New Posts

Feb 8, 2016

Top 400 Taxpayers See Tax Rates Rise, But There’s More to the Story

As Americans were gathering party supplies to greet the New Year, the Internal Revenue Service released their annual report of cumulative tax data reported on the 400 tax r...

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Feb 4, 2016

Chlorine Bleach Plants Needlessly Endanger 63 Million Americans

Chlorine bleach plants across the U.S. put millions of Americans in danger of a chlorine gas release, a substance so toxic it has been used as a chemical weapon. Greenpeace’s new repo...

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Jan 25, 2016

U.S. Industrial Facilities Reported Fewer Toxic Releases in 2014

The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data for 2014 is now available. The good news: total toxic releases by reporting facilities decreased by nearly six percent from 2013 levels. Howe...

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Jan 22, 2016

Methane Causes Climate Change. Here's How the President Plans to Cut Emissions by 40-45 Percent.

  UPDATE (Jan. 22, 2016): Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its proposed rule to reduce methane emissions...

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Friday Appropriations Update: Boehner Has a Plan

With Congress returning from its summer break next week, the appropriations process should begin again as well. Since Congress has been gone for the past few weeks since we last updated you, there isn't anything new to report. But! Never fear, we have been using this time to revamp our patented AppropriationsWatchTM. We moved it over to GoogleDocs, allowing us to add links, which you can click to see the relevant documents for each appropriations bill. And, moving over to GoogleDocs makes it easier for you, the audience, if you want to copy the table and play around with the numbers. Want to see what happens if you cut Department of Defense spending in half? Go right ahead.

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The Recovery Act Failed! Or Not

If one were to listen to most conservative politicians and pundits these days, you'd come away with the impression that the Recovery Act has failed. It hasn't created any jobs and it hasn't helped the economy, so the narrative goes.

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Schools Hesitant to Spend State Aid Money

In Wednesday's New York Times, there was an interesting coda to one of our recent Watcher articles: despite receiving large amounts of money from the recently passed state aid bill, school districts are not acting quickly to rehire fired teachers. The worry is next fiscal year might see even larger budget gaps, necessitating another, larger, round of firings. So the school districts would rather save the money, to try to stave off what could be an even worse FY 2011, and in the process, are potentially hamstringing any positive effects of the state aid bill.

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Friday Appropriations Update

As noted in a Watcher article earlier this week, with Congress' August recess around the corner, the appropriations process is picking up steam. Or, should I say, it should be picking up steam.  I'll let our patented AppropriationsWatch™ do the talking.

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Congress' Spending Slump

The month of August is seen as an important time in every Congress because the weeks-long recess breaks up the legislative calendar. As the number of legislative days dwindles, Congress is faced with a slew of spending bills, including a war supplemental bill, a small business jobs bill, and a slow-starting appropriations process. The sheer amount of spending bills that remain on the docket, and the tardiness of these bills, nearly guarantee at least one continuing resolution in the fall.

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GAO Calls for More Descriptive Recovery Recipient Reports

On this blog, we talk a lot about how great the Recovery Act recipient reports are (these are the reports recipients turn in every quarter explaining what they've done with their Recovery Act funds). Over the past year, we've thrown around words like "groundbreaking" and "historic" to describe how we feel about them. But they aren't perfect. Among other problems, reading the reports can oftentimes leave readers confused about what the project in question actual does, as the main descriptive fields can be anywhere from a few words to lines and lines of text filled with industry jargon.

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Budget Process Begins to Move Along in Congress

The U.S. Capitol Building

Yesterday, while passing a rule setting debate on a supplemental spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Democratic members of the House tacked on a "budget enforcement resolution" that lays out spending priorities for the next fiscal year. Additionally, with several Appropriations subcommittees recently passing FY 2011 spending bills, it seems Congress is beginning to move the ball on the budget process.

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Checking-in With TARP

This news is a bit old, but I thought it was interesting enough to warrant a late post. On June 10, Treasury released its May TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) report, providing an update for the bailout program. The big, "milestone" news from the report is that TARP repayments have now exceeded the remaining balance. According to the report, through May, TARP recipients paid back $194 billion, which is more than half of the total funds TARP has paid out ($384 billion, which includes everything, from the bank warrants to the AIG payments to the auto bailouts). In other words, TARP recipients have paid back $194 billion, meaning that the returned funds now outweigh the remaining balance.

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How Would Enhanced Rescission Authority Affect the Budget Process?

The Obama administration recently caused considerable controversy when it sent a proposal to Capitol Hill on May 24 asking for enhanced authority to cut spending already approved by Congress. Fiscal hawks like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) hailed the president’s proposal for "enhanced rescission authority" as "an important tool to target wasteful spending," while congressional appropriators from both parties argued that the proposal would give the president too much power over the spending process. Questions remain about the proposal's potential effects on deficit reduction.

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GAO: Recovery Act Reporting Getting Better, But Still Room for Improvement

When Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) in early 2009, the legislation's transparency provisions represented a significant step forward for government openness. While select agencies and programs have been using recipient reporting for years, the Recovery Act represented the first time such reporting had been attempted across all agencies at once and presented to the public online. Thus, bumps in the road toward transparency and accountability, including data quality problems, were inevitable. A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report shows that while there are fewer reporting errors as time passes, there is still room for improvement in both data quality and implementation details.

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Resources & Research

Living in the Shadow of Danger: Poverty, Race, and Unequal Chemical Facility Hazards

People of color and people living in poverty, especially poor children of color, are significantly more likely...

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A Tale of Two Retirements: One for CEOs and One for the Rest of Us

The 100 largest CEO retirement funds are worth a combined $4.9 billion, equal to the entire retirement account savings of 41 percent of American fam...

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