Tuesday, October 25, 2005

We've got HOW much to spend?

OK, while we’re all going barking mad because of the movement to curtail pork in the federal budget, and while also hearing calls from all over the ideological map to take some of that money being spent on pet projects and give it to the disaster relief allocation that congress and Bush decided on, we should all sit back and remember that just throwing a number out, like say 62 billion dollars, is not really that productive for a few reasons.

One is that you need to come up with the money somehow.  This isn’t chump change.  It’s almost twice the budget of the entire Homeland Security Department.  You either take the funds from other programs, you raise the taxes, or you borrow it.  The latter two being the less desirable options.

Two is that with that amount of money, you can't just spend it in a few weeks, so perhaps you can allocate money in pieces instead of all at once.  You say you are going to spend 62 billion dollars because politically it sounds generous and leader-like, but there's no way you can spend it right away.  You ever tried to spend 62 billion dollars?

Three is that you may not really need all that money, and even then aid workers and government officials are going to struggle to find ways to spend it.  Take this report from the Wall Street Journal (hat tip Instapundit) about how much of the money has been spent or allocated already.  About a quarter of it.

      "When you look at the $62 billion and how much is actually making it to the state, it's such a small percentage that it's really disappointing," says Denise Bottcher, a spokeswoman for Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

Oh, yeah, it’s really disappointing that so much money isn’t being spent on you, whether you need it or not.  I wonder what’s going to become of the rest of that 62 billion.  Will it get spent?  How will it get spent?   Will anyone be paying attention by the time it does get spent?

People working in the government tend to spend up to their limit, regardless of need, just to prove that they needed the money in the first place (and often to justify more money next time).  This is not a good precedent to set, and the feds should think a bit harder about how much money they really need to reconstruct the gulf coast and New Orleans.

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