Press Clips

Press Clips 2018-11-16T13:08:32+00:00
Whatever path they choose, lawmakers must strengthen common sense payment limits for farm bill commodity programs.
It would be really cynical for lawmakers to use the Coast Guard’s own authorization bill to force them to look the other way on the fire risks this ship poses ...This is a short-sighted parochial provision that will put lives at risk. Fire at sea is a scary thing for passengers and first responders.”
“Tax extenders are the cockroach on Washington policy...They always seem to catch a ride on fiscal policy deals. ... We don’t want to see a government shutdown, but we also don’t want to see tax extenders."
"What you are seeing is really an economic development project masquerading as a flood control project.”
"A revival still faces some significant headwinds....Taxpayer and watchdog groups, ranging from the Club for Growth to Taxpayers for Common Sense, would also keep up a drumbeat against their revival."
“The way to prevent a $435 claw hammer in the first place is the knowledge that something like that will be revealed to public scrutiny."
"In total, more than 12.8 million acres of federally controlled oil and gas parcels were offered for lease in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, triple the average offered during President Barack Obama’s second term, according to an analysis by The New York Times of Interior Department data compiled by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan group that advocates budget discipline."
"Whoever wins control in November, there is still Republican President Trump in the White House ....So even in the unlikely event that both chambers flip to Democrats, they won't be able to do anything ‘immediate’ regarding taxes."
"This is a mess of our own making. When something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Can the next Congress show the leadership necessary to move us towards a more sustainable fiscal path? Doubtful, no matter who’s in charge. Fiscal discipline played no role in this Congress, nor is it a campaign theme. If Republicans retain control of Congress, voters may find it hard to swallow entitlement reform – which has the greatest impact on middle-income voters – as a means to deficit control after the huge tax cut that has the greatest impact on high-income voters. If Democrats gain control of one or both houses, they are clear about advancing priorities that cost money, starting with health care.....Wishful thinking won’t solve the problem. Reducing the deficit can only be accomplished by addressing the long term challenges to entitlements, cutting spending, and raising taxes."
“To the extent that people saw an increase in their paychecks, which a lot of people did, it wasn’t that big, and now they’re used to it....Any corporate announcements because of this tax bill, those are also remote in time, and they’ve had time to go through the news cycle.....Particularly in farm states, I think the trade story is the dominant economic story there."
Politico Pro Oct 16, 2018
"There was absolutely no picking winners or losers. It was, 'You get a billion, you get a billion, you get a billion,'...Essentially, it was like, 'Oh, you want more defense funding? I want more non-defense. ... OK, we'll just go with that.'"
“Unfortunately what happens with the government is once you start spending money on something, you generally continue to spend money on it.”
“Whether it’s to be a dogcatcher or the president of the United States, you run for office to serve the public, not to line your own pockets."
"Florida does have this kind of disaster amnesia...You’re in that build-disaster-rebuild mode like the old rinse-wash-repeat shampoo commercial. In the short term, politicians see growth as valuable for the tax base. But in the longer term, if you don’t manage growth correctly it becomes painful and very costly for the taxpayer.’’
"We’re going to say it out loud: It’s time for the farm bill and SNAP to get divorced."
“The Army Corps has something like a $70 to $80 billion backlog of authorized projects ....And in this case, you have a development project masquerading as a flood control project. It may be a wait.”
Arkansas Democrat Gazette Oct 5, 2018
It's a costly relic of deregulation ....Every year we're wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on this program. Really, it should just be abolished. It's more about politics now than it is about passengers."
"There has always been tension between OMB and the [Army] Corps"
“Taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing costs for contractors that don’t meet minimum expectations for performance"
The Washington Times Sep 30, 2018
“By having all this extra cash, they could say yes to everyone, and so it was the Oprah equivalent of appropriations — ‘You get a car, you get a car and you get a car, too.’”
"...worst-case scenario—it could, in the long term, cost as much as $190 billion annually 'to establish a new military service and the enormous bureaucracy of a new department.' Even by Pentagon standards, that’s a massive sum. "
"Clearly, there’s a challenge in budgeting for ICE that they have not figured out and both the administration and Congress have not figured out… So often it seems that Congress writes the check and walks away"
"Today's final methane rule makes it painfully obvious that this administration is placing industry interests ahead of federal taxpayers."
"This is very late" to be getting a budget.
“You would think that if the Pentagon really wanted the fund, they would start budgeting for it .... Instead, lawmakers have shoveled billions of dollars into the account. This is all about finding places to stash the oodles of extra cash going to the Pentagon.”
Marketwatch Sep 15, 2018
"...federal disaster policies remain mired in the past. Uncle Sam is all too willing to whip out the checkbook without any thought to accountability and change. Lawmakers don’t hold the executive branch accountable for where the funds are going. No one can tell you what happened with all the Superstorm Sandy funding, the same is true with Harvey and other hurricanes. The saying about the “fog of war” applies to the fog of disaster as well. And instead of an institutional PTSD, there is institutional amnesia."
Steve Ellis, vice president of the advocacy group Taxpayers for Common Sense, is already warning that Congress is about to write another lavish check when voters want fiscal restraint. “What’s going to happen is, you can’t separate politics from the reality, and here you’ve got an election coming up, see a lot of stories about people that are trying to get their lives back together, the damage in the area, and there’s going to be a lot of pressure to do something,” said Ellis, who would like lawmakers to exhaust current resources before authorizing more.
The administration’s claim that the funds "couldn’t be used for disaster-related activities is disingenuous at best."
The proposal “would remove BLM’s authority to determine valuation, handing power over to producers to self-regulate."
Washington Times Sep 4, 2018
"TCS has joined a growing chorus of diverse interests calling on Congress to address the broken RFS mandate and stop picking winners and losers. While the corn ethanol industry promised that decades of subsidies (tax credits, farm bill bioenergy subsidies, ethanol blender pump subsidies, etc.) would lead to better biofuels, corn ethanol has instead proven to be an expensive bridge to nowhere. The sooner Congress realizes the RFS is a dead end, the better for all of us."
"Steve Ellis, vice president of the non-profit budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, has called Olmsted the 'poster child' of overdue and over-budget federal projects."
"The Pentagon’s announcement earlier this month that it will seek to create a Space Force was met with mixed reviews, derided by late night comics, ridiculed in the Twitter-sphere, and denounced as an exercise in bureaucratic excess by taxpayer advocacy organizations like Taxpayers for Common Sense."
"We're going to run an $800 billion deficit this year ... I think we should be trying to find the savings wherever we can."
“Starting a new program via shifting money away from a congressionally-approved program short circuits the congressional oversight process."
"Congress isn't being serious about this .... If past is prologues were going to be talking about this around Thanksgiving time and once again we'll hear, 'Oh my god, we need another extension.'"
"A Space Force will create costly bloat and do nothing to increase our dominance....Think about it: If we create a whole new branch of the military, the Space Force Secretary would also have all attendant staff and overhead, plus dozens of generals, officers, and staff. Except we already have the Air Force Space Command, while the Navy and the Army also already have their own space-related operations....Even if a space force just gets cobbled together from all those other parts of services, the Pentagon's bureaucracy would still grow with a new service secretary. To say nothing of recruiters, communications, HR, admin, and on and on."
“The failed promise of nuclear was certainly not due to a lack of government aid. Between 1948 and 2007, federal R&D subsidies for nuclear totaled more than $80 billion, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.”
“What we can’t do is simply write checks from the Treasury to take care of something that we caused with our other hand" - Josh Sewell on $12 billion bailout to farmers.
Not everyone is happy about shifting Olmsted’s costs. Taxpayers for Common Sense maintains the river industry is heavily subsidized, with taxpayers footing 90 percent of the bill for building, operating and maintaining locks and dams. The Washington, D.C. watchdog group said abandoning the 50-50 cost-sharing formula for Olmsted set a dangerous precedent.
"The most detrimental cost of the Trump tariff tiff is the dusting off of Depression-era law that opens up a politically charged environment where different growers will be pitted against each other. Career bureaucrats and political appointees in the USDA will be charged with hearing from farm groups and deciding who gets to survive or fail. It’s a recipe for disaster that would undo decades of progress toward weaning agriculture from financial dependence on federal subsidies. And it would all come at the expense of the taxpayer at a time when we are already have a $21 trillion debt with trillion dollar annual deficits on the horizon."
"Taxpayers for Common Sense called the announcement 'a recipe for disaster that would undo decades of progress toward weaning agriculture from financial dependence on federal subsidies.'"
Washington Examiner Jul 23, 2018
"TCS is disappointed to see the Bureau of Land Management taking steps that will degrade taxpayer protections in the policies guiding oil and gas development on federal lands...The outdated rules that governed development prior to 2017 cost taxpayers billions of dollars in lost revenue.....Therefore, we urge you to change course, or issue an entirely different proposed rule, before proceeding with this rulemaking.”
Boston Globe Jul 20, 2018
"The federal government will spend about $15 billion on cybersecurity-related activities this year, a 4 percent increase from the previous fiscal year, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a budget watchdog group. But updating federal cybersecurity is a massive undertaking. Indeed, the US Office of Management and Budget reported in May that of 96 federal agencies it studied, only 25 had implemented proper security policies."
"The question is also how many more leases need to be sold? A recent study by the Taxpayers for Common Sense found that cheap rental rates mean speculators can buy up leases and sit on them, locking the land away from other uses, such as recreation or grazing." (The study is Locked Out.)
Regarding Steve Ellis on coal to Kaiserslautern: "He's right to call attention to the matter. The idea is senseless in so many ways."
“I don’t think you’ll see expansion of work requirements" and “It’s too big of a bridge to cross." - Josh Sewell on proposed changes to SNAP
"These are common sense, bipartisan solutions for a program that desperately needs fixing. .... Congress has the power to mitigate the damage by reforming the broken NFIP, and time is running out."
"With or without the revenue loss from the tax law, the major entitlement programs were on an unsustainable trajectory ... Changes or ‘cuts’ to Medicare and Social Security are not simply because of a $1.9 trillion deficit increase, which would ‘only’ be roughly $200 billion a year, when we’re looking at a total deficit of $800 billion this year and $1 trillion annual deficits soon." - Steve Ellis
Stars and Stripes Jun 15, 2018
"The European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) is one of the latest rabbit holes down which the Pentagon has been chucking billions from its burgeoning budget. Originally meant to supplement U.S. commitment to NATO, EDI has taken on a funding life of its own." - Ryan Alexander
“Lawmakers killed this parochial provision twice in recent years, but like a zombie, it keeps coming back....It may be slightly changed, but the intent is clear: force the Pentagon to buy domestic coal to fuel American facilities in Kaiserslautern, Germany.”
"“This administration has been less transparent—aided and abetted by the House,” Ellis said. “They closed budget oversight hearings on the Pentagon. We’ve never seen that.” -Steve Ellis on the Pentagon's silence towards budget information.
“Just to be clear, there are scores of military bands, and we question their utility from a taxpayer perspective already,” said Steve Ellis of the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense. “Only objective here seems to be to have an event that isn’t Super Bowl or football related and score a political point. That’s not just a bad use of the military band, but a bad use of White House resources in general.”
"Floods have hit Ellicott City hard in recent years, and unfortunately, major storms will likely continue to hammer Maryland and rest of the country for the foreseeable future. The time has come for the Senate to tackle these NFIP reforms to ensure homeowners suffering from flood damage are not left hanging out to dry."
"These are people who travel to and from their districts a lot, and some of them have told me they have the points to fly first-class but won't use them," Alexander said — even when such an upgrade wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime. "They say, 'I want to go talk to my constituents without a newspaper article that says I flew first class.'" - Ryan Alexander on the optics of travel and ticket purchase choices.
“Lawmakers seem to prefer a dull scalpel when the backlog requires a machete .... Being deauthorized doesn’t mean a project can’t be reevaluated and come back better. But holding on to decades-old projects in hope that funds will materialize is wasteful.”
The American Spectator May 29, 2018
Farming by Facetime: "Instead of targeting assistance to people facing the day-to-day risks of farming and ranching, we’re cutting checks to the people who are participating in conference calls on planting decisions or preparing the books.”
"I would argue not what most people consider to be ‘very soon’" - Steve Ellis on President Trump's claim that "very soon you are going to get to 355 beautiful ships."
Morning Consult May 25, 2018
"Scott Pruitt had the opportunity to show some contrition or understanding of why his extravagant spending has undermined confidence in his leadership at the EPA, but he didn’t take it."
Lobbyists for Big Agriculture have deep connections to the House and Senate’s agriculture committees, which ultimately write and approve the Farm Bill. A study from the conservative Taxpayers For Common Sense found that one in four lobbyists had previously worked for either the House or the Senate committee.
“A Republican-only farm bill needs to make significant changes to the bill to get votes...There is significant appetite for reform to both the farm safety net and the nutrition sides of the bill.”
Orlando Sentinel May 14, 2018
"The looming Atlantic hurricane season should serve as a strong warning that unless Congress reforms and renews the nation’s debt-ridden flood insurance program, more than 1.7 million Floridians may be unable to rebuild when future storms strike." - Steve Ellis
Tennessee Commercial Appeal May 11, 2018
"From first-class travel and accommodations to requests for a bullet-proof office desk, Pruitt’s profligacy with the public’s money ranges from extravagant to downright bizarre."
Watertown Public Opinion May 11, 2018
"It’s 'a fiscally reckless step back' in sound ag policy, notes Joshua Sewell, senior policy analyst for Taxpayers for Common Sense. He forecasts fat 'checks will cascade from the (U.S.) Treasury to farmers.'”
"Pruitt’s defenders say he is only being targeted by people who want to oppose the president’s agenda. This is patently absurd. Of course the president will appoint those who believe in and can carry out the administration’s priorities. We know Scott Pruitt is not the only one that can do that job."
“There are some changes to the nutrition programs, and there are no positive changes to the [agricultural] welfare programs” -
"..the GOP farm bill allows farm owners’ first cousins, nieces, and nephews to qualify for up to $125,000 in commodity subsidies, so long as they earn less than $900,000 in adjusted gross income. While Representative Conaway says this is intended to keep family farms intact across generations, groups including The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Taxpayers for Common Sense have criticized this proposal for its potential to pave the way for America’s largest farms to rake in virtually unlimited subsidies."
"In February of this year, the BLM proposed a rule that, if finalized, would reinstate outdated guidance that has led to the needless loss of billions of taxpayer dollars from natural gas production over the past 35 years. The country has the largest debt relative to the economy since World War II, revenues are declining, and deficits are growing. This is no time to give away billions of dollars to profitable businesses."
"With bidding interest so low, budget hawks say, auctioning so many leases is neither good business nor good policy, ultimately benefiting private interests while delivering tiny returns to U.S. taxpayers who own the land. The nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense said in an October report that speculators were swooping in to buy leases with no intention of drilling, looking to flip leases at a profit if the market improves."
“You have this minor tweak to subsidies, but a huge disruption to SNAP,” said Josh Sewell, a senior policy analyst at fiscal watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense said. “It’s a tricky situation, especially for these two members.”
According to Josh Sewell at Taxpayers for Common Sense, this kind of debt 'takes away an opportunity to respond to a crisis through economic stimulus.' In a crisis, he said, the government would struggle to raise money for an influx of cash into the economy, or to pay for something like a war or natural disaster. Not to mention, Sewell said, 'the demographic wave that's about to crash into Social Security and Medicare' of aging baby boomers who will start withdrawing more from the programs than taxpayers are putting in."
"As the BLM moves forward to amend that rule, it must change course and address the underlying problems with the process of approving and recording lost gas," the Taxpayers for Common Sense report says. "Enshrining old policies or further incentivizing wasteful practices will only cost taxpayers for years to come." (paywall)
On encouraging work and reduction of benefits: “It’s a truly universal sentiment that we should reward work and figure out policies that encourage people to work...But I don’t think that that will have a significant impact on the deficit.”
Taxpayers for Common Sense, likened the plane’s inclusion in Congress’ budget to “the [appropriations] version of Oprah.” “You get a plane, you get a plane, you get a plane!”
"The Pentagon 'went gonzo' on aircraft procurement, said Steve Ellis, the vice president of Tax­payers for Common Sense, a watchdog group. 'Really what this comes down to is: More is not a strategy, and there is no underlying rhyme or rationale for the increases, except for they had money to spend.'”
“Americans are big hearted ... We see a disaster, and we want to assist. We want the government to assist. But that means we can’t afford to be softheaded in anticipation of that. You want to see the right priorities from the start, and to be sure that it’s not so rigid or static that the Forest Service can’t still meet their needs as smaller changes develop.”
The time has come for the Senate to tackle these NFIP reforms to ensure homeowners suffering from flood damage are not left hanging out to dry.
"The farm bill’s complexity makes it difficult to assemble a bipartisan coalition that can get it through the House – and cuts that make a Republican-only bill possible then founder in the Senate."
"Tax extenders reaffirmed themselves as the 'cockroaches of the Washington policy environment,' said Steve Ellis, vice president of nonpartisan budget watchdog organization Taxpayers for Common Sense. 'They seem to always survive.'”
"The farm bill’s complexity makes it difficult to assemble a bipartisan coalition that can get it through the House – and cuts that make a Republican-only bill possible then founder in the Senate."
"The legal pay-to-play creates a culture that invites corruption."
US News & World Report Mar 2, 2018
"Ten days after the release of the President's budget request, and already the Pentagon is asking for more."
US News & World Report Feb 28, 2018
A government committee meant to protect taxpayers is recommending huge gifts to the energy industry at the public's expense.
Bloomberg & BloombergQuint Feb 28, 2018
"Ryan Alexander, the president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said the committee’s recommended changes appear to reflect the wishes of industry stakeholders -- not the broader public. A royalty rate decrease 'is likely to dramatically reduce revenue for taxpayers for decades to come without any guarantee of increased industry interest' or production."
“Just shoveling cash in to the Pentagon is recipe for waste going forward ....[In McCain’s absence] other lawmakers are going to have to step up.”
“[Industry] They’re the ones who should bear the greatest responsibility for building and maintaining them [locks and dams].”
"It seems more like a vanity project than a legitimate public relations move."
National Review Feb 20, 2018
"Oops. I was wrong, wrong, wrong. OCO are alive and well under Mulvaney’s watch. Taxpayers for Common Sense has this handy chart about the $69 billion OCO gimmicks"
“There are two main types of CHIMPs [changes in mandatory programs]: Those that rely on fake ‘paper savings’ to mask increased spending elsewhere in the federal budget and those resulting in meaningful funding cuts with real-world consequences, such as undermining underlying program goals and creating uncertainty and unpredictability.”
“Of course Congress can amend the structure and redirect it [the gas tax] in some infrastructure package ...But there are already those that complain gas tax dollars should just go to roads, not transit or bus or anything else. And the fact is it doesn’t generate enough revenue for the amount Congress already wants to spend!”
"Under this request the nation will accumulate more American debt - an additional $2 trillion in the first two years alone, and more than $7 trillion over 10 years."
The Washington Examiner Feb 12, 2018
“There have been commissions and panels over the years, but something has to give....If this is the way Congress wanders back from the budgetary wilderness, then great.” - Steve Ellis
"Ellis noted that in the 2005 highway bill, earmarks were based on position and power. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) got $1 billion in earmarks (including the Bridge to Nowhere), or 760 times the $13 million average that Ellis cited for rank and file members."
Orlando Sentinel Jan 30, 2018
"Reviving earmarking to fix budgeting is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet hole."
Colorado Springs Gazette Jan 29, 2018
"We cannot afford to turn back the clock on methane waste; we must continue fighting for common sense federal rules that benefit both industry and taxpayers. Without the BLM methane rule, oil and gas companies' wastefulness will continue without consequence, and millions of dollars of taxpayer-owned natural gas will go up in flames."
New York Times Jan 26, 2018
"Earmarks sound like a quick fix, but bringing them back would relaunch a pay-to-play system that picks winners and losers based on political muscle rather than on project merit."
Politico Jan 24, 2018
"Many have noted that the absence of earmarks have made it harder to pass transportation bills, but Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, would like to remind everybody that earmarks are not 'some sort of magic pixie dust to move legislation.'"
"We know that without the BLM methane rule, methane waste will continue without consequence, and millions of dollars of taxpayer-owned natural gas will go up in flames."
The New York Times Jan 21, 2018
Mr. Trump has become such a Washington creature that he’s rooting for a return to earmarks, that opaque process in which legislators direct federal spending to their home districts and pet projects, like Republican Representative Don Young of Alaska’s failed “bridge to nowhere,” a plan to waste more than $300 million on a mammoth bridge to an Alaska island of 50 inhabitants.
The Boston Globe Jan 21, 2018
Few other congressional observers remember the late ’90s and early 2000s as any kind of Golden Age. “I don’t think people think of the Newt Gingrich years as when everyone got along so wonderfully,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.
"All critical military functions will continue. ... There would be some wrinkles, but nothing like other areas of government."
"Once the money was appropriated and the earmark went out, there was no oversight to see did it actually go to that project? Did it actually do that? Congress is very lazy, in our opinion, about doing oversight and that's really their fundamental job."
"The big problem is that earmarks put political muscle over project merit," and that is not worth bringing back.
Fox News Jan 10, 2018
“Earmarks are not some sort of magic pixie dust that makes legislation go."
"I'm gonna say that if you're a wage earner and you're sitting next to someone who's doing the same thing you're doing and just paying less taxes because their job is structured differently on paper, I think you're just going to be mad."
CNN - The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer Dec 18, 2017
"It's definitely crazy to spend $22 million to research UFOs. Pilots are always going to see things that they can't identify, and we should probably look into them. But to identify them as UFOs, to target UFOs to research -- that is not the priority we have as a national security matter right now."
"Congress needs to do the hard work of making those difficult decisions, not ram through a terrible bill in the middle of the night."
Full Measure with Sharyl Atkisson Dec 3, 2017
"There are so many line items in the OCO account that simply aren't what the account's designed for. And that's important because Congress set limits for itself. And by pushing money out of those limits and into the Overseas Contingent Account, they're going around their own rules, they're circumventing the law."
"The Energy Department needs to stop ignoring the risk associated with the Vogtle project...It only puts us on a never-ending path of giving more financial support at the expense of federal taxpayers."
"“It’s basically lather, rinse, repeat,” Steve Ellis, the vice-president of the non-partisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense, recently told Politico."
""Every dollar invested in it in the future is going to continue to be a waste,” said Josh Sewell, a senior policy analyst with Washington-based Taxpayers for Common Sense."
FactCheck.Org May 24, 2017
"In a statement on Trump’s budget, Taxpayers for Common Sense President Ryan Alexander said, “These same growth projections are what the administration was counting on to pay for tax reform, but they’re not accounted for in here as such.”"
The Wall Street Journal Nov 13, 2016
"The tax breaks that Congress provides on income derived from or devoted to certain activities are designed to encourage that specific activity. But what they end up doing is distorting economic decision making and rewarding activity that would occur even without the special treatment."
U.S. News & World Report Nov 14, 2014
"As a country, we need Congress to live up to their responsibility of having the power of the purse – and to take on the larger set of choices contained in each bill rather than focusing on the provincial interests represented by earmarks. "
"Taxpayers for Common Sense seeks a balance of Republicans and Democrats on its board of directors, said Alexander, a seven-year board member before she became president in 2006."
"The nuclear energy industry. It had lobbied hard for $50 billion worth of federal loan guarantees for technologies that use little or no carbon — but saw it stripped from the package. Count environmental groups and the conservative Taxpayers for Common Sense as the victors here."
"...the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, is credited with naming the bridge. It started in 2002, he says, when he got a tip about a huge pork barrel project."
PolitiFact Sep 8, 2008
"The project came into national prominence when Taxpayers for Common Sense, an advocacy group that opposes wasteful spending, cited it as an extreme example of pork-barrel spending."