End Game for the $20 Million 'Boondoggle That Won't Die'?

End Game for the $20 Million 'Boondoggle That Won't Die'?

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
By Eric Pianin

It has been called “the boondoggle that won’t die,” a decades’ old provision within the massive defense appropriations bill that requires a large U.S. Air Force and Army base 4,000 miles away in Germany to heat its facilities with anthracite coal mined in northeast Pennsylvania.

Although the utility at the military base in the small town of Kaiserslauntern in southwest Germany could readily purchase cheaper domestic coal or natural gas to fire its boilers, a legislative mandate dating back to the post-World War II era requires it to use 5,000 to 9,000 tons of Pennsylvania coal shipped overseas. Since 1972 each Department of Defense Appropriations Act has included an earmark requiring the Pentagon to purchase this coal.

 Related: The $20 Million Political Boondoggle That Just Won’t Die

Taxpayers for Common Sense and about a half dozen other government watchdog groups have railed against the provision, which costs about $20 million a year, as one of the worst examples of waste in the budget. And late on Wednesday the House was scheduled to consider an amendment to the fiscal 2016 defense appropriations bill to finally knock it out.

Two Californians -- Democratic Rep. Jared Huffman and Republican Rep. Tom McClintock – have co-sponsored an amendment that would finally eliminate the resilient sop to Pennsylvania’s long-withering coal industry.

“It’s about time we stopped burning dirty coal – and taxpayer dollars – to power this military base,” Huffman said in a statement.

Chart of the Day: Drug Price Plans Compared

By The Fiscal Times Staff

Lawmakers are considering three separate bills that are intended to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. Here’s an overview of the proposals, from a series of charts produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation this week. An interesting detail highlighted in another chart: 88% of voters – including 92% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans – want to give the government the power to negotiate prices with drug companies.

Increasing Number of Americans Delay Medical Care Due to Cost: Gallup

By The Fiscal Times Staff

From Gallup: “A record 25% of Americans say they or a family member put off treatment for a serious medical condition in the past year because of the cost, up from 19% a year ago and the highest in Gallup's trend. Another 8% said they or a family member put off treatment for a less serious condition, bringing the total percentage of households delaying care due to costs to 33%, tying the high from 2014.”

Number of the Day: $213 Million

A security camera hangs near a corner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington
Jonathan Ernst
By The Fiscal Times Staff

That’s how much the private debt collection program at the IRS collected in the 2019 fiscal year. In the black for the second year in a row, the program cleared nearly $148 million after commissions and administrative costs.

The controversial program, which empowers private firms to go after delinquent taxpayers, began in 2004 and ran for five years before the IRS ended it following a review. It was restarted in 2015 and ran at a loss for the next two years.

Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who played a central role in establishing the program, said Monday that the net proceeds are currently being used to hire 200 special compliance personnel at the IRS.

US Deficit Up 12% to $342 Billion for First Two Months of Fiscal 2020: CBO

District of Columbia
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The federal budget deficit for October and November was $342 billion, up $36 billion or 12% from the same period last year, the Congressional Budget Office estimated on Monday. Revenues were up 3% while outlays rose by 6%, CBO said.