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2012 January 08 Sunday
Sam Brownback Kills A Kansas Arts Commission

One small parasitic agency bites the dust.

Brownback defied even the GOP-led state legislature in cutting funding for the arts, which left Kansas as the only state without a state-funded arts commission.

Really, governments should not be funding arts commissions. Arts commissions along with many other little parasites grow on governments. Agencies. Advisory boards. Commissions. Since we are now in an era of slow growth (at best) we need frugality.

What would help: A web site which lists a large assortment of things some governments do with columns by federal, state, and local government. Checks on each cell could indicate which governments fund various things. Hover over or click thru on a cell to find out how much gets spent for each purpose.

What has amazed and educated me about the long-running California budget crisis is just how long the crisis has had to run to get some forms of waste cut. In a period of deep crisis the money funneled to subsidize developers doing stuff like refurbishing arts centers and theaters and other public works projects has been hard to cut back. The forces for waste are quite powerful.

Plus, even with staffing on core functions (prisons, police, teachers - all with bloated cost per employee due to public sector unions) getting cut new forms of waste are popping up. Notable case in point: The costs of a dubious California high speed rail project started at around $25 billion to to more than $40 billion to more than double to nearly $100 billion. The numbers are now close to other high speed rail projects per kilometer but could go higher. Only 2 high speed rail lines in the whole world turn a profit. Yet this doesn't dissuade either Governor Jerry Brown or the California legislature. Government has a strong bias toward wasting money.

By Randall Parker    2012 January 08 11:40 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2009 May 09 Saturday
On Government Spending Relabeled As Investment

Republicans should organize a sustained attack on Obama's investment trope.

Republicans can start by taking the time to read the first Obama budget document, "A New Era of Responsibility." The word "investment" occurs over 140 times in its 142 pages. But this "investment" isn't private capital invested in private start-ups, what Mr. Kemp constantly called "entrepreneurial capitalism" and what most parents hope their children will join. Mr. Obama's document genuflects to "the market economy," then argues that it won't endure unless we "sacrifice" (through tax increases) to make "overdue investments" (which literally only means public spending) on four explicit goals: green energy, infrastructure, public health care, and education.

If the Republicans want to formulate an effective response to the Democratic Party's big spending splurge then one part of their response should involve very empirically based attack on the social investment rhetoric that Obama uses. Does spending on each of these favored areas of the Democrats really increase economic growth? What are the Democrats spending on? What's the ROI of each area?

Start by looking at those spending plans that are most obviously stupid. The huge Obama budget has items which are pure pork waste. Build up a list. Then take items that require more economic analysis and get more libertarian economists to do analyses. Come up with models of how much Obama's plans will lower economic growth in the long run by displacing more productive private investment.

By Randall Parker    2009 May 09 08:12 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2006 November 26 Sunday
Democrats Oppose Pelosi On Earmarks Restraints

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the incoming House Speaker, campaigned against the moral failings of Republicans citing the growth of earmarks where individual Congressional Representatives and Senators put language into legislation directing money to specific projects in their districts. But the incoming Democrat chairmen of House and Senate appropriations committees and subcommittees and ranking members form a united front against restraints on earmarks. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Meet the new cardinals, as the chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees are known on Capitol Hill. Many have a lot in common with the Republicans they will succeed.

All have worked for years to climb to their posts, where the authority to grant earmarks puts them among the most powerful lawmakers in Congress. Like Mr. Inouye and Mr. Stevens, many have developed unusual bipartisan camaraderie while divvying up projects. By longstanding, informal agreement, the majority typically doles out about 60 percent of the money for earmarks and lets the minority pass out the rest. And they form a united front against limitations on the earmark process.

“What is good for the goose is good for the gander,” Senator Patty Murray, the Washington Democrat who is set to become chairwoman of the transportation subcommittee, said last fall in a speech defending an Alaska Republican’s allocation of more than $200 million in federal money for a bridge to remote Gravina, Alaska, with a population of 50. It became notorious as the “Bridge to Nowhere.”

“I tell my colleagues, if we start cutting funding for individual projects, your project may be next,” Ms. Murray warned. To anyone who might vote against the bridge, Ms. Murray threatened that her subcommittee would be “taking a long, serious look at their projects.” Every Democrat on the Appropriations Committee voted against an amendment to strike the bridge, and after threats from Ms. Murray and Mr. Stevens, only 15 senators voted for the amendment. The bridge’s future is unclear.

89 year old legendary pork barreller Robert Byrd of West Virginia will be chairman if the Senate Appropriations Committee. The New York Times article lists some of the Coast Guard facilities he's located in his landlocked state. The article is full of other examples of the shameless Democrats who are taking over the reins of power.

Powerful Senate Democrat Tom Harkin says earmarks are just the natural result of Congress critters doing their constitutionally mandated job.

“I happen to be a supporter of earmarks, unabashedly,” said Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, the Democrat set to become chairman of the appropriations subcommittee for labor, health and human services. “But I don’t call them earmarks. It is ‘Congressional directed funding.’ ”

The full article gives a better sense of just how much the new guard is really just the old guard but with a different party affiliation. Different people will receive bribes and hand out money. The substantive changes will be small.

The Republican leaders bribed individual lawmakers with earmarks in order to get them to vote for lower overall spending. This seemingly virtuous use of a tainted practice is not acceptable to Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington State. She wants her colleagues to be able to get earmarks without having to agree to less unearmarked spending.

Ms. Murray, the Washington Democrat, proudly told the New York Times her party would take a less political approach to earmarks than the Republicans did. She said Republicans had bribed lawmakers with earmarks to persuade them to vote for barebones domestic spending bills. “They stuffed them with earmarks to buy votes,” she said. “We are not going to do that.”

Think about that. She wants to be able to take your money and spend more of it without having to give up other ways to spend it. As a consequence she probably fancies herself a virtuous reformer. When I was a kid I was taught to look up to our leaders. I can't imagine why.

By Randall Parker    2006 November 26 04:33 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
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