FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Little Wanton Money

A little wanton money, which burned out the bottom of his purse.

Sir Thomas More, Works [c. 1535]

Five hundred million dollars seems like a lot until one realizes that it’s only a small part of an approximately $3.6 trillion dollar budget and viewed in that light it’s hardly worth mentioning except in a column such as this. It is also a testimonial to the endurance of earmarks.

One of the many things Republicans decided should wait until the new Congress took charge in 2011 was the adoption of a budget to run the country. The old budget died officially on September 30, 2010, but unlike run of the mill dead things, a continuing resolution gave it life until it would be replaced by a new budget no later than March 4, 2011 or Republicans in Congress decide that the federal government doesn’t need to be funded and permit it to shut down. That happened when Bill Clinton was president and the result was a Democratic take over of the House of Representatives the next time the voters were given the opportunity to express their opinions about the government shut down.

Republicans may be dumb but some of them, at least, are not stupid. (They demonstrated that by reading the U.S. Constitution aloud on the floor of the House the day after being sworn in, thus showing a skeptical public that at least they know how to read. Whether they can govern is placed in doubt given the folly of this undertaking.)

The passage of the short-term budget resolution funds the federal government at fiscal year 2010 levels. As the New York Times reported, there are lots of consequences of simply coming up with a short term fix.” Two examples make the point. John Nester, a spokesman for the Securities and Exchange Commission said the commission is forced to cut back enforcement and market oversight. The IRS’s efforts to update its computer system will be further delayed. (For more than 13 years the IRS has been trying to update its computer system. In January 2010 it announced that instead of completing the task by 2012 as had previously been promised, the update would not be completed until somewhere between 2018 and 2028. It now says its efforts will be once again delayed.)

Not all the consequences of the failure to agree on a new budget are bad. For one thing, the Republicans are now firmly in control of the House and by March 4 the brighter of the new members will have figured out how to be Congress people and will be able to make better budget decisions that they think people want than the former Congress would have made. In addition to giving the new Congress the right to set priorities, another beneficiary of the delay is Alliant Techsystems (ATK). It will receive $165 million that it would not have received had a new budget been adopted.

In 2009 President Obama cancelled the Constellation moon program. Part of the program included funds for the development of a first stage solid fuel rocket for the Ares I rocket. Since the Constellation has been cancelled that rocket will not be built. The Orlando Sentinel says the technology on which work is now continuing will probably never be utilized. The $165 million that ATK is receiving is part of the $500 million that the failure to adopt the new budget is costing NASA. The reason for the continuing expenditure is found in 70 words in the 2010 budget that was adopted by Congress. According to the Los Angeles Times those words were inserted into that budget by a champion ear-marker, Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R. Ala.) to protect work on the rocket being done at Marshall Space flight Center in Alabama. They say that NASA cannot shut down the Ares project until a budget for 2011 is adopted. According to the Times, NASA says that it has “been spending an average of $95 million a month on Ares I.” (Senator Shelby who has been responsible for the continued funding of the moribund program, has been a prodigious ear-marker throughout his Senate career. In 2008 he secured $427 million in earmarks for Alabama and in 20009 he obtained $322 million. At the end of November 2010 when the Senate held a vote to impose an earmark ban on the entire senate for two years, Senator Shelby was among those who successfully blocked the imposition of such a ban, thus insuring that earmarking would continue, at least until the new Congress convened.)

As noted at the outset, $500 milliOn wasted is a drop in the bucket in the overall scheme of things and will be more than made up for by the $100 billion Republicans promise to cut from the budget as soon as they get around to figuring out where the cuts will come from.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at: brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail