Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Uncle Sam: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Every year Tom Coburn puts out a list of the 100 most egregious examples of wasteful government spending. This year, he listed $6.5 billion worth. Let’s look at some of those. Then I’ll show you why our economy has stalled.

While $6.5 billion may sound like a lot, it really isn’t to a government that spends $3 trillion a year. Nevertheless, Coburn’s list is important because it shows our government’s attitude toward our money. And make no mistake, this is our money. When you go to work tomorrow, every hour you work, Uncle Sam is reaching into your pocket to fund these kinds of programs. What kinds of programs? Observe:

● $484,000 for a hippie-themed pizza restaurant in Arlington, Texas. This is part of a national chain called the Mellow Mushroom. Why are we giving money to a private business? And where is Commentarama’s grant dammit?!

● $764,825 to study the mobile phone and social media habits of college freshmen. Huh? Why should anyone pay for this? For one thing, we already know about their habits. Who needs this much money to study something you can look up for free on the net?!! And why does this require federal money at all?

● $136,555 to let a group of English teachers retrace Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in England. W.T.F?!! Why are we paying for some a-holes’ vacations?!

● $175,587 to study how cocaine use affects the mating habits of quail. Yeah, you read that right. Cocaine + bird sex.... brought to you by you the taxpayer!

● A down payment of $130,987 on a million dollar study to determine whether “a dragon-shaped robot can enhance toddlers’ learning skills.” At least they’re not using cocaine this time. And wasn’t that a movie -- The Toddler With The Dragon Shaped Robot?
This stuff is mind-numbing. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry or sign myself up? I want a dragon or a federal-government supported pizza restaurant. Why can’t I have one? Heck, I'd even take a freezer full of blow-fed quail.

And this is just the tip of the largess iceberg. There’s money for a video game preservation center, salaries paid to dead employees, another bridge to nowhere, money to study online dating, money to pack butter, a Hawaiian chocolate festival, to build a magic museum, iPads for kindergarteners, and hundreds of billions of dollars to government employees who do nothing but grind the country to a halt.

I want my tax money back.

And while we’re talking about grinding the country to a halt, check this out. You know how regulations stall an economy just like higher taxes? Sure you do, unless you’re Paul Krugman.

Well guess who’s been burying the economy in regulation? According to George Mason University, the number of “economically significant” regulations being issued has been souring. An “economically significant” regulation, according to the government, is a regulation that imposes at least $100 million in annual costs on the economy. Clinton issued an average of 56 per year. “Conservative” George W. Bush issued on average 62 per year. And now his downgrade-ness is issuing on average 84 per year. Here’s a handy chart:


What this means it that during Clinton’s eight years, he added $44.8 billion in regulations to the economy. Bush added $49.6 billion. And Obama’s already added $25.2 billion in his first three years Add that up and we’re over $100 billion in new regulations in the past couple decades. If you’re a Keynesian, that’s half a trillion in damage to the economy every year. Using Krugman’s stimulus math, that means a loss of around six million jobs!

And keep in mind, these regulations actually cost well more than $100 million, we just don't know how much because that data isn’t available. These could well have been three, four or five times as expensive.

Also this is only the biggest regulations, this doesn’t count the thousands of regulations scored to stay just below the $100 million level. It’s likely those add up to way more than the numbers above. But let’s assume for the sake of argument those smaller regulations total another $100 billion. That’s another six million lost jobs for a total of twelve million lost jobs.

Now this may be purely coincidental, but you might remember that our economy is currently “missing” 15 million jobs over the past decade. Gee, I wonder where they went?

69 comments:

Individualist said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Lesko

You know when you see the commercials from the Mathew Lesko guy with then question marks and you think ....

This is a joke right.....

Nope this is a gub'ment guy

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I almost used his picture for this. He's quite serious with his book.

Just think of how wrong things have gone that people can make a living telling other people how to get the government to pay their way.

Here's your link: LINK

ScyFyterry said...

blow fed quail! LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Terry, It's all fun and games until somebody loses a tax dollar. :(

T-Rav said...

Ooh! Ooh! Guys! I can tell you about college freshmen and their phone habits. They use them All. The. Time. Even during tests. They will have meltdowns if separated from their phones, seriously. There! I just finished the scientists' study all on my own. You government people didn't even need to spend all that money. In fact, I'll only accept half of what you were giving them. So that means I'm entitled to...(pulls out calculator)...$382,412.50. Get in touch with me and I'll tell you where to send the money. See how fair I am?

Goverment, The said...

It is illegal to offer free services to the government Mr. T-Rav. Stay where you are, you are under arrest. The FBI is coming for you once they fill out the requisite paperwork and the environmental impact statement.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, All the time, huh? No one could have guessed that!

You could have just save the government $764,825 if the government wasn't so dang oblivious.

This is the kind of stuff the government simply should not be doing. And until it stops, we will never fix this country because it's letting too many people view the government as a huge piggybank.

AndrewPrice said...

Dear Government, Go away. We don't need you anymore. And get out of my pocket you jerks!

Ed said...

Andrew, One of the reasons I love reading your stuff is the angles you come up with. I saw this same chart in the Wall Street Journal and they never put together how the cumulative effect of the regulations could be killing jobs. That's the real story here. Excellent work!

Individualist said...

$175K for Cocaine Laced Bird Sex

Just another Saturday Night for Charlie Sheen

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ed! I try my best to give you all a different perspective than you see elsewhere. Plus, I like to think about the meaning of things and that leads to these kinds of connections.

In any event, this regulation stuff is interesting and I'd love to see someone do the research all the way back to whenever to see what kind of pattern developes. I'll bet the Great Society is the reason for the 1970s malaise and now Bush/Pelosi/Obama's regulatory binge is the reason for the current Great Recession.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, If I could make a cymbals sound in print, I would. Bravo!

DUQ said...

Andrew, I can't help but feel this country is doomed if this is where our money is going while we're borrowing money from China just to cover the interest on the debt we already can't afford. INSANITY!

Interesting take on the regulations. I wonder if the next President will be able to kick start the economy just be wiping out most of these regulations?

T-Rav said...

Dear Government, You'll never take me alive!

Sincerely, T-Rav

CrispyRice said...

I can't believe my tax dollars are going to this. ARgh!

AndrewPrice said...

That's a good question DUQ. I suspect there is a lot a new President can do right away. For example, all the carbon regulation stuff can be undone on day one. And there is probably a good deal more.

Some of it, however, will need to be done by Congress. The next Congress needs to get to work on repealing stupid laws. (And hopefully, they'll only target the stupid ones, not the ones their donors want repealed.)

On the country being doomed, I'm not as pessimistic, but it does really show how messed up our "leadership class" is that they think this is worthwhile spending while the country is broke. That's like people who complain they can't buy food, but won't give up the cable television.

Government, The said...

Fine by us, we only pretend to care about the public.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Watch out, the government is not to be trusted!

Although let me point out that T-Rav was not offering anything for free, he was in fact still trying to demand $382,412.50 to tell us something we already knew and could look up for free.

Hmm.

T-Rav, sounds like you have an excellent career waiting for you either as a government employee or a scam artist. :)

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, Yep. And making it worse, as was pointed out, we're borrowing money from China to be able to spend money on these "programs." Nice huh?

ArmChairGeneral said...

WOW!

AndrewPrice said...

Government, I suspected you didn't really care about us. We are not shocked.

In any event see my comment about T-Rav above, he's innocent... sort of.

AndrewPrice said...

ACG, I take it this surprises you?

Ed said...

Andrew, For us non-lawyers, what's the difference between Congress and the White House on this?

T-Rav said...

Old story that bears repeating:

A rancher out in Wyoming was tending his herd one day when a sleek new car drove up. A young man in a suit jumped out and said to him, "Hey old man, are those your animals out there?" "Sure are." "Tell you what, if I can guess exactly how many of them are in that field, can I have one of your sheep?" The rancher thinks it over for a minute and says, "Sure."

The young man went back to his car, pulled out his laptop and GPS, and brought up a Google Earth image of the place. Next he had his computer do a head count of everything in the field, and then proudly told the rancher, "There's exactly 278 animals out there." "You're right!" said the rancher. "Guess you get one of my sheep."

The young man went out, grabbed one of the beasts, tied it up with some rope, and began stuffing it in the back seat of his car. As he was about to leave, the rancher asked him, "Hey, if I can guess exactly what line of work you're in, can I have that critter back?" "Sure," the man replied.

"Well," said the rancher, "I'm guessing you work for the federal government." The man was amazed and asked, "You're right! How did you know?" "Because," said the rancher, "you came up here uninvited, told me something I already knew, demanded payment for a service I never asked for, and those aren't sheep, those are cattle. Now give me back my dog."

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, Here's the process in a nutshell...

Congress passes laws.

The President makes regulations to enforce those laws.

The Courts decide if the President overstepped (or understepped) his bounds.

The President can change the regulations without an act of Congress, but the new regulations must be within the law initially passed.

So President Next can decide to change all of Obama's regulations on the theory that Obama misinterpreted the statues. BUT the courts will get involved to examine the new regs and can change things if the President either goes beyond what the law allows OR fails to include things the law requires.

Thus, for example, the next President can undo Obama's carbon regs because Obama made those up out of whole cloth. But they couldn't undo the Clean Air Act generally or it's more well-established provisions. That would require a change from Congress.

Where the exact line is is difficult to tell, but it is there. And in this day and age where so much power is given to the Executive, the next President could change A LOT if they have the nerve.

Also, fyi, some things aren't up the President. For example, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in such a way that it is being created by the courts... seriously, it included vague standards and lets the courts fill those in (those kinds of laws used to be considered unconstitutional). To fix that would require Congress chaging the statute.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, That is an oldie, but it's also brilliant! And it's devastatingly accurate too. Thanks for reminding me! :)


And lest we forget, this government we joke about is the same government that now wants to take over our healthcare. Arg.

T-Rav said...

That's right, I'm--mostly--innocent.

By the way, in your explanation to Ed, I momentarily read "President Next" as "President Newt." Not that I'm implying anything with that statement.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Nope, didn't mean Newt at all. In fact, I was trying to figure out which one to use and I lacked inspiration for a cool choice, so I chose Next.

Mostly innocent. You should put that on your business cards!

T-Rav
Master and Emperor of All Sockpuppets
Knower of College Student Phone Habits
Mostly Innocent

Ed said...

Andrew, Thanks for the explanation, that makes sense. Which candidate do you think is most likely to make these kinds of changes?

AndrewPrice said...

You're welcome Ed. Which candidate? Good question.

I think Newt and Paul would be the most likely to delve into the regulations. Paul would wipe out the most. Newt would revise the most to make the laws work the way he thinks is best. I think Romney would wait for Darrel Issa to tell him what to change. Perry will make changes as his donors ask for them. I don't think the rest care.

Tennessee Jed said...

I'm just so darned glad to see my tax dollars at work. Seriously, I'll add my kudos to the others for a very nice article. There is no question the whole regulatory piece gets into a mystical muddy cess pool, although one can almost always figure there will be bureaucrats who will be hard to fire.

Nor do I deny there is a real place for some regulatory oversite by government concerning industry. But usually, so much of it is overkill. My first experience was with O.S.H.A. and I remember a great cartoon of the O.S.H.A. cowboy showing that however well meaning, saw much of the regulations were expensive waste. I also assume a lot of these foolish little projects are good old fashioned congressional pork from both parties.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Jed. Yeah, it kind of does you proud to see your tax dollars doing such great things, doesn't it?


On regulations, I'm a firm believer that government regulation is required where the market doesn't work properly for some reason. For example, where there is a massive imbalance of power between consumers and business or employees and a business or even between an oligopoly or monopoly and the other businesses, or where people have no incentive to do the right thing because others will bear the costs.

BUT...

That's a far cry from what we have today where the government regulates every little complaint anyone raises.

There simply is no legitimate reason for our government to be out there making this many rules in all facets of our lives and for the government to be trying to protect us from ourselves.

I would like to see someone reputable (and disinterested, i.e. not supported by lobbyists) go through the regulatory code and flag all the stuff that just doesn't serve any purpose except stifle competition or offer people protection from things they don't need protection from. Those should then be scrubbed en mass.

Then I'd like to see real science dictate used to back up regulations on things like food safety, clean air, etc. Tell us what we need to do to achieve the goals we should be achieving, not some impossible goal of zero pollution or some under-regulated goal of pollute all you want. What are we really trying to do and what's the best way to get there.

Right now, we do none of that. Instead, we just toss on regulations at will and remove them when enough money gets paid by lobbyists. That a horrible system that bogs the economy down needlessly and still leaves people open to serious harm.

That needs to change.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. OSHA is a classic example of insanity and overreach. It's one thing to worry about poison gas killing employees at a chemical plant, it's another to worry about how hot the coffee is in the break room or if the employees chairs are causing back sprain. Those things fix themselves, the chemical plant won't.

LawHawkRFD said...

Omigod! We're broke! How could this have happened?

AndrewPrice said...

It just kind of happened. No one can explain it.

rlaWTX said...

My sorta stats prof this semester began the semester with a discussion about "what is science?", a subject that I thought we had all become familiar with by the 5th grade - but still took 3 class periods (GRADUATE LEVEL!!!). Anyway, in the course of the lecture series he brought up funding of research (disclaimer: we are not a big school, nor are we floating in research dollars; and he hasn't been at a big research school since getting his degree in 1972 at Berkley) and how that this is a big and important question. Short version was that the govt is short-sighted when the money-watchers make a big deal out of projects like the sex-ed of coked-up tweety birds, because applied research needs that pure research to do its application. And if the dumb politicians had known better they would have known that that bridge-to-nowhere actually had a purpose: their island was too small or something --- but I'm afraid I stopped listening somewhere in there so that's a bit garbled. Sorry.
This will be my thesis advisor probably, so I tried to appear riveted and quietly wrote my to-do and grocery lists.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, thanks for that take on the candidates and how they would handle regulation. I think I just got more depressed.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, "coked-up tweety birds"! LOL! Nicely put!

This idea of "pure research" versus commecial research is a long time leftist canard. They claim that no business will do science for the sake of science because you can't commercialize most science. Thus, the only way to advance science is for the government to "sponsor" it.

A simple look at the world blows this theory out of the water. 99.9% of all research is done for profit. In fact, the only advance I can think of right now which was government-created is the atomic bomb and maybe a few additional military ideas. But even those are largely incorporating commercial technology these days.

Take the colleges kids v. cell phones study. That sounds like something no one would do right? Well, no. Morgan Stanley did just such a study a couple years back so they could figure out if it was worth investing in things like Twitter.

On the bird-coke thing, I have no idea why they're doing that. But if it's a question of how cocaine affects nervous systems then I can assure you drug companies have already done it. And if it is just scientific curiosity then it's a waste because it's testing something that will never happen -- birds can't buy coke because they don't have enough money.

In any event, this is something the left has whined about for decades and it's just not true. Commercial companies trying to make evil profit are the driving force behind all technology and they do "pure" research all the time because they thnk it will help them make money.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Sorry. :(

I need to come up with something to cheer everybody up before our X-mas vacation. Hmmm.

Maybe a sing-a-long?

Obama is great... mmm mmm mmm Obama,
Obama's a great President...mmm mmm yo mama,
Obama sucks eggs... mmm mmm the White House needs a new resident."

All together now! :)

T-Rav said...

rla, sounds like he and a few of my professors would have gotten along. Good grief.

I look at this "research funding" as a smaller-scale and more ridiculous example of the money shoveled out on funding for larger special interests (i.e. ethanol). You can certainly make a case (most of the time) for why the money in a particular instance is going to a good cause or being put to a good use, blah blah blah. And who knows, maybe research on coked-up bird sex will turn out to have some "real-world applications," as they say. But the fact remains that we are in the red, we need to do some major spending cuts, and we have to be willing to look at EVERYTHING. Even if you can argue that the money is being well-spent somewhere, that doesn't mean it has to continue being spent. Sometimes you just have to cut stuff, regardless of what it's doing.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Very true. Just because a case can be made that money is well spent:

1. does not mean that is the best use for the money,
2. does not mean you can afford to spend the money,
3. does not mean the government should (or has the right) to spend this money.

I can make a great case for handing me a trillion dollars and letting me spend it to make people happy, but that doesn't justify the government actually cutting me the check.

Also, consider this, if something really is worth doing, then in almost all instances, someone would be willing to pay for it. Take the bird sex thing. If it has a real-world application, then whoever could benefit from that would happily pay for it. And if it doesn't benefit anyone then why are we doing it? That's like building a one mile unconnected stretch of road in the middle of nowhere.

The problem with what this guy is saying is that he's using an old leftist approach to justify endless funding which is little more than bait and switch.

First, he separates science into (evil) "commercial" science and "pure" science. Pure science is defined by him as research that has no economic value, so no one is willing to fund it.... hence, it needs government funding.

Then, to justify the spending, he claims that while this has no commercial value (by definition) it still will be highly valuable to humanity as a whole to get this research done because it will benefit lot of people.

But that's the bait and switch. He's trying to justify the research by claiming it has value but then justify the government doing it by claiming it has no value. It's doublespeak. IF it will benefit people, then it can be commercialized.

In reality, what he's doing is arguing that we should research things with no actually value and he doesn't want to admit that it has no value or even the government won't fund it. So he lies.

tryanmax said...

Can I get a government grant to study the effects of cocaine on my mating habits? Sounds like the next best thing to being a Hollywood movie star.

AndrewPrice said...

You've have to ask Matthew Lesko, but honestly, it wouldn't surprise me if there was just such a study going on somewhere.

tryanmax said...

Score! BTW, the Maserati, the Jay Kos, and the hookers are all research expenditures.

AndrewPrice said...

That goes without saying. ;)

Doc Whoa said...

I really want to know how people get money for these things and how I can get in on this action?

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, You could asked Lesko, but the wikipedia page is kind of interesting, it suggests that his book a misleading if not a bit fraudulent.

I think your better bet is to bribe a Congressman.

Mathew Lesko said...

Hey everyone

You know better than to trust what you read on Wikipedia....

anyone can edit those aritcles...

Hey how would you like to know how to get a grant for $34,568 to a blog dedicated to combating people getting grants from the government

AndrewPrice said...

I would be very interested in that Mr. Lesko, tell me how to make money blogging to stop you! LOL!

Ed said...

Andrew, Have you ever checked to see if someone like CATO or Heritage has done that?

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I've never seen anything on that scale. They will discuss various bills that are in the news and sometimes their specialists will discuss something specific, but I've never seen anything systematic.

Speaking of bills, I've been reading about the latest internet seizure bill being crafted by the Republicans and Democrats -- SOFA. This this is bad news. Why is it that the only thing our government can do are the things it shouldn't do?

tryanmax said...

I hope you are planning an article on SOFA. One with lots of links, perhaps?

AndrewPrice said...

Yeah, I'll do one in January.... and I'll make sure to attach links to as much copyrighted material as I can find. Maybe I'll just turn the whole article into a torrent?

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. Oops, typo. It's SOPA, not SOFA: the Stop Online Piracy Act.

tryanmax said...

I was thinking more along the lines of linking to the proposed bill and related materials, all public domain stuff.

tryanmax said...

LOLZ, btw. I totally got the joke.

For one who needs so much validation, you'd think I'd be better and giving it back. But that isn't how codependency works.

AndrewPrice said...

Ohhhh. Sure, that's what I meant.

//wink wink

Don't worry, I'll hook you up!

AndrewPrice said...

Actually, in all seriousness, this is a very dangerous bill. I'll explain it all in January (we're about to take a week off).

But basically, it lets people who claim their copyrighted material is being used without permission (even in something like the comments sections) shut down websites including their ability to do things like collect money from credit cards.

That means places like Amazon are in danger if someone posts copyrighted material in their comments pages.

tryanmax said...

Oh, but that will never happen. The SOPA only has the best intentions, I'm sure.

What's that?

...

The road to where is paved with "good intentions"?

...

Oh, I'm sure you must mean "Heaven."

...

Okay, stop saying that or we'll shut your site down.






Yeah, that's what I thought.

tryanmax said...

Okay, I'm out to watch Finnish Christmas movies, now.

T-Rav said...

All you need to know about SOPA is that Adam Savage has declared his opposition to it. And the MythBusters are never wrong; therefore, SOPA is bad.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I'm not even sure there are good intentions here, just pure power politics.

And yeah, the argument they are using is that this will only be used against "bad people" like Chinese pirates. Of course, it's written MUCH broader than that, but that's the standard lie to make people accept an abuse of power... we'll only use it against the right people.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, The list of opponents is a who's who of humanity (left and right) and the list of supporters is a who's who of Hollywood and record company types, law firms, and a handful of huge companies who favored net neutrality. Guess which group our bi-partisan Congress is listening to?

StanH said...

Just remember folks to keep those cards and letters coming, millions on welfare depend on it!

Writer X said...

Why anyone would want to give one more penny in taxes is beyond me. Depressing. Coburn should be skywriting these examples. Instead we get more photos of Obama with a pizza box.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, And don't forget to get back to work too, millions of malingerers are relying on your tax dollars.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, You must be one of them there Republicans who thinks people shouldn't be forced into slave labor to pay for the terminally lazy! ;)

tryanmax said...

The more I think about it, the more dangerous it seems. I do have some knowledge of copyright law thanks to my work. For the most part, such laws are toothless, providing little more than grounds for one party to sue another for infringement.

The ability to shut down a website over a mere claim of infringement changes copyright law from a sturgeon into a great white.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, It's even worse than you think. Google, for example, can get shut down for linking to "illegal content." That's how they shut down a lot of torrent sites, and this bill is even more expansive.

In fact, if you run picture searches on Google, you will often see a line at the bottom of the page that certain results were excluded because of the Digital Millenium Act.

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