The Department of Energy announced last month that it would award a $100,000 prize in taxpayers' cash to software developers who could create a mobile telephone computer application that shows consumers how much energy they are using. There's just one big problem, though. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, an outspoken opponent of oil-derived fuels, said the purpose was to show consumers their energy consumption rate so they can figure out how to reduce it. "The Apps for Energy competition supports the president's goals of helping consumers lower their energy costs and increasing public access to data by challenging software developers to create apps that provide energy usage data... Improving consumers access to data about how they use energy in their homes will help them save money on their energy bills," he said. Trouble is, there are already about two-dozen applications available to do that. The apps Home Energy, Power Simulator, Our Green Home, pConsumpt, Electricity Cost Calculator, Watt, MeterClient, Saia S-Energy Manager, and others, were all created without any government help or prize money from Clueless Chu.
Party Time for the Feds
When you've got trillions of other people's money to spend, why not have a party? The General Services Administration, which manages all the property owned by the federal government, spent nearly $1 million on a lavish "conference" near Las Vegas for 300 employees that included clowns, a mind reader, and an extravagant reception that alone cost $31,208. GSA Inspector General Brian D. Miller's investigation revealed that GSA spent $823,000 for the four-day conference held at the opulent M Resort and Casino. Miller said expenses included $130,000 for employee travel to find a location for the event. Other expenses included $5,600 for three in-room catered parties; $44 per-person breakfasts; $75,000 for a "team building" exercise -- which turned out to be putting together a bicycle; $146,000 for food and drinks; $6,325 on commemorative coins in velvet boxes for participants as mementos. The $31,208 reception included $7,000 of sushi.
Taxmageddon Coming to a Paycheck Near You?
Soon after the 2012 presidential election, several tax breaks are slated to expire and several new taxes will go into affect, causing what some commentors are calling "taxmageddon." On December 31 the Bush-era tax cuts are scheduled to expire, which means federal tax rates will rise on investment income, estates and gifts, and every income level. The Washington Post reported that "the rate everyone pays on the first $8,700 of wages will jump from 10 percent to 15 percent." In addition, the marriage penalty will return, and the value of the child tax credit will drop from $1,000 to $500. Also set for January first, the Social Security payroll tax reduction now in effect will expire, causing the rate to jump from 4.2 percent now to 6.2 percent. At the same time, new Medicare taxes enacted in President Obama's federal takeover of the health insurance industry will land on higher-income households. Unless Congress and the president act, it will amount to a $5 trillion, 10-year tax hike, the biggest in history.
The military-industrial complex is about to become the Obama-Banker complex. Republican staffers from the Senate Budget Committee report that under President Barack Obama's proposed federal budget projections, the U.S. government will spend more by 2019 to pay the interest on the national debt than it will pay for national defense. By 2019, the defense budget is projected to reach more than $560 billion. Shortly thereafter, interest payments on the national debt will climb to $600 billion. Total public debt outstanding as of the beginning of April was more than $15 trillion.