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By September 30, 2021 Congress will have appropriated over $2.1 trillion for the Global War on Terror

May 26, 2020 | by Andrew Lautz | National Taxpayers Union |

“Reforming the OCO Account: A Better Deal for Taxpayers, Watchdogs, and the Military”

“Congress has appropriated trillions of dollars in the past few months to economic and public health measures meant to combat the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Though the U.S. may be far from defeating the virus, there will come a time in the near future when policymakers will have to grapple with the enormous additions they have just made to the federal debt.

As federal lawmakers look to offset recent and future COVID-19 spending, one of the first places they should explore is the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account. The OCO account, which has allowed the Departments of Defense (DoD) and State to spend above the decade-long discretionary spending caps enacted under the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 (and even subsequent increases to BCA caps), has increasingly become a source for “base” DoD spending and for “enduring” costs expected to last beyond the Global War on Terror.

From September 11, 2001 through the end of fiscal year (FY) 2019, Congress appropriated over $2 trillion “in support of the broad U.S. government response to the 9/11 attacks and for other related international affairs activities.” Lawmakers made these appropriations through either the OCO/Global War on Terror (GWOT) designations or the looser emergency spending designation that preceded OCO/GWOT from 2001 through 2008.

However, in recent years an increasing share of OCO/GWOT appropriations are actually dedicated to either “base” requirements that would normally be included in DoD’s regular budget request or “enduring” requirements that are expected to outlast the immediate contingency operations OCO was designed to fund. (Throughout this paper, “base” spending refers to DoD’s annual discretionary budget.)

Executive and legislative branch policymakers share blame here. DoD sought to adhere to statutory budget caps for defense spending in its FY 2020 budget request last year, but reached a wildly unsustainable spending target of $750 billion by pouring $165 billion into its OCO request. Of this $165 billion request, 59 percent ($98 billion) was for base requirements, 21 percent ($35 billion) was for enduring requirements, and an additional four percent ($6 billion) was for the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) – not considered a part of the Global War on Terror. Only 16 percent of the OCO request ($26 billion) was for mission-related costs in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.”

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“Indiana governor drops mask violator penalty after criticism”

July 24, 2020 | Tom Davies, Associated Press | CHRON.com |

“Regardless of any opinion of masks or their impact on COVID-19 good or bad, we must not deviate from the documents which protect our freedoms and liberties,” said Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush, a Republican. “We must guard them at all costs. The men and women of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing the mask mandate and will consider it null and void.”

Photo: Darron Cummings, AP

“INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s governor dropped a planned criminal penalty from the statewide face mask mandate that he signed Friday after objections from some law enforcement officials and conservative legislators.

 

The decision comes after Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb had said Wednesday in announcing the mask requirement that violators could face a misdemeanor charge, while stating that the “mask police will not be patrolling Hoosier streets.”

The executive order on the mask mandate, however, does not mention penalties and describes the move as a step to protect health during the coronavirus outbreak and help ensure that businesses remain open while allowing schools to reopen and operate safely.

“State and local health departments shall be responsible for enforcing compliance through education about the importance of wearing face coverings and dispelling myths and misconceptions about the use and/or benefits for the requirement,” the order said.

State Attorney General Curtis Hill, who is also a Republican, issued a non-binding opinion Wednesday night, saying Holcomb would be overstepping his authority and that only the Legislature could make violations a criminal offense. That opinion was in response to questions from five Republican state senators regarding Holcomb’s legal power.

The Indiana Senate’s leader praised Holcomb’s decision to drop the possible misdemeanor offense, which could have carried penalties of up to $1,000 in fines and a maximum 180 days in jail.

“Senate Republicans have been in close contact with the governor since his announcement of the new mask mandate earlier this week,” said Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray of Martinsville. “We are very pleased to see that the executive order he signed today does not include a criminal penalty for non-compliance.”

The governor’s office didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment about Holcomb’s decision.

Some conservative lawmakers criticized Holcomb’s mandate announcement for using the state’s emergency law to sidestep the Legislature, which hasn’t met since adjourning this year’s session in March just before widespread coronavirus precautions began.

Several of the state’s police chiefs and sheriffs had indicated they wouldn’t have officers respond solely to calls about face mask violators. Some said they considered Holcomb’s proposed mandate unconstitutional.

The sheriff in Hamilton County, just north of Indianapolis, said he agreed with the attorney general’s opinion that only the Legislature could make a face mask violation illegal.

“Regardless of any opinion of masks or their impact on COVID-19 good or bad, we must not deviate from the documents which protect our freedoms and liberties,” said Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush, a Republican. “We must guard them at all costs. The men and women of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing the mask mandate and will consider it null and void.”

 

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“CDC director acknowledges hospitals have a monetary incentive to overcount coronavirus deaths”

August 1, 2020 | by Andrew Mark Miller, Social Media Producer | Washington Examiner |

“U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield agreed that some hospitals have a monetary incentive to overcount coronavirus deaths as they do deaths for other diseases.

“I think you’re correct in that we’ve seen this in other disease processes, too. Really, in the HIV epidemic, somebody may have a heart attack but also have HIV — the hospital would prefer the [classification] for HIV because there’s greater reimbursement,” Redfield said during a House panel hearing Friday when asked by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer about potential “perverse incentives.”

Redfield continued: “So, I do think there’s some reality to that. When it comes to death reporting, though, ultimately, it’s how the physician defines it in the death certificate, and … we review all of those death certificates. So I think, probably it is less operable in the cause of death, although I won’t say there are not some cases. I do think though [that] when it comes to hospital reimbursement issues or individuals that get discharged, there could be some play in that for sure.”

Questions have been raised about coronavirus counting in hospitals across the country, and conflicting conclusions have been raised about whether or not deaths are being accurately counted.

A Yale study concluded that the overall coronavirus death toll in the United States is a “substantial undercount” of the actual number; White House coronavirus response team member Dr. Deborah Birx suggested in May that deaths are being overcounted by 25%.

There appear to be cases where the opposite has happened. An investigation in Florida found that several deaths were wrongly attributed to the virus, including the case of a man who died from a gunshot wound to the head.

The CDC’s website lists over 3,700 coronavirus deaths characterized as “intentional and unintentional injury, poisoning and other adverse events.” In Texas, more than 3,000 people were recently removed from the overall coronavirus count because they were never actually tested but considered “probable” cases.”

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