilians. Fire grants incorrectly encourage local fire departments to become increasingly dependent on federal funding.
—David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D., Research Fellow in Empirical Policy Analysis
Postal Service Saturday delivery: $2 billion. The Senate CR continues—by omission—the prior year’s ban on using the Postal Service’s small appropriation to reduce service levels, effectively mandating Saturday service. This, along with other such congressional restriction, limits the Postal Service’s ability to reduce costs and increases the risk of massive federal subsidies in the near future.
—James Gattuso, Senior Research Fellow in Regulatory Policy
NASA Manned Spacecraft: $1.2 billion. The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle is the new manned spacecraft NASA is developing for exploration of the Moon and Mars and for other purposes. Manned space flight is vastly more expensive than robotic exploration and is largely a public relations showcase for NASA to market itself to the American people. NASA’s budget should be pared back to a tight focus on cost-effective projects to advance its core missions.
—J. D. Foster, Norman B. Ture Senior Fellow in the Economics of Fiscal Policy
National Science Foundation (NSF): $221 million. The bill would increase funding for NSF by $221 million, compared to the fiscal year (FY) 2012 enacted level, putting the total funding amount to $7.25 billion. Yet NSF has spent large amounts on research projects that are clearly not federal priorities ($325,000 for a “Robosquirrel” study; $516,000 creating a video game simulating prom week; and $350,000 for a study on how golfers should imagine a bigger hole when playing). Basic research is important, but given that NSF funding is diverted to inappropriate projects, it becomes wasteful. Budget reductions may help encourage more prudence.
National Institutes of Health (NIH): $71 million. Some of NIH’s funding goes to projects that seem inappropriate, such as $550,000 to acquire evidence that heavy drinking in a person’s 30s can lead to feelings of immaturity, while in their 20s it would not.
Legal Services Corporation (LSC): $358 million. This program should be terminated, because these services should be funded locally. The money is often diverted instead of going to poor people needing legal services, and there is a long history of waste and abuse of these funds by executives at the LSC.
Transportation. The bill would increase funding for highway programs and transit formula grants to match the levels authorized in Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), current surface transportation law. It also funds a $4 million Transit Safety office that was authorized in MAP-21. By funding this new office and the transit formula grants, the bill would continue diversions of limited Highway Trust Fund (HTF) user fees to transit, which is a demonstrated local—not a federal—priority.
Transit serves truly local needs and is predominantly concentrated in just six cities. Congress should end such diversions from the HTF, because they come at the expense of highway and bridge maintenance and expansion projects and do not demonstrably improve mobility and safety.
—Emily Goff, Research Associate
Housing and Urban Development Public Operating Fund: $562 million. The bill restores money from an FY 2012 cut to previous levels for a total 2013 funding request of $3.962 billion. The fund pays local public housing authorities annual subsidies for such things as maintenance, management, insurance and energy costs. These should be the responsibility of local jurisdictions.
—David C. John, Senior Research Fellow