Welcome to the weekly QuizCap, a fun way to test your knowledge on what’s going on in Washington. This week we have men in space, party planning, and a federal land portfolio that would make the Dixie Chicks proud. Let’s get started!
The biggest news this week came from the Trump-Putin news conference in Helsinki, Finland and the follow-up correction that made English teachers throughout America squirm. The Trump administration has used American tax dollars on which event(s) in Finland that will make the taxpayers squirm?
The Runokuu Poetry Festival 2018, the Night Visions Horror Film Festival in 2017, and the Ruotsinphytaa 2018 Bluegrass festival all received funding from the State Department.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report this week on the $6.8 billion in contracts awarded to Boeing and Space X in 2014 to take NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). How has NASA accessed the ISS since the space shuttle program was discontinued in 2011?
While Russia cooperation is taboo, NASA has been relying on Russia to access the ISS since 2011. GAO found that Boeing and Space X are behind on the contract completion, which could leave the United States without access to ISS after the Russia contracts runs out next year.
American tax dollars are not the only money flowing to Europe. An eye-popping $5 billion fine was levied by the European Commission against what American company?
The European Commission claimed Google violated EU antitrust rules by requiring manufacturers to pre-install google search applications on Android phones. Trump has taken to Twitter already to show his displeasure with the massive fine. Though, upon googling their financials, with $103 billion in cash and an expected $31 billion in net income this year, we think Google should be just fine.
Shifting stateside, in a recent National Federation of Independent Businesses survey, what did small business owners cite as the “most important business problem”?
36 percent of owners reported job openings they could not fill. Thanks to rapid technology growth, nearly one in five jobs in America today did not exist in 1980. President Trump signed an executive order this week to push for better job training in America. The order will create a National Council for the American Worker, “who will develop a nationwide strategy for training workers in industries that have a high workforce potential.”
In the spring, Congress agreed to increase the discretionary budget caps by a whopping $300 billion over the next two years. There is currently a fight occurring on Capitol Hill over the first package of spending bills in this new bigger budget era. What is the context of this fight?
That’s right, just months after a historic budget blowout, many Democrats and some Republican appropriators, including the Senate chairman, are pushing to break through these new caps. The issue is the veterans’ choice program, which was recently placed in discretionary spending rather than mandatory spending (thus now subject to appropriation limits). Budget busters argue that this move takes money away from other discretionary programs. Which would be true, if you ignore the hundreds of billions of dollars that Congress just rained on the budget.
The House passed two more funding bills this week, $35.3 billion for Interior and $23.4 billion for the Financial Services and General Government. During consideration of the Interior bill, the House took up an amendment that would shift money from buying more land to maintaining land the federal government already owns. How did the amendment fair?
The federal government owns 640 million acres of land (nearly 1/3rd of all the land in the U.S). Our treasured National Park System faces a $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog. The amendment would have shifted $1.4 million from land acquisition to address the $12 billion maintenance backlog. It failed 172-237. Priorities on point.
The House also passed a bill to create a commission to plan for the Route 66 Centennial celebration in 2026. How much will this commission cost?
It’s never too early to start planning a great party for a highway, I guess. If it passes the Senate and becomes law, it won’t even be the first federal Route 66 program. The Route 66 Corridor Preservation program already receives $300,000 annually to do important federal tasks like refurbish neon signs and put on dramatic plays about driving.
In some good news, the House did pass the GAO/IG Act this week, which requires agencies to put updates on open recommendations in their annual budget justification. How many tax dollars could we save if we implemented all of the open recommendations?
Small changes add up to big bucks. With a $21 trillion national debt and counting, it’s critical that Congress pushes for more efficiencies and savings throughout the federal government.
After requesting an investigation into $10,000 toilet seats last week, Senator Grassley has requested another investigation into the Department of Defense. What was the subject of this letter?
The letter requested GAO to review billions of dollars spent to buy modern IT systems that have not yielded positive results. The letter politely describes them as being “mired in a morass of antiquated and incompatible financial IT systems.” This critically impairs the ability for the DoD to successfully complete an audit, which could take another 10 years to finish.
Speaking of big pentagon expenditures, Lockheed Martin struck a “handshake deal” to deliver 141 F-35s, the long-awaited stealth fighter jet. How much does each F-35 cost in the order?
The total order was $13 billion, or $88 million per unit. This is $6 million per unit below the last order. This is far and away the largest DoD weapons project ever, and the total bill will likely reach $1 trillion. On the subject of DoD contracts, GAO issued a report this week that DoD is trying to reduce the time frame to award contracts. The problem is, they don't have a system to track how long it takes to award a contract. Hmmmmm.
The White House released its mid-session review last Friday, which included an update of its projected deficit for Fiscal Year 2019. How much did the Administration’s projected FY2019 deficit change from the last report?
The projected deficit increased from $526 billion to $1.085 trillion. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s analysis found the GOP tax cuts are responsible for 41% of that increase, the bipartisan budget blowout is responsible for 34% and a combination of other factors are responsible for the other 25%.
What did Congress pass to address the national debt this week?
And it has some former policymakers worried. In a news conference this week, Former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson warned against expanding deficits, especially at a time of economic prosperity. Paulson said, “If we don’t act, that is the most certain fiscal or economic crisis we will have….it will slowly strangle us.” Knock knock Congress. You’re up!