A tide of rising uncertainty is swelling among Iowans who worry the federal government is overstepping its authority. Whether overspending tax dollars or overreaching Constitutional boundaries, taxpayers, property owners, farmers and small business owners are asking when is enough, enough? In the last two years, Washington has dramatically accelerated public spending and expanded the size and scope of the federal government.
Just consider what it will take to implement the vast, new health care and financial reform laws. Countless layers of an already bloated federal bureaucracy will influence how consumers receive and pay for medical care and qualify for school, business and home loans. With Washington's lackluster track record for transparency and accountability, Iowans have reason to worry about footing the tab and wonder if bureaucratic red tape will affect their access to the latest medical breakthrough or line of credit at the bank.
Churning out federal regulations has expanded the federal workforce. One estimate says the federal government employs a quarter of a million people responsible for writing and enforcing the regulations. The total number of federal employees has increased by 273,000 since 2008.
The new regulations can create controversy and unnecessary confusion. Consider one small business owner who wrote to me about the new federal tax credit created to help small businesses offer insurance coverage for their employees. After reading the fine print, he said the rules are "ridiculously complicated for a small business owner to understand and implement" and "Congress is over-selling/over-promising the benefits." And this one rule is just the tip of the iceberg. The major pieces of the health care reform law will not take effect until 2014.
Concerns about unprecedented public spending are very unsettling to many Iowans who wonder how in the world Washington will square entitlement obligations with ballooning payments on the national debt. The new health care law itself will cost nearly $2.6 trillion over a decade when it is fully implemented. It will expand Medicaid by 16 million people (even though the states are struggling with enormous shortfalls to finance those currently enrolled in the program); carve $529 billion out of Medicare; and, create new taxes on health plans and individual investment income. Unlike the safety net created under FDR, when 77 Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate approved Social Security, or in 1965 when Medicare passed with generous bipartisan support, the largest new entitlement adopted in 45 years was passed without achieving bipartisan consensus.
How much government are taxpayers able and willing to pay for? In addition to the revenue needed to keep standard government services open for business, such as USDA meat inspectors, FDA drug safety scientists, FAA air traffic controllers, and ICE border patrol agents, taxpayers also are paying for bail-outs for Wall Street and Detroit, stimulus spending, and interest on the national debt. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office now estimates the U.S. national debt could hit 60 percent of our national income by year's end.
Taxpayers are wondering how far this runaway spending train will go before it derails. As a U.S. senator, I work to protect the integrity of the public purse. With hard-earned tax dollars sent to Washington, I track the federal pipeline trying to ensure these dollars are protected from waste, fraud and abuse. Sticking my nose in the federal bureaucracy's business helps look out for the people's business. That's why I have demanded a full accounting of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to find out how Wall Street banks are using the money intended to shore up the financial system (including the unconscionable pay-out of extravagant severance packages and retention bonuses); requested an audit of the administrative costs for the Cash-for-Clunkers program; and, called into question missteps by General Motors which received $49.5 billion under TARP.
As Eastern Iowans struggle to rebuild and recover from the devastating floods this summer, I will keep working to hold Washington accountable to the people. That includes putting the brakes on runaway spending and replacing "ridiculously complicated" rules; in other words, substituting Washington nonsense with Midwestern common sense. From rooting out waste, fraud and abuse, to championing whistleblowers and fighting for the independence of agency-appointed auditors, I am not afraid to do whatever it takes to fix wrongdoing and mismanagement so that the federal government fits the bill when the taxpaying public is footing the bill.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA
Friday, July 30, 2010