Today marks the tenth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq that cost the lives of more than 4,487 American soldiers and more than $3 trillion for military and reconstruction costs, according to a new report released by the Special Inspector General for Iraqi reconstruction. The fighting did oust Saddam Hussein, but it unleashed a quasi-civil war in Iraq.
Although the war is officially over, the United States continues to fund Iraqi reconstruction, with at least $8 billion of the $60 billion spent being lost to contract abuses and mismanagement by the U.S. military, according to SIGIR’s final audit released this month.
The report details several multi-million dollar projects, riddled with cost-over-runs including a $108 million wastewater treatment plant, a $75 million project to replace oil and gas pipeline, both of which are still under construction. - See the report here
SENATE MOVES FORWARD ON BUDGET STOPGAP The Senate today is expected to vote on the amended continuing resolution originally passed by the House last week to keep the government running.
The CR funds the government through September, and retains the $85 billion in sequester cuts that began March 1, but it expands flexibility to both the Pentagon and non-defense agencies to better deal with the spending cuts that will total $1.2 trillion over the next decade.
Once the Senate acts, the House Appropriations Committee leadership is expected to take the amended CR directly to the House floor for a vote. Since both chambers will take a two-week spring break starting next week, they only have until Friday to pass a spending bill, or risk a government shutdown, as the deadline to pass a spending bill is March 27. - Read more at Reuters
HOUSE DEMS WANT $1.2 TRILLION IN NEW TAXES, $200 BILLION STIMULUS House Democrats unveiled their 2014 budget blueprint on Monday for achieving a surplus by 2040.
But in the standard 10-year budgetary timeframe, the plan includes $1.2 trillion in new taxes and $200 billion in stimulus spending, twice the level of stimulus spending the Senate Democrats’ budget proposed. The budget also includes more transportation spending and turns off nine years of the automatic, across-the-board, sequester cuts that took effect March 1. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, author of the budget, said his plan, ends up with public debt at 70 percent of gross domestic product by 2023 and revenue at 19.8 percent of GDP. - Read more at The Hill
AMERICA’S INFRASTRUCTURE GETS A D+ America’s crumbling infrastructure is still nothing to brag about, as the American Society of Civil Engineers graded it as a D+, slightly better than the D it received during the group’s last report card in 2009.
According to the report, America’s infrastructure has progressed in several areas, including bridges, rail, wastewater and drinking water. Though it also received a near-failing grade of “D-“ in the nation’s inland ports and waterways. The report credited the (modest) progress to a rise in the private financing of public projects and the renewed attention from state and local government to kick-start their own projects, rather than waiting for Washington to send money, The New York Times reports. - See the report here
WHY TAX REFORM WILL STILL COST TAXPAYERS $$ Right now, nearly 90 percent of taxpayers rely on accountants or tax preparation software to file taxes, and a simpler tax code will likely not change that. The Fiscal Times’ Josh Boak reports, “[I]t costs, on average, $246 for a tax expert to prepare an individual filing and the leading online programs cost $50 or more…but accountants, and the companies that produce computerized tax programs, don’t worry that a simpler code would lead them to lose clients. It’s a sign that even if tax regulations were sliced in half, they would still be intimidating for most of us.” - Read more at The Fiscal Times