A White House summary of its new infrastructure plan before it was unveiled put the total price tag at 2 trillion, 251 billion dollars.
But the media and most others talking about it had already rounded off the figure to an easy to read, easy to say $2 trillion. In other words, to keep things simple they lopped off $251billion. I remember Senator Ev Dirkson’s popular refrain: “A billion here and a billion there and pretty soon we’re talking about real money.”
Do you have any idea how many trips around the Moon it would be if you laid 251 billion dollars end to end? Neither do I, but I did some rough calculations. If you divided it among every American who received a stimulus check this year each would get $1,976. The defense department could buy 19 Gerald R. Ford nuclear class aircraft carriers. The total defense budget in 2000 was $293 billion. How about 5 billion, 20 million hot meals at $50 apiece? You could buy every team in the four major sports leagues-baseball, football, basketball, and hockey and have enough left over for two more aircraft carriers. You could buy Finland. Continue reading →
AUGUST RECESS HYPOCRISY
I would guess that most current and former Hill employees get really rankled every August when well-tanned and rested television anchors like Bill Hemmer of Fox News (it is really hard to take that guy seriously), get indignant over Congress leaving Washington for August recess. Hemmer is not alone, of course. August recess wisecracking is a popular sport.
Fox, however, has lowered the bar even more. It just spent a lot of money conducting survey research, which Hemmer reported on August 8. Breaking news, breaking news, stop the presses: “A new Fox news national poll has found that 82 percent of voters think Congress hasn’t worked hard enough to go on vacation for five weeks.”
When last we commiserated about the sex life of ducks, we questioned why taxpayers were being billed (billed—ducks—get it?) for million-dollar National Science Foundation (NSF) research into the corkscrew-like genital appendage on the female duck that deters the unwanted advances of the male.
The study, now in its eighth year, is just one of hundreds of taxpayer-funded projects that presumably hold the promise of scientific discovery and the eventual benefit to society worth the investment. And maybe that will turn out to be the case.
Though science projects are a budgetary breeding ground of questionable spending priorities and outright waste, there are others much worse.
Remember the Las Vegas retreat for General Service Administration employees? How about the Internal Revenue Service spending $49 million on conferences? Continue reading →
We need a new way of keeping score when it comes to government spending. The only test is: How much did we spend on a program last year and how much more (or, rarely, less) are we spending this year.
There is no mention of whether the program in question is working well, badly, or not at all. There is no consideration of whether there is a more efficient way to deliver whatever services or goods are involved in the program.