Maine threatened for requiring photo IDs for food stamps

Recently the US Department of Agriculture sent a threatening letter to the State of Maine about their requirement that food stamp recipients show a photo ID. Maine is attempting to curb food stamp abuse by this requirement.

But the entire Obama administration is obsessed with the use of photo identification for any number of tasks. They have sued states for passing laws that require photo identification for voting, driving, entering government buildings and the like.

Now, when Maine is attempting to curb food stamp fraud with the use of photo identification the Obama administration’s USDA has threatened to cut off the state’s funding for requiring photo IDs.

In a letter to Maine officials, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the food stamp program, said the state’s law could be a civil rights violation and may have a “chilling effect” on individuals seeking food stamps.

“Any individual who applies for SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] on behalf of eligible household members must be able to access the program without fear,” said the USDA’s letter.

Maine officials rejected the Obama administration’s logic.

“We do not believe that a policy putting photos on EBT cards has a ‘chilling effect’ on their appropriate use any more than putting photos on drivers licenses has a ‘chilling effect’ on driving,” said Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew.

Mayhew added, “The fed’s objective in coming to Maine was nothing more than an attempt to undermine our ongoing efforts to reduce fraud, waste and abuse in welfare programs.”

She added that printing photos on welfare cards was indeed optional, but that only around 100 of the more than 21,000 recipients had declined.

Maine’s food stamp program costs some $360 million per year, all of which is paid for by the federal government. It was not clear if all of the funding was at risk.

Maine is not the first state to require the photos but the federal government set special rules for those states, which also include Massachusetts and New York.

 

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Agribusiness’ Outrageous Subsidies

Bales of MoneyDuring the debate on the Farm Bill the American taxpayers were promised that the new agribusiness subsidies would save money. Where have we heard this before? Oh yes, Obamacare promised to bend the curve. Well it didn’t and neither will the agribusiness subsidies for farmers.

American farmers are not only reaping a bountiful harvest of corn and soybeans but also one of money. Agribusiness subsidies could cost as much as $10 billion this year, the first for the five year Farm Bill.

If the subsidies do cost the American taxpayers that outrageous number they would be more than 10 times the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s working estimate and more than double the forecast by the Congressional Budget Office.

This type of farm subsidies has multiple impacts on the United States besides siphoning billions out of the Treasury. Subsidies drive up the cost of food for consumers while putting money in the pockets of a mere fraction of the farmers in America.

It also drives up the cost of the food stamp program for the federal government. It is so distorting to agricultural prices worldwide that even the European Union objects.

Let’s be clear. 83% of the farm subsidies go to a mere 15% of the farmers. Conversely a mere 17% goes to the remaining 85%.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) claimed that the new program of subsidies would swap the then-current $4 billion for a new $3 billion program. 

But the crop insurance scheme is likely to cost twice as much as estimated, according to a 2012 American Enterprise Institute study by the economists Vincent H. Smith, Barry K. Goodwin, and Bruce A Babcock.

Experience should tell us that after several years the new program will resemble the old program. This is due to relatively low threshold for losses. When the current high presses come down even more subsidy payments will be made. Some farmer can expect a check every year.

But this program is just one of many within the Farm Bill. Price support programs such as marketing loans are a serious waste of taxpayer money.

Then there is the conservation program that pays farmers not to farm.

Then there are export subsidies, which aid farmers in foreign sales, and countercyclical payments, which compensate for drops in crops’ market prices.

Some segments of the agribusiness industry are protected by import controls. Take the sugar industry which is protected by high import fees.As a result, the University of Michigan economist Mark Perry reports, Americans have had to pay an average of twice the world price of sugar since 1982.

Its time to revisit the Farm Bill and correct all of its inequities before it does anymore damage to the U.S. economy.

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Nice work if you can get it

Getting paid for not workingA recent audit of the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that eight employees were paid more than $1 million to stay home on paid leave. Four of the eight were off for at least a year while two are in their second year collecting their salaries for not working.

The total cost to taxpayers was $1,096,868 for a total of 20,926 hours from January 2010 through September 2013. This total outlay doesn’t count the build up of pensions and the accumulation of sick days and vacations. In addition these employees moved up the federal scale based on longevity.

The EPA’s response was carefully worded. The agency “has carefully exercised its discretion in placing certain employees on administrative leave in cases of alleged serious misconduct.”

In addition to the eight on long-term leave the EPA was found to have paid out $17,550,100 to 69 employees who were on paid leave for at least one month between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2013.

This is by no means confined to the Environmental Protection Agency. Across the government the Government Accountability Office found that during a three-year period more than 57,000 were sent home for a month or longer. The total cost: nearly $750 million in salary alone.

Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) responded in a written statement. “Taxpayers are paying for a fully functioning workforce, and they should get it.” Grassley was one of the lawmakers who requested the GAO report.

The EPA should explain why these employees were on leave for so long,” Grassley said. “Too often, extended paid leave is an excuse for managers to put off making a decision on whether an employee should be on the job while an administrative action is pending.”

The extensive use of administrative leave continues despite government personnel rules that limit paid leave for employees facing disciplinary action to “rare circumstances” in which the employee is considered a threat.

GAO auditors found that supervisors used wide discretion in putting employees on leave, including for alleged violations of government rules and laws, whistleblowing, doubts about trust­worthiness, and disputes with colleagues or bosses. Some employees remain on paid leave while they challenge demotions and other punishments.

 

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IRS Also Mismanages Information Technology

IRS BuildingSo you thought that the Internal Revenue Service was only guilty of targeting Tea Party and conservative groups? Well guess again. The IRS has been reported in a scathing audit to be guilt of mismanaging information technology.

Despite having a $1.8 billion budget the audit claims that the nation’s tax collector cannot properly manage the flood of sensitive documents and data it gets from taxpayers.

The federal tax agency doesn’t effectively keep track of the software it purchases, it buys more copies than needed and it sometimes deploys more copies than it is allowed, the report said.

The IRS does not effectively manage server software licenses and is not adhering to federal requirements and industry best practices,” according to a new audit report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

“TIGTA estimates that the amount wasted because of the inadequate management of server software licenses is in the range of $81 million to $114 million based on amounts spent for licenses and annual license maintenance that were not being used,” the report said.

And that criticism only covers servers! Previous IG audits found similar issues with almost every other area of the agency’s information technology, including aging desktops and mainframes.

Previous audits also found that the IRS did not have an “accurate inventory of software” and it didn’t use available tools that would allow it to manage its licenses much better.

And if you wondered why and how the IRS managed to lose so many crucial emails (except through foul play) well the IG might have the answer for you. The audit found that the agency lacked the basic email functionality afforded to virtually all ordinary email users, causing it to lose official emails.

When IRS Commissioner testified in front of Congress he had a typical bureaucratic reason for the email issue, wait for it, the IRS couldn’t get by on a mere $1.8 billion for information management. They needed yet more money to bring their systems up to modern standards.

“We are provided significant amounts of money but significantly less than we need,” he told Congress. House Republicans said it was more an issue of spending the money wisely.

But spending money wisely doesn’t seem to be the tax agency’s strong suit. The audit found that the IRS is wasting $100 million. The audit found that the money wasted could immediately free up six percent of the tax agency’s entire IT budget to be re-appropriated as necessary.

In an unrelated lawsuit filing last week, the IRS disclosed that its programmers wrote an average of 473 lines of code a month — an incredibly low productivity in the industry.

Better in-house programmers could decrease its dependency on high-priced vendors like IBM, and the risks of having the government’s important data trapped inside someone else’s tools.

Earlier this year, the IRS had to pay Microsoft high rates for special service because it was still using Windows XP after the operating system giant stopped supporting it, despite years of warning that it needed to switch.

That means that not only does the IRS use 50,000 computers running a 12-year old operating system, but it is paying handsomely for it.

 

 

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Romneycare’s Millions

RomneycarePart of the fallout from the Jonathan Gruber debacle is the revelation that Romneycare is receiving a subsidy of $400 million annually from the federal government. He also revealed that they received the money when they promised to spend it on the poor and indigent.

Unveiled on Fox News’ “Special Report”, the video shows Gruber bragging about how Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy and other “smart people” figured out how to “rip off the feds” in order to make Romneycare work in Massachusetts, to the tune of $400 million a year.

The dirty secret in Massachusetts is the feds pay for our bill. In Massachusetts, we had a powerful senator you may know named Ted Kennedy. Ted Kennedy and smart people in Massachusetts basically have figured out a way to rip off the feds for about $400 million a year.

“Here was Mitt Romney’s dirty little secret that we don’t like to talk about in Massachusetts, which is the way we passed our law is the federal government paid for it.

“George Bush said why am I sending this Democrat $500 million a year, I’m taking it back,” Gruber explained, adding “Mitt Romney to his credit went to George Bush and said, look, can we keep the money if we use it for universal coverage. And Bush to his credit said yes.”

So we now have approximately $400 million per year going to Massachusetts because of the late Edward Kennedy’s influence. But what would happen if that subsidy ended. Well, the whole program would collapse or the premiums would increase substantially.

And this original state program was used by the Obama administration to push Obamacare. In essence, they said that it worked for Massachusetts why can’t it work for the entire country. Little did we know that both programs were based on lies and deceit.

 

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Let the investigations begin

Joint Committees of InvestigationWith the Republican victory on Election Day also comes the thing that the Obama administration fears the most: the dreaded joint committees of investigation. And believe me when I say that they plenty to investigate.

The Obama administration has been able to stonewall the Congress because the Republicans controlled only the House. Now that they control both houses the wrongdoers are in for a rude awakening come January.

The Republicans have a responsibility to investigate the Executive Branch not only for willful transgressions but also for waste, fraud and abuse.

 

The Congress has a long history of investigating the Executive Branch. During the Civil War the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War once set up continued to past the official end of the war.

The Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack was another wartime joint committee that held hearings well into 1946 before generating a voluminous report.

Since then, we have had the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. This was followed by the Watergate hearings. So there is plenty of precedent for joint committees of oversight and investigation.

After all the Federal government will spend close to $4 trillion and the American taxpayers expect the government to be proper stewards of their hard-earned tax dollars.

Let’s start with the transgressions. Congress and the American people have never received a full and truthful report on the Fast & Furious gun-walking scandal. It’s time to expose the sordid details and deal out the punishment.

Then, of course, we have the Benghazi attack to investigate. There are many unanswered questions for Hillary Clinton and the State Department. First, what exactly going on there? Why wasn’t there proper security? Why wasn’t aid sent immediately? These and other questions must be answered.

Then, we have the IRS targeting Tea Party and conservative groups. How long has it been going on? Who ordered it and how far far does it go? If Lois Lerner won’t talk then she should be cited for contempt of Congress and jailed until she does. By all means give her immunity but the country needs answers.

Both houses of Congress need to look into the Environmental Protection Agency’s unbridled use of regulations that are sapping the U.S. economy with job-killing rules without Congressional consent.

The Constitution says that Congress writes the laws and the Executive Branch carries them out. It doesn’t say that agencies like the EPA can make and execute laws without Congressional consent.

The new Congress will have a full plate of investigations and the American people expects them to vigorously that mission. Now that they have the power on Capital Hill it’s time to use it to the maximum.

 

 

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Tom Coburn’s Final Wastebook

Burning our tax dollarsIn January an era will end when Tom Coburn (R-OK) will retire from the Senate. With him will go his Wastebook that details all of the egregious wasteful spending by a variety of government departments and agency.

Senator Coburn has sometimes seemed like a lone voice in Washington campaigning against those who waste the American taxpayers hard-earned money and he will be sorely missed.

For his Grand Finale Coburn and his staff have highlighted 100 government programs that they consider the most. Some are silly (other than the wasteful spending) others involve very serious misuses of government funds.

Here are some of the silly ones:

  • $171,000 To Study How Monkeys Gamble. This gem was brought to us by researchers at the University of Rochester.
  • $856,000 To Film Mountain Lions Running On Treadmills. If you liked the National Science Foundation’s hit film “Shrimp On A Treadmill”, you’re going to love its sequel.
  • Synchronized Swimming For Sea Monkeys. This epic performance cost the American taxpayers a cool $50,000.
  • Swedish Massages For Bunnies. Believe me, You can’t make this stuff up. This two-year study cost $387,000.
  • Free Luxury Gym Memberships For Federal Bureaucrats. This program brings cutting out fat literally to our bureaucracy. Homeland Security spent $450,000 on this perk.
  • $331,000 To Study Whether “Hangry” Spouses Are More Likely To Stab Voodoo Dolls. When spouses get “hangry,” they stab voodoo dolls representing their partners, according to a pricey study from the National Science Foundation.
  • $18 Million To Renovate A Low-Traffic Airport That Serves A High-End Ski Resort. The airport for “Sun Valley ski resort that is a magnet for the rich and famous” is getting a multi-million dollar facelift courtesy of taxpayers.
  • NIH Spent Over $800,000 To Make A Video Game About Food Fights. When NIH and the CDC complain about lack of funding for an Ebola vaccine why are they spending huge amounts of money on silly studies?

Coburn’s Wastebook claims that over $25 billion has been wasted on the 100 programs that are listed in his report. Some of the less silly waste includes the following:

  • $19 million was wasted by bureaucrats gone wild. This covers some of the bureaucrats who were placed on administrative leave for bad behavior.
  • $414,000 spent on a first-person shooter that the intelligence community worries could train terrorists.
  • OPM Paid Contractor $124.3 for invalid Security Clearance Investigations. This past January, the Department of Justice (DOJ) accused U.S. Investigations Services of submitting 665,000 fake background investigations.166 As a result, hundreds of thousands of people who may not have been eligible for clearances were given access to top secret information.
  • $146 million in subsidies for Sports Stadiums leave taxpayers holding the bill.
  • $3 billion for Golf Club Testing and Elementary School experiments aboard the International Space Station.
  • $44.5 million to maintain the “Launchpad to Nowhere” at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The tower will cost $840,000 a year to maintain. In addition NASA will spend another $43 million to maintain unused or outdated facilities.
  • Exploding Claims of “Sleep Apnea” Threaten to Bankrupt VA Disability Program at a cost of $1.2 billion every year.

The list goes with wasteful spending in almost every government department. The problem is that no one has the political will to tackle this serious problem. Maybe President Obama should appoint Senator Coburn as “Waste Czar” with absolute power to fix this problem.

Here’s the link for Wastebook 2014.

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The Government’s Asset-Forfeiture Racket

I want your moneyWell, here’s a government law that amazes me hasn’t been ruled unconstitutional as a violation of the Fourth Amendment. That amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The government has been able to get around the Fourth Amendment by claiming that in civil forfeiture cases, the government sues the item of property, not the person. The owner is effectively a third-party claimant.

The burden is on the Government to establish that the property is subject to forfeiture by a “preponderance of the evidence.” If it is successful, the owner may yet prevail by establishing an “innocent owner” defense. Criminal forfeitures are usually carried out in a sentence following a conviction and is a punitive act against the offender.

So as far as governmental authorities are concerned the letter of the law is being followed. But is the spirit of the law, especially the Fourth Amendment, being followed? The good news is that a a new Rasmussen poll reveals that 70 percent of Americans oppose this legalized theft.

Municipalities have come to rely on confiscated property for revenue. Police and prosecutors use forfeiture proceeds to fund not only general operations but junkets, parties, and swank office equipment. A cottage industry has sprung up to offer law enforcement agencies instruction on how to take and keep property more efficiently.

At one time, forfeiture seemed eminently reasonable. Drug kingpins were making millions from criminal enterprises. Whether because they lacked enough evidence to convict kingpins or for tactical reasons, law enforcement officers settled for hitting them in the wallet by seizing money and property traceable to illegal activity.

But now asset forfeiture has become a racket with police seizing cash from motorists at traffic stops. In addition to drug violations some 200 other crimes now render individuals’ property subject to seizure.

There are many outrageous deeds covered in the asset seizure story. This part sounds like a RICO violation:

“…a practice known as ‘equitable sharing,’ in which local and state law enforcement officers seize property and then refer forfeiture actions to federal authorities in return for a portion of the resulting proceeds, encourages state and local authorities to do an end-run around some state laws that limit the ability of local authorities to seek forfeiture and to keep the resulting proceeds.”

In other words, local authorities hook up with the Feds to steal people’s assets, and then divide the spoils amongst themselves.

Let’s just look at one city that has abused this practice: Philadelphia the birthplace of the Constitution. How ironic. Here’s the video that tells it all.

 

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Obama Fleeces Taxpayers on Campaign Travel

Obama shushing everyone about the truthHere’s another report from Judicial Watch with how Obama fleeces taxpayers on campaign travel costs.

At a time when illegal immigrants are putting pressure on America’s porous southwestern border, and terrorists are gaining ground overseas, how should an American president spend his time? If you’re President Obama, you apparently feel you should drink beer, play pool and book expensive fundraising trips.

That’s what the records we obtained from the U.S. Department of Air Force Headquarters Air Mobility Command – through a July 21, 2014, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request – appear to indicate.

Here are some of the numbers:  Transportation costs of the president’s July 8-9 fundraising trips to Denver, Colorado cost the taxpayers $695,894.10, while the transportation costs for the president’s July 17-18 fundraising trip to New York City, New York, cost taxpayers $463,929.40. That’s what we know. What we don’t know is the security costs to the taxpayer for these trips because the Secret Service, which can’t seem to be able to guard the front door of the White House, is obsessed with stonewalling our requests for the security costs of Obama’s fundraising travel.

And, of course, the Obama White House keeps secret how it determines if presidential travel is either “official” or “political.”  Political parties and campaigns are charged no more than the price of an individual commercial airline ticket, hotel, and food costs if a president uses Air Force One in whole or in part for a “political” trip. What a racket!

These fundraising trips coincided with international and domestic crises that call out for presidential leadership. While Obama was delivering his fundraising speeches in Denver and New York, thousands of illegal aliens were flooding across the Rio Grande Valley, with one law enforcement bulletin declaring that apprehensions were at “historically elevated levels.  Meanwhile, in Iraq, the terrorist group ISIS was seizing “vast areas of Iraq” according to theNew York Times. In the Ukraine, a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was shot down, and, in the Mideast, Israel had begun its Gaza ground offensive.

With these facts in mind, consider how The Associated Press described the president’s July 8 and 9 fundraisers in Denver. Obama spent his time at “a crowded pizza restaurant, a pool bar and face-to-face with a man wearing a horse head mask.”  Images of President Obamadrinking beer and playing pool became the subject of national news. Not a very formidable, compelling image for the commander-in-chief. Just a few days later, on July 17 and 18, Obama traveled to New York City for a gala lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee.

“The White House says Obama will raise money for the Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group that takes unlimited donations. Obama’s appearance will complete his gradual acceptance of the big-money groups he once opposed,” according to a report from the Tribune Broadcasting’s WPIX-TV in Manhattan.

We searched in vain for any news about the president’s strong stance on terrorism in Iraq and turmoil on the border during his fundraising junket. But, apparently he was far more concerned with partying hard and making money – all at the taxpayers’ expense.

In the meantime, Judicial Watch, which seems to be the only entity in DC asking tough questions (and suing) about Obama’s abuse of his public office, is your one-stop source on the costs of Obama’s unnecessary luxury travel.

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Obama Luxury Travel costs taxpayers and weakens the Secret Service

What only four vacations this yearHere’s a post from Judicial Watch with a report with Barack Obama and his family’s astounding travel costs. It also details how Obama administration has abused the Secret Service by forcing them to weaken their protection plans for political considerations.

This week saw an astonishing report from the Washington Post that described how the Obama White House and other Obama officials lied and suppressed embarrassing information about the Secret Service and White House officials implicated in a prostitution scandal:

As nearly two dozen Secret Service agents and members of the military were punished or fired following a 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia, Obama administration officials repeatedly denied that anyone from the White House was involved.

But new details drawn from government documents and interviews show that senior White House aides were given information at the time suggesting that a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room of a presidential advance-team member – yet that information was never thoroughly investigated or publicly acknowledged.

For the Obama gang, election year politics took precedence over the truth and the safety of the president and the White House.  This is no surprise to us, but you can see how the Secret Service is at the breaking point because of the abuses of this presidency.

We announced this week that our investigators obtained more records from the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of the Air Force revealing the security costs for the Obama Family’s 2013 vacation in Honolulu and Martha’s Vineyard, and the flight cost for the First Lady’s 2014 ski trip to Aspen, CO, came to $972,450.24 in taxpayer-paid vacation expenses. The cost to taxpayers includes:

In February 2014, Judicial Watch released flight expense records from the U.S. Department of the Air Force revealing that President Obama incurred $5,250,624 in flight expenses alone for his 2013 vacations to Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard. Adding in the newly released expense records, that brings total cost to the taxpayers for the two Obama family 2013 vacations and the First Lady’ 2014 Aspen ski trip to $6,223,074.24, not including the Aspen security costs.

From December, 21, 2012, to January, 5, 2013, the Obama family spent their Christmas vacation in Honolulu, Hawaii, where they stayed at the luxurious 6,000 square-foot, $7.9 million Kailua home they had rented in 2011. From August 11 – 17, 2013, the Obama family spent an extended week vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where they stayed at the plush $7.6 million home of David Schulte, founder of the private equity firm Chilmark Partners and major contributor to Obama’s campaigns. These two vacations cost a total of $937,487.94 in security alone.

The Obamas continually abuse the public trust and raid the taxpayers’ coffers for unnecessarily luxurious and incessant vacations and travel.  The very fact that we repeatedly have to file Freedom of Information Act requests and lawsuits to obtain this information reveals that the most transparent administration in history knows that its behavior is extravagant and, therefore, seeks to cover it up.

One can only imagine how this unnecessary travel, and the cover up of facts about its costs, saps the budget and morale of a Secret Service that cannot even secure the White House complex, and had trouble keeping the president secure even when he’s traveling on important government business.  I am told that morale in the Secret Service is terrible and that good men and women are fleeing the agency in droves.

According to the numbers we’ve been able to extract thus far, the Obamas and Bidens have spent more than $40 million taxpayer dollars on trips since 2009 up through the president’s most recent Palm Springs and Key Largo golf outings, which cost the taxpayers $2,952,278 in flight expenses.  Tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to send Obama golfing and his wife skiing:  keep these numbers in mind as you hear the Obama gang distract from the corruption and abuse of the Secret Service with demands for more money and “reforms.”

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