How Safe Is that Flight? Auditors Question Airport Security

How Safe Is that Flight? Auditors Question Airport Security

REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
By Brianna Ehley, The Fiscal Times

A government spat between Congress and the Transportation Safety Administration yesterday raised a question: Is the TSA trying to stonewall a congressional committee looking into reports suggesting the agency may be failing in its $7 billion-a-year mission to safeguard airports and air travel from terrorist threats?

At the start of Wednesday’s TSA: Are Airports Safe? hearing, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT ) immediately pointed out a glaring absence from the witness panel—the TSA.

Related: Poor Maintenance Could Make that Airport Scanner a Dud

Chaffetz said the committee had invited TSA acting administrator Melvin Carraway, but the agency offered a lower-level official in his place.

“The Department of Homeland Security objected to [Carraway’s] presence on the panel because they felt it was demeaning to have the acting director sit on the same panel as a private sector witness,” he said, referring to Raffi Fron, president of New Age Security Solutions, a company that provides security systems such as video surveillance.

The hearing was prompted by two separate but equally scathing watchdog reports that question the TSA’s ability to effectively screen passengers.

“Our audits have repeatedly found that human error— often a simple failure to follow protocol—poses significant vulnerabilities,” DHS’s IG John Roth said—adding that despite offering hundreds of recommendations the TSA has failed to assure that its mission is succeeding.

Related: Report Says TSA Wasted $1 Billion on Screening Program

DHS stood by its decision not to send its acting administrator. An agency official told The Fiscal Times that the department only participates in congressional hearing panels with other government agencies—not with private-sector witnesses in order to avoid conflicts of interest. 

A spokesperson for the committee said that “witness invitations are not transferable” and that the “DHS does not dictate how we run our hearings.”

This isn’t the only roadblock the Oversight Committee has run into with the TSA. During the hearing, Chairman Chaffetz showed off a heavily redacted document he had requested from the agency—saying even members of Congress had “exceptional” difficulties getting information from them.

The committee spokesperson said House Oversight is currently looking into other ways the TSA has frustrated congressional inquiries—and what kinds of action can be taken.

Number of the Day: 5.5 Percent

The debate over national health care aside, more Americans today say they get "excellent health care" than did in the early 2000s, according to <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/150806/rate-own-healthcare-quality-coverage-excellent.aspx" target="_blank"
Getty Images
By Yuval Rosenberg

Health care spending in the U.S. will grow at an average annual rate of 5.5 percent from 2017 through 2026, according to new estimates published in Health Affairs by the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The projections mean that health care spending would rise as a share of the economy from 17.9 percent in 2016 to 19.7 percent in 2026.

Part of the Shutdown-Ending Deal: $31 Billion More in Tax Cuts

The U.S. Capitol building is lit at dusk ahead of planned votes on tax reform in Washington, U.S., December 18, 2017.   REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/Files
Joshua Roberts
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Margot Sanger-Katz and Jim Tankersley in The New York Times: “The deal struck by Democrats and Republicans on Monday to end a brief government shutdown contains $31 billion in tax cuts, including a temporary delay in implementing three health care-related taxes.”

“Those delays, which enjoy varying degrees of bipartisan support, are not offset by any spending cuts or tax increases, and thus will add to a federal budget deficit that is already projected to increase rapidly as last year’s mammoth new tax law takes effect.”

IRS Paid $20 Million to Collect $6.7 Million in Tax Debts

The IRS provides second chances to get your tax return right with Form 1040X.
iStockphoto
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Congress passed a law in 2015 requiring the IRS to use private debt collection agencies to pursue “inactive tax receivables,” but the financial results are not encouraging so far, according to a new taxpayer advocate report out Wednesday.

In fiscal year 2017, the IRS received $6.7 million from taxpayers whose debts were assigned to private collection agencies, but the agencies were paid $20 million – “three times the amount collected,” the report helpfully points out.

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Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan See Small GDP Boost from Tax Bill

Belize sure is bumpy.
Wikipedia
By Yuval Rosenberg

Goldman Sachs economists see the tax bill adding 0.3 percentage points to GDP growth in 2018 and 2019 while JP Morgan forecasts a similar gain of 0.3 percentage points next year and 0.2 percentage points the year after.

Goldman’s analysts add that federal spending, which is likely to grow more quickly next year than it has recently, will bring the total fiscal boost to around 0.6 percentage points for 2018 and 0.4 percentage points in 2019.

Both banks see deficits likely rising above $1 trillion, or about 5 percent of GDP, in 2019.