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Federal Spending PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chet   
Monday, 14 April 2008 03:30

To advance its efforts to appear fair and balanced, the Bismarck Tribune ran a story over the weekend about federal spending.  Here's a snippet:

North Dakota ranks high in federal earmarks, and whether that's good or bad depends on who's talking.

The state ranks third in the nation per capita in federal earmarks, according to a government watchdog group, and the state's college's and universities account for most of those requests.

The congressional delegation brought $133 million in earmarks to the state, of which $76.3 million went to North Dakota colleges and universities for research, operations and program start-ups, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

North Dakota's delegation has helped the state rank 14th in the nation in total dollars earmarked for higher education projects, according to an analysis of the Chronicle of Higher Education's database of federal academic earmarks.

Bismarck Tribune  

I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about the Tribune story.  Am I supposed to disappointed or outraged?  Am I supposed to be proud of our congressional delegation?  I'm not sure how I'm supposed to take this story, but I'll tell you how I take it:  In context.

So North Dakota gets $133 million in federal earmarks, and that means we rank 14th [oops, 3rd], per capita, in receipt of federal earmarks.  Interesting.  Let's compare that to the overall federal budget: 

Fed Budget

First things first...  This chart comes from WarResisters.org.  I'd never seen that website before today.  I like their presentation, though, because they tell you they did "detailed tables in the “Analytical Perspectives” book of the Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2009."  They give you their sources.  They also show you a chart of how the Federal Government characterizes the budget (which is, as you would expect, different from the above chart).  I don't know if their math and chart are perfect, but they give you and me the resources to go check them, if we want to spend the time.  I'd invite you to do so, if you disagree with their numbers.  They're obviously trying to spin the information to support their obvious bias, but they put their bias right out there on the table, unlike organizations like "Americans for Prosperity" or "Citizens Against Government Waste."  (Aren't we all for prosperity and against gov't waste?)

That said... this chart purports to be based upon total federal outlays of funds, or $2.65 trillion. So when we talk about North Dakota's earmarks of $133 million, it's important to keep in mind that our earmarks make up a total of .005% of federal spending.  So let's say some rocket scientist argues that North Dakota should send back all of those earmarks.  That would reduce overall federal spending all the way down to $2.649867 trillion.  

Whooopi!!!  Budget deficit solved.  Everyone go back to work.

No.  Obviously not.  Not even a start.

Don't like that comparison?  Fair enough.  Let's compare North Dakota's earmarks, instead, to spending in Iraq.   As I type this, the ticker at the top of this blog post shows federal spending is at a little over $511 billion.  North Dakota's earmarks are approximately .026% of our spending in Iraq.  That's less than three hundredths of a percent.  If we could reduce our total spending in Iraq by 1%, North Dakota could take 30 times more than it currently gets, and we'd still be money ahead.

You don't like that comparison either?  Gosh, some of you people are hard to please.  Well... I don't know if any of you have read the "Investigating Bush" story in the latest Rolling Stone magazine.  It's about Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-California) committee work in Congress.  Among other things, the author, Tim Dickinson, writes about how $12 billion in cash money was stacked onto pallets, loaded into C-130 cargo planes and flown to an Iraqi war zone.  

As Waxman's investigation uncovered, much of the cash quickly vanished. Billions of dollars that should have been spent to rebuild the war-tattered nation were instead frittered away on "ghost employees" — one ministry claimed to have more than 8,000 guards on its payroll, of which only 600 were believed to be real people — and other forms of corruption.

Such fraud, Waxman's oversight has revealed, is rampant in Iraq. According to testimony last October by Judge Radhi al-Radhi — formerly Iraq's top anti-corruption official — the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has lost nearly $18 billion to corruption, and much of the money has ended up in the hands of insurgents. To demonstrate that the lawlessness reaches the highest levels of Iraq's government, Rahdi provided Waxman with a signed order from Maliki that immunized him and his ministers from prosecution.

Rolling Stone  (emphasis added)

Let's compare North Dakota's $133 million in earmarks to that part of the trillions Bush and Co. have recklessly squandered in Iraq (i.e. the $18 billion, much of which has aided in the killing of our own soldiers).  North Dakota's $133 million in earmarks amounts to just .75% of the  money the leader of the Republican party has recklessly handed over to Iraqi insurgents.  For those of you just learning to count, that's less than 1%.  It's three-quarters of a percent.

If we could recoup just 1% of the money Bush and Company handed over to Iraqi insurgents, we'd have enough cash on pallets to cover all of North Dakota's earmarks, and would have another $47 million left over to give to KBR and Haliburton so their employees could (allegedly) rape more people.

That's how I took the Tribune's story;  In context.


Comments (5)add comment

Big Jake said:

...
Good piece Chet.

As we all know, money headed our way is not pork but wise and prudent and necessary spending.

In the game of outflow and inflow, our Congressional delegation does a fantastic job----and in fact, if they did not, we would get very little of the money that really is necessary. However, the increase in the use of earmarks is a dangerous trend. We do need to get our priorities in order. It is important to note that the war funding and most other expenditures are being financed. In other words, we lack the money so we just borrow it. The financial and economic mismanagement of our country will come to haunt us. It is not sustainable.

The rapid increase in our national debt really took off under Reagan. Clinton/Rubin changed some of the rules and gave us the appearance of fiscal improvement. It was an illusion. Case in point is the changing of banking rules relating to mortgages. That change put an incredible amount of new debt money into circulation and we are now paying the price. Cause and effect. Clinton's Wall Street NAFTA deal caused an increase in cheap goods to flow into the country and the resulting economic activity came to be. However, the massive job loss impact on the economy took some time to be realized. All of this has the long term effect of shrinking the middle class and making the newly educated's entrance into better paying jobs less likely. We are in a classic downward economic spiral. Not just a business cycle. The new democrats have a real challenge---make real change happen, not just a band-aid fix. No hope exists for the greed driven republicans to do anything but more of the same.

These are challenging and interesting times.
 
April 14, 2008
Votes: +5

Chet said:

Follow-up
Someone called me and pointed out another contextual consideration: North Dakota's federal earmarks are actually less than the illegal excess reserves being hoarded by North Dakota's Workforce Safety and Insurance (WSI). WSI's illegal excess reserves were at $174.4 million in December of last year according to this Bismarck Tribune story. (Do you think they'd ever consider allocating some of those illegal reserves to compensate the 14% of injured workers who've had their claims denied inappropriately?) So our total federal earmarks are only 76% of the amount of WSI's illegal excess reserves.

I've heard a rumor that some in management at WSI -- in collaboration with some legislators (I won't name names) -- have been trying to figure out a way to sneak some of that money to the North Dakota Chamber to help pay for the Chamber's anti-WSI initiated measure campaign.
 
April 14, 2008
Votes: +3

Mr. Ford said:

So what are you saying Chet?
Will the Chamber be filing for a "Safety Grant', getting a donation, or are they finally going to hold a special session of the legislators to "MOVE MONEY", but ignore the needs of the injured worker?

Will there ever be someone in oh say the Governors office, or the AG's office, the state police, or any court that will stand up to this agency, and say "Enough is enough", or is it just the injured workers grouping up to fight? Don't get me wrong, Chet started to bring this fight public, via this website, and now there is an injured workers group, but injured workers cant stay hidden forever. In order for people to take the walking wounded seriously, you will have to come out and join forces! The other choice you have, is be silent and become a telemarketer!
 
April 14, 2008
Votes: +3

Chet said:

To Mr. Ford
For the record... I don't think there's any way WSI could "sneak" money to the Chamber. I can't imagine any way they could do that. Well, that's not true. I can imagine a couple ways, but I would be really surprised if the folks in leadership at WSI were that stupid.
 
April 14, 2008
Votes: +3

Bro in Seattle said:

Rethuglican fun never ends & cookie jar all over their hands
There is more: thought I'd share:

"Administration says contracting fraud loophole was mistake"

By LARA JAKES JORDAN
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

WASHINGTON -- Bush administration officials acknowledged Tuesday (4/15/0smilies/cool.gif they mistakenly added a multibillion-dollar loophole to a planned crackdown on contract fraud, then urged Congress not to get involved in fixing it.

[???? wha?]

The loophole, first reported by The Associated Press, was quietly added months after the Justice Department signed off on the proposal. It exempted overseas contracts from complying with the crackdown, alarming prosecutors, inspectors general and Democrats and Republicans alike in Congress.

On Monday, a new proposal surfaced that stripped the loophole from the rule.

[???? whew?]

"Yes, sir," Drabkin replied.

"Well, that's not reassuring to taxpayers," Welch said. "And we need a remedy."

Republicans on the panel appeared hesitant to meddle with the administration's policymaking. Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., said the Welch bill "applies a blunt instrument to a process that requires delicate surgery."

As to the loophole, Davis said: "Once in a while you make a mistake. As we do, I might add, up here."

[?????]

Ha! LOL!

- Bro in Seattle

 
April 16, 2008
Votes: +1

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