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Credible research and impartial information are critical to fostering fiscal responsibility. The Institute to Reduce Spending engages in and promotes rigorous academic research and scholarship on the subject of federal spending and budgeting. We seek to create a national, nonpartisan dialogue regarding spending reform by presenting information in a publicly accessible manner.

Trump’s White House Payroll Saves Taxpayers Millions

Last week, the Trump Administration released its annual report on White House Office Personnel, which includes data on the salaries of all 300+ White House employees. The projected four-year savings on the payroll is close to $20 million — which is perhaps a sign that President Trump is serious about finding cuts throughout the federal government.


As Adam Andrzejewski highlighted in a recent op-ed, Trump’s White House has over 100 fewer employees than Obama’s White House in his first year in office. Additionally, First Lady Melania Trump has only five staffers dedicated to her, while First Lady Michelle Obama had employed 24 staffers.


Part of the savings also stem from President Trump — along with Ivanka Trump (First Daughter and Advisor to the President) and Jared Kushner (Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor) — forgoing a salary. Because the President is required to receive a salary, President Trump decided to donate his pay to the Department of Interior for both the construction and repair of military cemeteries.


The White House Office Personnel is only a tiny morsel of the overall budget, but the fact that President Trump is willing to make cuts is encouraging leadership on his part. Fiscal conservatives can hope that this will lead other departments to find ways to save taxpayer money in their own offices and promote fiscal restraint across all sectors of the federal government.

Senate Introduces the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017

On Thursday, the Senate released a draft of its plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The bill, H.R. 1628—or Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA)—is similar to the legislation the House passed in May, which eliminates both the ACA’s employer and individual insurance mandates and most of the taxes it levied. Notably, it removes the controversial “continuous coverage” provision that the AHCA used to replace the mandate — although this is likely to change before final passage.


The BCRA phases out Medicaid, although on a longer timeline than the AHCA. It looks to deal with the growing costs of Medicaid by block-granting money to states with a growth rate that is linked to inflation. This hopes to give states more flexibility in adopting programs that work best for their state and increasing efficiency throughout the Medicaid program.

Importantly, the legislation does not include the waiver language from the so-called MacArthur amendment that was instrumental in getting fiscally conservative support to pass AHCA — instead, it looks to reform “1332 waivers” that were already included with Obamacare but rarely used because of the cost and burdens of doing so. Under the plan, there would be money appropriated to ease the financial cost when states seek a waiver, and the burden of proof will shift away from those seeking waivers.


The Congressional Budget Office released their score of the legislation, which they predict leaves about the same amount of people uninsured as the House bill. However, they do provide the caveat that the drop in coverage would be, “primarily because the penalty for not having insurance would be eliminated.” The CBO also estimates that premiums will increase in 2018 by 20 percent and by 10 percent in 2019. The good news comes in 2020, when premiums would be about 30 percent lower than under ObamaCare and 20 percent lower by 2026.


CBO estimates that on net, the bill would cut the deficit by $321 billion over the ten-year window — about $200 billion more than the House bill would — a good bit of these savings are a result of an estimated 15 million fewer people on Medicaid coverage by the year 2026.

Republicans have been working on replacing the Affordable Care Act for over half a decade, and they may be closer now than ever before. However, the pros and cons of this bill — and what the final version will look like — are still very much in dispute, even among the Republican conference. Whether Leader McConnell has the support necessary to move forward on this legislation remains to be seen, but the next weeks will be crucial for the future of American healthcare.

A Chance to Trim the Fat


17 years ago, President Clinton was leaving office. His replacement, President George W. Bush, was moving into the White House. While this transition was happening, a fear was looming on the horizon: what would happen with the “Y2K bug”? People worried that computer calendars would not be able to deal with the turn of the century, and systems would crash. This problem seems silly now, but what’s even sillier is that until last week, there were 7 different federal paperwork requirements related to this bug.


This story typifies the problem with outdated government rules and why OMB director Mick Mulvaney has made it a goal to clean them up. In total, the White House eliminated more than 50 requirements that were either outdated or unnecessary, with Mulvaney saying, “We’re looking for stuff everyone agrees is a complete waste of time.” These regulations are either outdated like the Y2K bug, or burdensome. Ending one, for instance, will save the Department of Defense 1200 man-hours every year—ensuring that they no longer have to file a separate report every time a small-business vendor is paid.


Mulvaney says this move is not intended to shrink the federal workforce, but instead give agencies the ability to use their time more productively and not focus on meaningless regulatory tasks.


Eliminating the 59 guidance and policy documents is part of OMB’s phase 1 of increasing government efficiency. Phase 2 comes at the end of this month when the heads of agencies will produce a list of reports and requirements that they deem unwarranted or outdated.


In September, agencies will submit their budget requests for fiscal year 2019. With these requests, they will also present a reorganization plan that makes the most sense for the agencies.


OMB Director Mulvaney, a longtime budget hawk, has been pushing for departments and agencies to determine themselves ways to save the government money and increase efficiency. Though these reforms alone cannot drastically change the overall fiscal health of the nation, it’s an encouraging sign to see the administration sticking to its promise of cutting waste, fraud, and abuse.

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