The latest estimate of what health-care reform would mean for the government’s finances was such a hot document Thursday that at times the Congressional Budget Office’s Web site couldn’t handle the traffic.
But as much as the 25-page “score” of the legislation was treated as holy writ in Washington — Democrats eagerly flagged its conclusion that the package they aim to pass this weekend would cut the deficit by $138 billion over the coming decade — the reality is considerably messier.
Budget experts generally have high praise for the work of CBO analysts, the non-ideological technocrats who crunch the numbers to estimate the fiscal impact of legislation. But their work is often more art than science, and although the forecasts that accompany legislation are always filled with uncertainty, this one contains more than most.
One major reason is the sheer complexity of the legislation. If Congress were considering, say, a 20-cent increase in the gasoline tax, the CBO could easily analyze how that would affect gas consumption and do some simple math to calculate how much money it would raise. The same goes for figuring out the cost of legislation that offers a new benefit, such as an expansion of food stamps.
The Wall Street Journal reports that when lawmakers receive per-diem money for official travel, it’s typical for them to pocket the leftover cash instead of returning it to the Treasury—that, or they spend it on gifts and souvenirs:
When lawmakers travel overseas on official business they are given up to $250 a day in taxpayer funds to cover meals and expenses. Congressional rules say they must return any leftover cash to the government.
They usually don’t.
…”There’s a tacit understanding that if lawmakers don’t spend the money, they get to keep it,” said Rep. Sue Kelly, a New York Republican who was defeated in 2006.
…Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.) said he once bought marble goblets in the Kabul airport as gifts for constituents. Rep. Mark Souder (R., Ind.) said he dipped into his funds to buy a $200 painting of an estuary in Turkey, which hung in his office for a while and was now in his house.
This is not a lot of money when you consider the trillions of dollars that make up the federal budget. But the concept that it might be innapropriate to spend taxpayer money for personal reasons seems to be completely lost on our elected officials.
And here’s the real kicker: When asked about taxpayer money he uses for non-official purposes, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla) replied, “I’m a generous spirit and a courteous spirit. I stand accused.”
Yes, Mr. Hastings, it certainly is easy to be generous when you’re spending other people’s money.
We all know the government is spending freely…. but do we really understand how much? Can we truly put things into proportion? I hope this video helps do just that.
H/T: Jason Pye
Dr. Paul, once again, outlines the real culprits of the current economic crisis, and points to the real solutions- less government, lower taxes, decreased spending, the end of devaluing the dollar.
H/T: Matt Chancey
Quotes from Andrew Malcolm’s take on this video:
Here’s how silly Ron Paul is: He set a budget for his campaign and lived within it. Flew commercial.In fact, he ended with no deficit, which is how he thinks the federal government should operate. In point of fact, Paul ended his campaign with a surplus. Can you imagine anything so silly in this day and age?
Paul warned all during his campaign about a looming economic disaster if government just kept growing and growing and printing more money like Republicans and Democrats wanted.
Dr. Paul discusses the spending bill and the credibility of the Republican Pary with Bill Maher, and argues that regulation and spending has created this crisis, not the free market.
House Minority Whips, Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy, put together a quick, fun little video about the recently passed spendulous package.
Peter Schiff explains that we need to stimulate savings and production that the stimulus bill well depress that, making the situation worse. A severe recession is the price that must be paid for years of reckless borrowing and spending.
This is a great video follow up to the full-page ad CATO published listing hundreds of economists who don’t believe that a “stimulus package” is the best option for American taxpayers.