Illustration by Emily Metcalf
Illustration by Emily Metcalf

BY TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE – It’s August in an election year, which means DC is a ghost town. In spite of a long list of unfinished business and a lackluster economy, the Capitol has been abandoned for the campaign trail. But looking at Congress’s record, it’s difficult to see the need for a month long break.

The new fiscal year starts October 1st, yet no government agency has a budget for 2013. The House gets a D, passing six of the twelve annual spending bills. The Senate, well, they produced…none. Just this week Speaker Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) announced they’re giving up. Instead of using the next two months to pass a few of the bills, they’ve agreed to funding all agencies at their current level for the first half of FY13. Trivia tidbit: the 113thCongress will be the third of the last four to have their first order of business cleaning up a spending bill mess left by the previous Congress.

They also haven’t proposed realistic solutions for our major fiscal issues. We still have a broken transportation financing system. Using some underhanded legislative jujitsu Congress passed a two-year Transportation Authorization that raids the general treasury to backfill the gas-tax fueled Highway Trust Fund and requires 10 years of revenue to pay for two years of spending. Instead of ending outdated and obviously unnecessary agricultural subsidies, both chambers are pushing trillion-dollar Farm Bills that increase Washington’s role through expanding taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance and creating new entitlement programs that put us on the hook for guaranteeing profits for certain agricultural businesses. And coming up with a way to avoid sequestration—the $110 billion in automatic, across-the-board budget cuts, half in defense—coming down from last year’s Super Committee failure? Nothing but finger pointing and posturing.

But that’s not to say they haven’t been busy.

Congress still took time to rename plenty of things. Just this week Hartshorne, Oklahoma got a newly christened Post Office and October 13 may soon be “National Chess Day.”  The Senate Finance Committee applauded itself for tackling the huge list of special interest tax breaks that are “temporarily” extended year after year, getting rid of 20—including the conversion credit for plug-in electric vehicles and a credit for refined coal facilities. Of course that leaves scores more in force, including a tax break being used to build a distilleryin the U.S. Virgin Islands for the world’s largest liquor conglomerate and a break for NASCAR track owners. And more and more time has been devoted to political stunts. Most recently the House voted to not go into August recess, then every House member immediately rushed for the exits. Only a few suckers representing districts close to DC will have to come back every few days, bang the gavel in front of an empty chamber, then head back to their fundraiser, campaign stop, or the beach.

What taxpayers need instead is for Congress to get to work, and relying on long retired, or soon-to-retire Members of Congress to come up with grand solutions to our deficits, that they’ll release after the next election, isn’t going to cut it.  Pointing fingers across the aisle, or at the White House, or back at Congress, doesn’t solve a thing.

If you’re not going to be helpful, at least get out of the way. So we’re going to take this as an opportunity. We aren’t taking August off. We’re too busy.  Last year we put together $1.5 trillion in common sense cuts for the Super Committee, and we’re updating those numbers to spell out exactly how Congress can avoid sequestration. We’re working with more than a dozen taxpayer, deficit, or environmentally focused groups to figure out an appropriate and affordable safety net for agriculture. We’re a common sense voice on tax reform, energy reform, tariffs and earmarks, transportation, and more.

When September 7th rolls around, we’ll be here ready to show them how to make government work, if they’ll only listen.

Let us know what you think.

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