IRS Gets $80B in Additional Funding
September 26, 2022
The Internal Revenue Service says it needs $80 billion in additional funding to help collect some of the $600 billion left on the table in uncollected taxes every year, but a look at the agency shows why that money might be better spent elsewhere.
The IRS says it needs to hire more people and upgrade its technology, some of which is stuck in the 1960s.
It says it needs to clear the backlog of unprocessed 2021 tax returns, improve customer service by hiring more customer service representatives, overhaul its technology and hire more staff overall, CNBC reported.
But critics are asking important questions about why the IRS needs the money and whether the agency will spend it properly
Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University and a Bloomberg Opinion columnist, recently wrote a column titled “The IRS Has Problems That $80 Billion Won't Solve.”
In it, he notes that the IRS’s cybersecurity software is woefully underwhelming and an essential technology upgrade isn’t slated to finish until 2030.
A Government Accountability Office report on the IRS said the upgrade has been radically scaled back and the agency has also “revised the program’s cost, schedule, and scope goals on numerous occasions, including seven times between 2016 and 2019.”
“That does not inspire much confidence,” Cowen wrote.
The IRS is also using fax machines, “an obsolete version of Windows, and the programming language of COBOL, which was designed in 1959 and standardized in 1968,” he wrote.
Plenty of small to mid-sized businesses and non-profits around the country with smaller staff and budgets have managed to upgrade to better software, he noted.
“These software upgrades are supposed to save money by enhancing productivity, letting organizations do more work with fewer people,” Cowen wrote. “A reasonable person can be forgiven for asking whether an agency with a $13.7 billion budget really doesn’t have enough to front some cash.”
With such poor performance, he suggests asking the IRS to improve its performance without extra money “and after they have shown they can make better progress, give them the money they need to finish the job.”
Biden Spends $5B For Electric Vehicle Chargers
September 27, 2022
Earlier this month, President Joe Biden showed up at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit to announce spending $900 million to build about 500,000 charging stations across dozens of states, CBS News reported.
The first tranche of $900 million — out of $5 billion in infrastructure money over five years — will be used to build electric vehicle chargers in 35 states.
The chargers will be found across 53,000 miles of highway with the goal of promoting electric vehicle use.
"The great American road trip is going to be fully electrified,” Bident said to a crowd of autoworkers and supporters. “Whether you're driving coast to coast along I-10, or on I-75 here in Michigan, charging stations will be up and as easy to find as gas stations are now.”
Carmakers have ramped up efforts to make more electric vehicles — in April, Ford started building electric pickup trucks at a new Michigan factory and said last September it would build the next generation of electric pickups at a plant in Tennessee, CBS News reported.
General Motors is using an old factory in Detroit to make electric Hummers and pickups, and it announced EV assembly plants in Lansing, Michigan; Spring Hill, Tennessee; and Orion Township, Michigan.
They’re also making batteries — a government loan will help GM build its battery factories, while a GM battery plant in Warren, Ohio, has already started manufacturing.
Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, said in May that it would build another joint venture battery factory in Indiana, and it has announced a battery plant in Canada, CBS News reported.
None of this addresses the issue of price: Most EVs are more expensive than gas powered vehicles, with the average price recently hitting $66,000, whereas gasoline-powered cars average $48,043.
While various tax credits are available for buyers of EVs, the price is still staggering. For people struggling to pay their bills amid high inflation, the price puts EVs completely out of reach.
CA City Pays Homeless to Leave Public Park
September 28, 2022
The City of Sausalito was so desperate to remove 30 homeless people from its Marinship Park that it recently awarded each person $18,000 to leave.
City officials declared a state of emergency over the homeless camp that occupied the field and the tennis courts at the park, according to KRON4.
The city closed the park, cleared everyone out, and is planning to clean it up. But the City of Sausalito reached a settlement with a group representing the encampment, the Sausalito Homeless Union, agreeing to pay each qualifying camper a one-time $18,000 stipend to find alternative housing elsewhere, according to San Francisco news site SFist.com.
The Sausalito Homeless Union will distribute the funds, and provide a monthly accounting of their use to the city.
Many of the homeless people in Marinship Park had been living in the city's Dunphy Park from which they were evicted last summer.
If all 30 homeless people qualify for the grants, it will cost the city $540,000. But officials said the encampment has already cost $1.5 million, including legal fees, sanitation, and management.
The settlement came after the homeless union sued the city regarding where the tent-dwellers were permitted to encamp, Sfist.com reported.
The homeless had been forced to remain in a fenced, sanctioned area on the tennis courts since February 2021, and the city was ticketing residents who tried camping outside of that area.
A nonprofit group, Urban Alchemy, managed several of San Francisco's sanctioned tent camps, and was managing the site, with residents making complaints that the group’s staff had been engaging in drug use and sexual harassment.
Before the park and tennis courts can be returned to the public for use, they must be cleaned and tested for public-health hazards.
Throwback Thursday: In 1978, NTSB Buys New Seal
September 29, 2022
The National Transportation Safety Board spent $5,340 in 1978 — $24,256 in 2022 dollars — to change its seal, winning it a Golden Fleece Award as a runner up in June 1978.
Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, gave awards to wasteful and nonsensical spending, eventually handing out 168 Golden Fleece Awards between 1975 and 1988.
The NTSB, the independent government investigative agency responsible for civil transportation accident investigation, felt that the old emblem had “too much of a bicentennial look to it,” Proxmire said, quoting an NTSB spokesman.
The agency’s officials also felt that the old seal displayed on the credentials and badges of investigators weren’t clear enough to identify them as government personnel, and that putting an eagle in the centerpiece of the new gold colored — rather than old silver colored — emblem would allow it to “subliminally get attention.”
The NTSB spent $740 to prepare the graphics for the new design, $300 to print new credentials for investigators, $50 for two new notary-public seals to authenticate documents, $500 for 150 printed paper emblems and $3,750 for 250 new badges.
The current emblem is largely based on the Great Seal of the United States. It has an American bald eagle with wings spread out, holding in its right talon an olive branch and in its left talon, a bundle of 13 arrows; above its head is a scroll inscribed “E Pluribus Unum.” The eagle is behind a shield with vertical stripes of alternating white and red, crowned by a field of blue.
“Although it is an unnecessary expenditure merely to upgrade the accessories and appurtenances of bureaucracy, it ran several lengths behind the June winner on merit and amount,” he said of the Golden Fleece award given to the Federal Highway Administration for spending $222,000 on a study of motorists attitudes toward large trucks.
New Orleans Mayor First Class Flying Costs $30K
September 30, 2022
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell is facing the threat of a recall election and it’s not just the city’s rising crime that have petition signers enraged.
The two people behind the petition are both Democrats demanding the Democrat mayor leave office for her "failure to put New Orleans first and execute the responsibilities of the position,” according to Fox News.
In 2021, more than 150 officers left the New Orleans Police Department, despite a surge in murders and carjackings. Carjackings so far this year stand at 217, an increase of over 200 percent since 2019, according to the Metropolitan Crime Commission weekly bulletin.
But it’s the mayor’s exorbitant travel spending that has people up in arms.
She traveled to sister cities Ascona, Switzerland, and Juan Antibes-les-Pins on the French Riviera this summer, costing the City of New Orleans close to $45,000, including first-class international airfare with lie-flat seating.
The city’s travel policy requires employees to pay the difference in cost for work-related airfare upgrades, stating "employees are required to purchase the lowest airfare available … employees who choose an upgrade from coach, economy, or business class flights are solely responsible for the difference in cost," Fox News reported.
But Cantrell hasn’t paid the near $30,000 bill from her first-class international flight upgrades over the summer.
She has claimed the visits are an investment in the city and necessary for her safety.
"My travel accommodations are a matter of safety, not of luxury,” The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported. “As all women know, our health and safety are often disregarded and we are left to navigate alone. As the mother of a young child whom I live for, I am going to protect myself by any reasonable means in order to ensure I am there to see her grow into the strong woman I am raising her to be. Anyone who wants to question how I protect myself just doesn't understand the world Black women walk in."
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