Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Wasteful spending in context

Here is a fine example of why I think groups like Citizens Against Government Waste are a joke.
The CAGW has just released its annual “Pork Report” in which it breathlessly reports that "Congress stuffed 11,610 projects" worth $17.2 billion into a dozen spending bills.”
The fact that they had to comb through more than 11,000 projects and they only come up with $17.2 billion is telling. We spend more than that in less than two months in Iraq. These people aren’t fighting waste! They are finding some left over pocket change under the sofa cushions. Big deal!!

The GAO report should put those people to shame. The GAO did not question the need for any of the 95 weapons systems it looked at. It did not question the bloated costs of any of these programs. All it did was look at cost overruns — money above and beyond the initial pricetags which you know are already inflated — and here is what they found:

The Government Accountability Office found that 95 major systems have exceeded their original budgets by a total of $295 billion, bringing their total cost to $1.6 trillion, and are delivered almost two years late on average.

$295 billion!!! Compared to $17.2 billion for 11,610 programs most of which are probably easily defensible as needed or necessary spending. The $295 billion is not for any programs. Zero!! We don’t get squat for this money. It is simply cost overruns. Bad management. Incompetence. The hallmark of the Bush administration, and Republican policy in general. At least with the $17.2 billion in so-called pork barrell projects we will get a lot of roads and bridges and museums and so forth.

And the $295 billion pales in comparison to the estimated costs of the Iraq debacle, now coming close to $5 trillion.

Next week, the Iraq war enters its sixth year. As casualties mount (about 4,000 American soldiers killed since the start of the war in March 2003), so do the bills.
"The cost is going up every month," says Linda Bilmes, an expert at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. She estimates the short-term, "running cost" has reached $12.5 billion a month. That's up from $4.4 billion a month in 2003. Add in long-term factors, such as the care of veterans and interest on federal debt incurred as a result of the war, and the cost piles up to $25 billion a month nowadays.
Last September in a phone interview, Ms. Bilmes estimated the war's total price tag as easily exceeding $2 trillion. In a book published last month, she and Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist from Columbia University, New York, estimated the total long-run cost at $3 trillion in 2007 valued dollars. If you add in Afghanistan and various costs to the economy, the sum reaches $4.95 trillion.

From now on, whenever I hear any Republican complain about paying taxes my standard response will be, “Yeah, paying for Bush’s war is a pain, isn’t it?”
Because, after all, that is what every last one of our tax dollars is going to go towards for the rest of our natural lives.

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