It's no wonder public opinion towards the federal government is sinking to historic lows. Consider the disingenuous public relations strategy undertaken by General Motors (GM) and the Treasury Department. With great fanfare, the U.S. automaker boasted that it was paying back billions of tax dollars to Uncle Sam thanks to an upswing in car sales.

Upon closer review, however, the repayment announcement is overshadowed by the fact that the Treasury Department allowed GM to dip into another taxpayer-financed pot of money to repay $7 billion of its taxpayer-backed government loan.

It's obvious why the car company and Treasury Department would be eager to claim tax dollars were being paid back "in full" and earlier than scheduled.  However, it's regrettable the very public announcement essentially misled the American public by glossing over very relevant details.

Taxpayers still own 61 percent (paid for with $41 billion tax dollars) of General Motors' common stock. It's highly likely the taxpaying public won't rejoice in an estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. It says taxpayers stand to lose around $30 billion on the General Motors bailout when it's all said and done.

The idea that Washington can solve every problem with a government program is rooted in a misguided borrow-and-spend mentality.

Holding the federal government accountable, tracking tax dollars and keeping the people's business open and accessible to public scrutiny are central to my congressional oversight.  As Chairman or Ranking Member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, I've led efforts to shut down offshore corporate tax loopholes; investigate the eligibility and compliance of non-profit organizations relative to their tax-exempt status; disclose financial relationships between the pharmaceutical industry and researchers who provide expertise that influences health decisions; and, most recently, scrutinize the trillions of tax dollars that Washington has pumped into the private sector.

As Congress debates financial regulatory reform, I worked to advance bipartisan legislation that would bring more transparency and accountability to the Federal Reserve. The Fed controls the supply of money in the U.S. economy. Last year the Federal Reserve took unprecedented action to stabilize banks at risk of failing. The American public has a right to know who has taken the money and how it has been spent. Allowing the independent investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, to audit the Federal Reserve's emergency lending program would give lawmakers and taxpayers another tool to protect tax dollars.  I also cosponsored legislation to reform the way credit-rating agency evaluations are handled in order to help bring about the independent assessment investors deserve.  It's a matter of market integrity.

In these times of economic uncertainty, the American public is facing an even bigger burden of public debt. Washington is marching towards an all-time-high spending benchmark, reaching 25 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. Now, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, said health care reform will cost $115 billion more than projected.  That makes the deficit reduction that was promised impossible.  Despite the President's promise that health care reform would not add one dime to the deficit, when costs for Social Security and the new long-term care CLASS Act program in the bill are factored in, the real result is that the bill signed into law adds $90 billion to the deficit.

A bigger government has a bigger appetite for more and more taxes. Without a major shift, the current path of reckless deficit spending and unsustainable public entitlements will keep future generations of Americans working longer than ever before just to fulfill their tax obligations let alone maintain a certain standard of living.

Friday, May 14, 2010

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