Category Archives: U.S. national debt

Obamaphone massive fraud & abuse: GAO finds 36% with Obamaphones are not eligible

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a welfare program called Lifeline, popularly known as Obamaphones, which provides discounts to eligible low-income households for home or wireless telephone and, as of December 2016, broadband service. Administered by the not-for-profit Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), Lifeline disbursed about $1.5 billion in subsidies to 12.3 million households in 2016.

The subsidies are paid for by all of us via a fee charged on our telephone bills. 

While the Lifeline program predates the Obama administration, having been created in the 1980s, it was vastly expanded under Obama.

Now, an investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that as many as 36% — more than one in three — of those supposed low-income households given Obamaphones are actually of dubious qualification.

On June 29, 2017, the GAO released an 89-page report on its findings, titled Telecommunications: Additional Action Needed to Address Significant Risks in FCC’s Lifeline Program. Here are some highlights:

(1) To begin, although the GAO recommended that the FCC conduct an evaluation of its Lifeline program more than two years ago in March 2015, the FCC has not done that. In a July 2016 Order, the FCC finally announced its plan for an independent third party to evaluate Lifeline’s design, function, and administration by December 2020.

(2) The Lifeline welfare program depends on a flawed system of over 2,000 phone companies, called Eligible Telecommunication Carriers, to (a) provide the discounts for the phone and broadband services, which Lifeline then reimburses; and (b) verify subscriber eligibility. But the GAO notes that “This complex internal control environment is susceptible to risk of fraud, waste, and abuse as companies may have financial incentives to enroll as many customers as possible.” The FCC says it will create a third-party national eligibility verifier by 2019 to determine subscriber eligibility.

(3) Given the Eligible Telecommunications Carriers’ self-interested, financial incentives to enroll as many customers as possible, it should not be surprising that the GAO investigation discovered that as many as 1.2 million — 36% or more than 1 in 3 — Lifeline recipients are not qualified for the Obamaphones. In the words of the GAO report:

“Based on its matching of subscriber to benefit data, GAO was unable to confirm to whether about 1.2 million individuals of the 3.5 million it reviewed, or 36 percent, participated in a qualifying benefit program, such as Medicaid, as stated on their Lifeline enrollment application.

(4) Although all Americans with phone service are paying for the Lifeline program, strangely the Lifeline funds of more than $9 billion in net assets (as of September 2016) are in a private, non-government (i.e., outside of the Department of Treasury) bank account called Universal Service Fund (USF). The GAO points out at least two problems with this arrangement:

  • Federal government funds outside the Treasury do not have the same rigorous management practices and regulatory safeguards as other federal programs.
  • If the Lifeline funds are in the Treasury, some of the $9+billion in net assets could be used to offset federal debts, not to mention help reduce the crushing $20 trillion national debt.
  • Although the GAO had recommended in 2005 to the FCC to move Lifeline’s Universal Service Fund to the Department of Treasury, it was only this March 2017, some 12 years later, that the FCC finally developed a preliminary plan to move the fund to the Treasury. The GAO report warns that “Until FCC finalizes and implements its plan and actually moves the USF funds, the risks that FCC identified will persist and the benefits of having the funds in the Treasury will not be realized.”

~Eowyn

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Shocking: 24% Americans don’t have even one dollar in emergency savings

I’ve posted about Americans’ dismal state of finances before, but this news shocked even me.

Today, Bankrate.com released the results of its June Financial Security Index survey that 24% of Americans — 1 in every 4 Americans — don’t have even a single dollar saved for an emergency.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of the United States is 325.277 million. 24% of Americans = 78.07 million.

What will these 78 million Americans, who don’t have even $1 in savings, do when their welfare and Social Security checks stop?

Some more Bankrate survey findings:

  • As many as 27% of Baby Boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964 who are 53 to 71 years olddon’t have even a dollar in savings.
  • Only 31% of Americans — fewer than 1 in every 3 Americans — have what’s considered an adequate savings cushion: enough to cover 6 months’ worth of expenses or more.

Some more financial info. from Catey Hill for Money-ish, June 20, 2017:

  • Americans have misplaced money priorities, valuing vacations more than saving for retirement: A study released this week by COUNTRY Financial found that more Americans (36%) are concerned about affording that vacation than having adequate retirement savings (32%), which would explain why more than 50% of Americans will be broke when we retire, according to a survey from GoBankingRates.com.
  • Americans have more than $1 trillion in credit card debt: According to data released this year from the Federal Reserve, Americans owe $1.0004 trillion on their credit cards, up 6.2% from a year ago — the highest amount owed since January 2009. But that’s just credit card debt. Americans also owe more than $1 trillion in car debt and student loans.

See also:

H/t Will Shanley

~Eowyn

13 Alabama counties saw 85 percent drop in food stamp participation after work requirements restarted

imagine thatFrom al.com: Thirteen previously exempted Alabama counties saw an 85 percent drop in food stamp participation after work requirements were put in place on Jan. 1, according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources.

The counties – Greene, Hale, Perry, Dallas, Lowndes, Wilcox, Monroe, Conecuh, Clarke, Washington, Choctaw, Sumter and Barbour – had been exempt from a change that limited able-bodied adults without dependents to three months of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits within a three-year time frame unless they were working or participating in an approved training program.

During the economic downturn of 2011-2013, several states – including Alabama – waived the SNAP work requirements in response to high unemployment. It was reinstituted for 54 counties on Jan. 1, 2016 and for the remaining 13 on Jan. 1, 2017. As of April 2017, the highest jobless rate among the 13 previously excluded counties was in Wilcox County, which reported a state-high unemployment rate of 11.7 percent, down more than 11 percentage points from the county’s jobless rate for the same month of 2011.

Ending the exemption has dramatically cut the number of SNAP recipients in the counties.

As of Jan. 1, 2017, there were 13,663 able-bodied adults without dependents receiving food stamps statewide. That number dropped to 7,483 by May 1, 2017. Among the 13 counties, there were 5,538 adults ages 18-50 without dependents receiving food stamps as of Jan. 1, 2017. That number dropped to 831 – a decline of about 85 percent – by May 1, 2017.

“Based on the trend, the number of (able-bodied adults without dependents) recipients for SNAP benefits is expected to continue to decline statewide and in the formerly 13 exempted counties,” according to Alabama DHR spokesperson John Hardy.

Statewide, the number of able-bodied adults receiving food stamps has fallen by almost 35,000 people since Jan. 1, 2016. Each recipient receives about $126 a month in benefits.

Nationwide, there are about 44 million people receiving SNAP benefits at a cost of about $71 billion. The Trump administration has vowed to cut the food stamp rolls over the next decade, including ensuring that able-bodied adults recipients are working.

DCG

MAGA: $182B budget surplus in April 2017; illegal border crossing down 76%

Whatever misgivings the Deplorables may have about President Trump’s continuation of the neo-con’s policy in Syria or his empowerment of daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, there’s no denying these Trump effects:

(1) Budget Surplus

Confounding market expectations for a deficit, the U.S. government had a $182 billion budget surplus in April 2017, according to Treasury Department data released on May 10.

Government revenue last month totaled $456 billion, up 4% from April 2016, while government expenditure stood at $273 billion, a decrease of 18% from the same month a year earlier.

That budget surplus for just the month of April 2017 is $36 billion more than the adjusted surplus of $146 billion for the entire 2016 year.

The Trump administration’s budget surplus helps accounts for a reduction in the government deficit, which was $344 billion in fiscal 2017 year-to-date deficit — down $9 billion from the $353 billion in the same period of fiscal 2016. (Reuters)

(2) Illegal border crossing

The Trump administration’s commitment to enforcing the law has changed the reality along the U.S.-Mexico border even before a foot of the border wall is built:

  • Illegal immigration across the southwestern border is down a stunning 76% since President Trump was elected.
  • The flow of children and families across the border is down even more. The number of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children nabbed at the border dropped below 1,000 — a level not seen since before the “surge” in Obama’s second term, which he aided and abetted.
  • Overall apprehensions by the Border Patrol dropped to just 11,129 in April, according to numbers released on May 9, 2017, marking the lowest monthly total for any month in decades. (Washington Times)

We all know that if Hillary Rotten Clinton had been elected president, the deficits and illegal border crossings would have worsened, and U.S. taxpayers would still be paying for abortions across the world — among other ills. See:

~Eowyn

Your tax dollars at work: $390k grant to study duck penis

Elizabeth Harrington reports for Washington Free Beacon that among the protesters at the “March for Science” on Earth Day, April 22, 2017, against the Trump administration’s budget cuts was Patricia Brennan, a visiting lecturer of biological sciences at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, and a native of Columbia.

Brennan has a vested interest in taxpayers’ largesse as she is a leading researcher of a taxpayer-funded duck penis study that received $384,949 from the National Science Foundation. The grant was funded through the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus package. The study looked at the differences in the corkscrew-shaped penises of ducks.

A recent interview with New England Public Radio revealed that Brennan is still fascinated by the genitalia of marine animals. She is now using her expertise on the penises of orca whales.

When an orca whale penis recently was delivered from Sea World to her lab, Brennan exclaimed, “Holy cow. Oh wow. Oh my goodness. It’s enormous! So this is the tip right there. It’s not super long, it’s just wide.”

New England Public Radio reported that “Although Brennan has spent 20 years studying the sex organs of marine animals, she’s never seen anything this big. It takes up an entire lab sink.”

In the face of a national debt of $20 trillion, President Trump wants to cut funding for frivolous research, among other cuts. Trump’s budget blueprint would leave the National Institutes of Health with $25.9 billion, but makes no mention of the National Science Foundation that currently gets about $7 billion annually.

Since taxpayers were informed about how much her duck penis study cost, Brennan has become a “sought-after science activist,” giving lectures on how scientists can defend their research.

Brennan said of news outlets reporting the nearly $390k grant for her duck penis study, “They were attacking everything. They were attacking the science itself, like, ‘what a waste of money.’ They were attacking me, as a person, like, I must be some kind of deviant to be looking at penises. Like, who does that?”

In a self-righteous article in Slate, Brennan justified her $390k duck penis study by its important, earth-shaking findings that:

  • Male ducks rape female ducks. (It doesn’t take a $390k study to know this. Anyone who lives near a lake, as I did, would have seen female ducks being gang-raped by males in springtime.)
  • Both the vaginas and penises of ducks have evolved in response to “sexual conflict”. As Brennan puts it, with barely suppressed outrage: “Males have counterclockwise spiraling penises, while females have clockwise spiraling vaginas and blind pockets that prevent full eversion of the male penis. Male ducks force copulations on females, and males and females are engaged in a genital arms race with surprising consequences. Male competition is a driving force behind these male traits that can be harmful to females.”

New England Public Radio calls Brennan a “basic scientist,” meaning she only observes how things work and is not “necessarily applying that knowledge to a particular problem.” In other words, there is no particular reason why she studies duck and orca whale penises. In Brennan’s words, “Just the fact that we just don’t know what we’re going to find is so exciting.”

Why, like, already beleaguered taxpayers must, like, fund her, like, “basic” pointless research on, like, marine animal penises is, like, not her concern.

~Eowyn

Poll: Most young people say gov’t should pay for health care

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The public education indoctrination system has succeeded.

From Seattle Times: Most young Americans want any health care overhaul under President Donald Trump to look a lot like the Affordable Care Act signed into law by his predecessor, President Barack Obama.

But there’s one big exception: A majority of young Americans dislike “Obamacare’s” requirement that all Americans buy insurance or pay a fine.

A GenForward poll says a majority of people ages 18 to 30 think the federal government should be responsible for making sure Americans have health insurance. It suggests most young Americans won’t be content with a law offering “access” to coverage, as Trump and Republicans in Congress proposed in doomed legislation they dropped March 24. The Trump administration is talking this week of somehow reviving the legislation.

Conducted Feb. 16 through March 6, before the collapse of the GOP bill, the poll shows that 63 percent of young Americans approve of the Obama-era health care law. It did not measure reactions to the Republican proposal.

The most popular element of the law is allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, which is favored by 75 percent of 18-30 year olds. It’s not just that they personally benefit — an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll conducted in January found that provision was equally popular among all adults. That proposal was included in the failed GOP overhaul.

But the Republican plan also contained provisions that most young Americans — the racially diverse electorate of the future — do not support, according to the poll. Two-thirds of young people agree with a smaller majority of Americans overall that the government should make sure people have health care coverage. And they understand that will cost more: Sixty-three percent want the government to increase spending to help people afford insurance.

Those feelings cut across racial lines and include most whites, who formed the base of Trump’s political support in the presidential election. “I do believe the government should offer it because we pay taxes,” said Rachel Haney, 27, of Tempe, Arizona. “I do feel like it’s a right.”

GenForward is a survey of adults age 18 to 30 by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with the AP-NORC Center. The poll pays special attention to the voices of young adults of color, highlighting how race and ethnicity shape the opinions of a new generation.

Only about a quarter of young people want “Obamacare” repealed. That includes 16 percent of young adults who want it repealed and replaced as Trump has vowed and another 10 percent who want it repealed without a replacement. Just over a third of young whites want to see the law repealed, making them more likely than those of other racial and ethnic groups to say so.

“He just wants to protect us from al-Qaida, and terrorism,” said Kervin Dorsainvil, 18, a computer technician from Port Charlotte, Florida. “I feel like health care should be much higher on the list. I feel like we have the resources, the medical technology and everything in place to provide the health care to the people. So why wouldn’t we do that?”

Young people are more likely than Americans overall to say the government should make sure people have health care. A recent AP-NORC poll of U.S. adults, conducted during and after the collapse of the GOP proposal, found just 52 percent called it a federal government responsibility to make sure all Americans have coverage.

Despite their overall approval of “Obamacare,” young Americans’ views on the law aren’t all rosy. Just a third say the law is working relatively well, while another third think the health care policy has serious problems. About 2 in 10 consider the law to be fatally flawed.

The law’s requirement that all Americans buy insurance or pay a fine is opposed by 54 percent of young people and favored by just 28 percent.

On the other hand, 71 percent favor the law’s Medicaid expansion, 66 percent of young adults favor the prohibition on denying people coverage because of a person’s medical history, 65 percent favor requiring insurance plans to cover the full cost of birth control, 63 percent favor requiring most employers to pay a fine if they don’t offer insurance and 53 percent favor paying for benefit increases with higher payroll taxes for higher earners.

About a quarter of young adults say they personally have insurance through their parents, while another 1 in 10 have purchased insurance through an exchange.

Read the rest of the story here.

DCG

Trump spurs sharp jump in optimism of top U.S. CEOs

maga

Funny how that happens when you put a businessman in the White House instead of a community organizer.

From Seattle Times: The nation’s top chief executives like what they’re seeing and hearing from President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans, according to survey results released Tuesday by the Business Roundtable.

The economic expectations of the heads of the nation’s largest companies jumped in the first quarter by the most in more than seven years amid optimism about corporate tax cuts, reduced regulations and a boost in infrastructure spending promised by Trump and congressional leaders, the trade group found.

“As these results confirm, business confidence and optimism have increased dramatically,” said Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and this year’s chairman of the Business Roundtable.

The group, composed of the heads of the largest U.S. companies, said its quarterly CEO Economic Outlook Index shot up to 93.3 from 74.2 in the fourth quarter. It was the biggest increase since the third quarter of 2009 and the highest level in nearly three years.

The index is based on projections for sales, capital spending and hiring over the next six months, and ranges from -50 to 150, with a reading above 50 indicating the economy is expanding.

Since the survey began in 2002, the average has been 79.8. The first quarter was the first time the index has been above its historical average in nearly two years.

The increased optimism from major corporate chieftains echoed recent surveys showing small-business owners and consumers also are feeling much better about the economy since Trump’s election.

“Clearly CEOs are very positive about prospects for hiring, sales and investment,” said Joshua Bolten, president of the Business Roundtable.  “Their view of the overall economy has also brightened slightly.”

The 141 CEOs surveyed between Feb. 8 and March 1 projected that the U.S. economy would expand 2.2 percent this year. That was up from a 2 percent prediction in December but still well below the 3 to 4 percent annual growth Trump said he could produce. (Well, give him some time…he’s only been in office two months!)

The optimism might also have something to do with this:

From Gateway Pundit: “On January 20th, the day of President Trump’s Inauguration, the US Debt stood at $19,947 billion. As of March 16th, the most recent date for US debt reporting, the US Debt stands at $19,846 billion. President Trump has cut the US Debt burden by over $100 billion and 0.5% in the first two months since his inauguration!

DCG