The House on Wednesday night voted 252 to 179 to wipe out a $20 million-a-year sop to Pennsylvania’s struggling anthracite coal industry that critics had tagged “the boondoggle that just won’t die.
As The Fiscal Times reported earlier this week, the Defense Department has been required every year to ship 5,000 to 9,000 tons of coal mined from the rugged hills of Tamaqua in northeast Pennsylvania to the small town of Kaiserslauntern in southwestern Germany to be used by a local utility to heat a large U.S. military maintenance and repair installation.
The provision, for decades tucked away in the massive defense appropriations bill, was the remnant of a half-century old taxpayer rip-off that the Defense Department has been trying to get rid of for years.
“For decades, the Department of Defense has urged Congress to remove this earmark and allow the use of cheaper fuel to power its military bases. Today we finally achieve that … saving taxpayers millions of dollars each year,” said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), who co-sponsored an amendment with Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) to eliminate the benefit to the Pennsylvania coal industry.
“The passage of this amendment is proof-positive that Republicans and Democrats can work together to cut wasteful spending while protecting the environment,” he added. “It’s about time we stopped burning dirty coal—and taxpayer dollars—to power this military base.”
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated this week that President Trump has now signed legislation that will add a total of $4.7 trillion to the national debt between 2017 and 2029. Tax cuts and spending increases account for similar portions of the projected increase, though if the individual tax cuts in the 2017 Republican overhaul are extended beyond their current expiration date at the end of 2025, they would add another $1 trillion in debt through 2029.
Are interest rates destined to move higher, increasing the cost of private and public debt? While many experts believe that higher rates are all but inevitable, historian Paul Schmelzing argues that today’s low-interest environment is consistent with a long-term trend stretching back 600 years.
The chart “shows a clear historical downtrend, with rates falling about 1% every 60 years to near zero today,” says Bloomberg’s Aaron Brown. “Rates do tend to revert to a mean, but that mean seems to be declining.”
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.
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.”