Check out our daily news digest for the latest must-read budget and economic stories and commentary:
- Andrews Air Force Golf Open Despite Shutdown – And Thousands Of Defense-Related Furloughs. Time’s Zeke Miller took President Barack Obama to task for his absence from budget negotiations last week, but the most interesting nugget we found in his article was that, despite thousands of Department of Defense furloughs (which the agency later admitted may not have been necessary), the Andrews Air Force golf course, where the president frequently plays, is still open. Miller writes, “On the first weekend of the shutdown, President Obama was nowhere to be seen. There were no calls or meetings at the White House, as surrogates flooded Twitter and television in his stead. Not even the still open Andrews Golf Course enticed him. For seven days the federal government has been closed, and for seven days Obama has refused to negotiate with House Republicans.” Meanwhile, The Associated Press (and most other news outlets, including The Washington Post), say there is no end in sight for the shutdown.
- Will A Grand Bargain Emerge? Lawmakers are now looking for a way to tie the fiscal year 2014 continuing resolution with a debt limit increase. (The Treasury Department estimates the government will hit that limit on Oct. 17.) According to The Wall Street Journal, “[B]y pairing the standoffs over funding the government and raising the debt ceiling, the speaker is trying to force President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) to agree to GOP priorities on deficits and federal spending in return for movement on both.” The items that could be in a grand bargain are still up for negotiation, but it is likely Republicans will focus on tax and entitlement reforms in exchange for taking back some of the sequester spending cuts that affected domestic discretionary spending programs.
- Will The Affordable Care Act Negatively Impact Medicaid? Possibly. According to Bloomberg, “A shortage of Medicaid doctors will leave many newly insured seeking care in a two-tiered system in which they will have access to less experienced medical staff, longer travel times to find a doctor who accepts Medicaid, and be subject to appointment waiting times sometimes weeks longer than those with private coverage. The advent of the law, rather than help, could make a bad situation even worse as overwhelmed clinics … struggle to meet greater demand, according to doctors and policy analysts.”
- Taxpayers Paying For Government Employees To Do Union Work. The Washington Examiner reports this morning that taxpayer financing for government employees to do union work increased 12 percent between 2010 and 2011, the latest year for which data is available. Furthermore, many agencies cannot accurately track time employees spend on union activities. The Examiner says, “Big federal agencies cannot account for thousands of hours they pay employees to spend working for government unions at taxpayer expense. Top users of what is known as ‘official time’ have been unable to produce records documenting basic information on who was allowed to work for the unions while drawing full pay and benefits from their regular government jobs. … Of the 17 agencies surveyed, six failed to produce any information. Among the others, only four delivered fairly complete records. The rest either supplied partial tallies, or withheld critical information, including names of employees and union beneficiaries. Official time cost taxpayers more than $155.5 million in 2011 …” For more questionable government spending, see our Spendopedia website.