Today, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Jeff Miller unveiled their plan to reform the badly broken Veterans Administration system.
This bill would aim to scale down wait times, increase oversight, and provide care for neglected veterans. Under this plan, VA would be given $5 billion in emergency funding to hire more doctors and improve its physical infrastructure, as well as give veterans access to healthcare from non-VA providers, at a cost of $10 billion.
Responding to the news today, CRS President Jonathan Bydlak said,
“It’s striking that after years upon years of ignoring the problem, the only thing Congress seems to be able to do quickly is spend more of our money. The crisis at the Veterans Administration is a sobering reminder of what happens when government agencies operate without oversight, and, ironically, Congress is now attempting to solve the problem by throwing money at it — without oversight.”
“We are all outraged at the state of veteran care,” Bydlak continued, “but Congress should solve the problem responsibly, not carry on with more of the same.”
They don’t have to look very far to find reasons to spend more money.
We’re hearing word that today, three Representatives are introducing legislation to provide direct military aid to Ukraine, as a result of last week’s shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.
The Obama administration and many Western leaders have placed the blame on pro-Russian rebels in the country.
Today’s legislation, led by Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Sander Levin (D-Michigan) and Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pennsylvania), would authorize the Obama administration to provide Ukraine with aid for military, intelligence and security in an attempt to stop similar events from happening again over rebel-held Eastern Ukraine territory.
The relative wisdom of this action aside, we should keep in mind that ratcheting up our spending does not keep us safe. If Representatives are determined to get involved in this situation, the least they can do is offset the new spending with cuts elsewhere.
Sometimes, it is crystal clear just how out-of-touch Congress and federal spending programs are with the rest of the country.
This morning in his opening remarks at a Small Business subcommittee hearing, Rep. Scott Tipton (CO-3) called for changing the level at which a farm is considered a “small business” and eligible for federal farm aid.
The current level is $750,000 annually.
Tipton wants to raise that level.
“The $750,000 standard is currently the lowest revenue-based standard for any industry, and it simply has not kept pace with inflation or the changes in the farming sector of the economy,” Tipton said, “If the size standard is too low, it limits agriculture producers’ access to billions in federal prime contracts and subcontracts.”
That’s right. Farm aid, originally intended to help struggling family farmers, now sets $750,000 or less as the standard by which a farm is considered “small” enough for federal aid.
And Representatives want to raise that level.
As if we needed to ask why we have a spending crisis.
We know the F-35 is an embarrassingly flawed and absurdly expensive program.
And we also know that members of Congress keep voting over and over to keep the program on taxpayer-funded life support.
And now, from The National Law Review, comes perhaps a little insight into why this keeps happening.
Some highlights from the report [emphasis added]:
- Current members of Congress (Senate and House of Representatives) have received $8.1 million from Lockheed Martin from January 1, 2001 – December 31, 2013.
- Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chair of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, has received $74,200 from Lockheed Martin from January 1, 2001 – December 31, 2013, 4.8 times as much as the average for a U.S. Senator ($15,382). His committee originates the annual Senate legislation that funds the F-35 procurement program.
- Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), Chair of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, has received $66,500 from Lockheed Martin from January 1, 2001 – December 31, 2013, 4.4 times as much as the average for a U.S. Representative ($15,072). His committee originates the annual House legislation that funds the F-35 procurement program.
It’s hard to think of a clearer example of why there is such a dire need for a group to counterbalance such strong big-spending incentives.
Read the rest of the report here.
Reporting in National Review, Dustin Siggins takes on some recent budget news:
Each year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) releases a report on the amount of federal outlays that qualify as “improper payments.” In this year’s report, which shows $105.8 billion in improper payments
Believe it or not, this is an improvement. As Siggins notes, this number has been on the decline since its $121 billion peak in 2010, even though “Washington still spends more in wasted payments than it spends on law and order.”
But there’s more to the story.