WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) is back with a vengeance to highlight the dark side of Washington’s spooky spending sprees and far more rare fiscal treats. Just in time for Halloween, CAGW’s 12th annual illustration of financial tricks and treats features an assortment of the federal government’s fiscal woes and wonders, both sinister and satisfyingly sweet. CAGW agrees that everyone’s entitled to at least one good scare this Halloween, so prepare to be afraid. Be very afraid…
Trick: Obamacare Rollout - Look! It’s moving. It’s alive. It’s alive! It’s…a train wreck. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that almost $394 million was spent to support the “glitchy” Obamacare web portal that was supposed to work flawlessly to allow individuals to sign up for healthcare exchanges starting on October 1, 2013.
Treat: Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) - Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) compared MEADS to Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, saying “you think it is dead and it keeps popping out of the bathtub again.” This time MEADS may be drowned for good as the Pentagon cancelled the program effective at the end of fiscal year (FY) 2013.
Trick: Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) -Your eyes are not deceiving you: MEADS is both a trick and a treat this year. The ghost of MEADS past will return for what will (hopefully) be the final time for a test in November. Hosted by the U.S., this test is widely speculated to be a showpiece for the system contractor and partner nations Germany and Italy in order to attempt to attract additional counties willing to invest in the program.
Trick: Payments to the Deceased - These zombies are still collecting a paycheck! In a June 2013 audit report, the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General revealed that the agency had paid “2,475 beneficiaries for months or even years after it received notifications they were deceased.”
Treat: Sequestration Spending Caps - To some Democrats who opposed spending cuts, it may have seemed like Republicans went a little “batty” in 2011 when they agreed to the sequestration provisions of the Budget Control Act. Sequestration spending caps will have cut discretionary spending levels by $85.3 billion in 2013 and will cut $109.3 billion annually from 2014-2021. It was a treat for taxpayers that these cuts were maintained in the October 16 budget deal that re-opened the government through January 15, 2014.
Trick: Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) - Victims…aren’t we all? This may be true for Eric Draven from the 1994 thriller The Crow, but it should not be the case for U.S. taxpayers. Unfortunately, each year thousands of Americans are defrauded by criminals who use their identities to submit fraudulent tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service could issue $26 billion to identity thieves over the next five years.
Treat: National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) - In FY 2013, Congress agreed with the Obama Administration’s proposal to eliminate $12 million in annual funding for the NDIC. CAGW, among others, noted for years that the center was largely duplicative of other federal, state, and local programs, and produced many of the same documents as other sources. The NDIC was a pet project of the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who supplied the program with a total of $47.5 million in earmarks.
Trick: STEM Consolidation - Like a cheesy horror film, President Obama’s FY 2014 budget is predictable yet impossible to ignore. The President requested a restructuring of the more than 200 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education programs that are spread throughout 13 agencies at an annual cost of $3.1 billion. Not only did he fail to propose saving a single red penny, he requested an increase in funding of $195 million.
Treat: High Speed Rail Program - In June 2013, the House Appropriations Committee declared that none of the $15.3 billion provided in the FY 2014 transportation appropriations bill would be used to fund the California high-speed rail program, preventing the “ghost-train-to-nowhere” program from claiming billions in federal funds.
Trick: RAC’s suspension - CMS is taking the words “frightening,” “horrific,” and “terrifying” to new levels with their three-month suspension of the use of recovery audit contractors (RACs), who help identify improper payments and expose billing system vulnerabilities in Medicare claims. Since 2009, the recovery audit contract program, which was created to reduce the amount of improper payments, has returned $4.5 billion to the Medicare Trust Fund.
Treat: Yucca Mountain - On August 13, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit played the part of the “good witch” when it issued a writ of mandamus ordering the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to resume its review of the Yucca Mountain license application. The mandamus order requires the commission to move forward with the licensing proceeding “unless and until Congress authoritatively says otherwise or there are no appropriated funds remaining.”
Trick: Debt Ceiling - Unlike the nightmares from Freddie Krueger’s Elm Street, this is no dream! H. J. Res. 59 was signed into law by President Obama on October 17, 2013. The legislation will finance the government through January 15, 2014 and raise the debt limit through February 7. As a result, the national debt jumped by a record $328 billion, bringing the total U.S. debt to a terrifying $17.1 trillion. Every man, woman and child in the U.S. population of 316,870,868 owes $53,896.06 as his or her share of the debt, or $148,629 for each taxpayer. Now that’s scary!
CAGW is a private, non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, mismanagement, and inefficiency in government.