Real Clear Policy: #WasteOfTheDay Week 120 74_wotd_wk_120

May 29, 2023 12:50 PM




U.S. Budget Deficit Rises to $928B Through April

May 29, 2023


America’s debt continues to spiral out of control, with one of the grimmest reports yet from the Congressional Budget Office. It showed in a recent report that the first seven months of the federal fiscal year — October 2022 through April 2023 — the federal budget deficit was $928 billion, which is $568 billion more than the shortfall at this time last year.

This is especially disturbing considering April is traditionally one of the strongest months for receipts from federal income taxes. This year, however, receipts were down by 10%. The U.S. brought in $2.7 trillion in tax receipts in the first seven months of fiscal year 2023, almost $300 billion less than it did last year, the CBO report found.

The decrease in receipts was driven by weaker than expected income and payroll tax collections, down 9% from last year. Corporate income tax receipts did increase slightly, but they were not large enough to meaningfully increase total receipts.

Despite this, spending continued to rise, with outlays increasing by 8% from last year. The U.S. has spent $3.61 trillion so far in fiscal year 2023, $269 billion more than it had spent at this point in 2022, according to the CBO report.

As always, increased spending was driven by increases in mandatory spending programs. Outlays for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid increased 11% from last year. Another substantial increase in outlays came from paying interest on the national debt, which increased a concerning 40% from last year and cost $158 billion.

Increased spending and decreased funding is a recipe for disaster. Congressional leaders need to seriously negotiate on spending cuts to put the U.S. on the right fiscal path before its too late.



NIH Resumes Funding for Risky Coronavirus Research

May 30, 2023


The National Institutes of Health has resumed funding for experiments on bat coronaviruses, after pausing similar grants immediately after Covid-19 broke out. EcoHealth Alliance will now receive $2.3 million over 4 years to study these dangerous viruses.

The New York City-based nonprofit research organization has been performing this controversial taxpayer funded research for years, with experiments that “mixed parts of different bat viruses related to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the coronavirus that sparked a global outbreak in 2002–2004” dating back to 2014, according to American Association for the Advancement of Science.

They described it as “a stripped-down version of the original grant” — it won’t involve studies of hybrid coronaviruses.

Subawards from EcoHealth have also gone to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a possible location from where Covid-19 escaped.

Other controversial research from EcoHealth includes a 2019 grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology where researchers “attached the spike protein of various wild bat coronaviruses to a different virus ‘backbone’ in order to gauge the wild pathogens’ potential to infect human airway cells.”

Nature Magazine reports the new grant will come with some stipulations. The organization can’t perform any of this research in China or collect new live samples from vertebrates — such as bats. It also can’t enhance the virulence or transmission of a virus, a practice known as “gain of function” research.

The tighter restrictions come as EcoHealth was found to have misreported $90,000 of expenses, reported, though it might not have made much of a difference considering the NIH’s poor track record of oversight. This column reported in April that the NIH ignored basic oversight on $2.2 billion worth of experimental grants to foreign countries.



John Kerry Has a Big Staff, $16.5M Budget

May 31, 2023


John Kerry, former Secretary of State and current special presidential envoy for climate, has a big staff and an even bigger budget, employing at least 45 employees with a budget of $16.5 million, according to Judicial Watch.

Freedom of Information Act requests from both Judicial Watch and Real Clear Investigations revealed this information, which was not made public until ordered by the courts. This lack of transparency frustrated some members of Congress, with Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) threatening to subpoena additional records, which Kerry has said will not be released until October 2024.

The organizational chart from the FOIA request shows Kerry has 8 full time employees, 28 temporary direct hires, 3 detailees, 2 fellows, 1 Intergovernmental Personnel Act position, and 3 contractors. Functions performed by these employees are wide ranging, from a liaison to the National Climate Task Force to a private finance and multinational corporate strategy team.

Real Clear Investigations found Kerry’s office received $16.5 million in 2022, but couldn’t get the government to explain how that money was spent. The State Department has said it can’t comply with that request until April 2025, after this presidential term ends.

Because of the opacity surrounding Kerry’s schedule, budget, meetings, and travel, it’s not clear what he does in this position. The State Department says he is “charged with leading U.S. diplomacy to address the climate crisis” while his team “works to ensure that the United States actively engages on climate, including exercising strong U.S. leadership to increase global climate ambition.”

These lofty goals seem to be achieved by flying out to various conferences and events around the world to give speeches and have meetings, functions that could easily and cheaply be performed by the army of foreign service officers and ambassadors currently stationed around the world.

Americans need more transparency regarding Kerry’s job and duties to assess whether his role is actually advancing American interests, or is simply helping the Biden Administration message on climate change.



Throwback Thursday: Army Members Had $150M in Unpaid Bills

June 1, 2023


Throwback Thursday! 

From 1980 to 1986, the U.S. Army allowed former service members to slip away with unpaid bills totaling $150 million – over $415 million in 2023 dollars – for things like unpaid bar tabs and reenlistment bonuses they didn’t deserve.

Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, awarded the Army his Golden Fleece Award for this egregious lack of accountability and oversight.

According to Proxmire, not only did the Army lose track of tens of millions of dollar’s worth of expenses members owed it, but it also refused repayments from former service members that tried to settle their debts.

Citing a General Accounting Office report, Proxmire details how one former service member owed $942 to the Army, but returned an unsigned affidavit claiming he had no money, family, or assets and couldn’t pay it back. The Army wrote off his debt despite having documentation he had a family, $23,000 a year salary, and a $70,000 house.

In another case, a soldier discharged due to drug use was required to pay back his $973 reenlistment bonus for not serving out his full term. The soldier offered to pay back $5 a month until it was paid off, but the Army simply closed his case and wrote off his debt. In another case, the Army offered a $50 per month payment plan to a debtor, who then never made a payment. That debt was also written off, according to Proxmire.

Other stories detail similar cases of the Army skirting official policy to discharge large amounts of debt at its discretion. Its official policy was already lax, giving service members that had less than $600 in debt and that didn’t respond to their mail and automatic write off.

If you owe money to a landlord, a private company, or a bank, you must pay it back, or else they’ll send it to collection and force you to pay it back. If you owed money to the Army, however, you got blanket forgiveness courtesy of the taxpayer.



California Budget Deficit $10B Greater than Forecasted

June 2, 2023


California’s state budget is the largest in the nation, accounting for $306 billion in spending. Unfortunately, it severely underestimated costs and overestimated income, leaving the state with a $32 billion deficit, $10 billion larger than it forecasted just months ago.

According to Fox News, California is one of only a few states with any budget deficit at all. A progressive tax code that heavily taxes stock market returns may be partially to blame in a year with a subpar stock market performance. Inflation also surely pushed up costs.

Now, Gov. Gavin Newsom faces criticism from lawmakers of both parties. He has proposed $9.6 billion worth of cuts to climate programs, disappointing progressives, as well as cutting drought programs, frustrating rural conservatives.

This shortfall comes just a year after Newsom touted a $97 billion budget surplus, largely thanks to hoarding federal Covid-19 relief funds and redesignating them for other state programs.

While a $32 billion budget deficit should spark serious reflection over spending habits, community leaders and activists are forging ahead with calls for massive spending programs. Recently, California’s Reparations Task Force officially recommended the state pay reparations for Black residents that could amount to $800 billion, almost three times the size of the current state budget.

Unlike the federal government, states can’t print their own money to pay back debt, making state deficits extremely dangerous to the economy. California needs to get its fiscal house in order before it’s too late.

The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at

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