Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shop Till We Drop


As always, you can click the cartoon for larger size

It's that time of year when many Americans are wrapping up their desperate Christmas bargain-hunting, wondering if they'll be able to cover the bills when they arrive, and putting a little extra rum in the egg nog to help cope with their worries about making ends meet in 2012.

Except in Washington DC, of course, where our legislators are still spending like drunken sailors who even other drunken sailors would describe as being really stupendously bad with money.

Which is what makes "Wastebook" such painfully amusing reading. "Wastebook" is Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn's annual breakdown of absolutely ludicrous government expenditures, and this year he quickly found $6.5 billion in screwy spending that Barack Obama, Congress, and the superdupercommittee chose to ignore.


In his report, you'll find all the examples cited in the cartoon (except "D") and many more. Did you know you're funding the "Oregon Cheese Trail" and paying to create Horse-Drawn Carriage Exhibits? And to encourage broadband Internet use in "under-served communities," the government is paying to create specially targeted online soap operas so minorities will watch their computers instead of their TVs. Are you kept awake nights wondering if cocaine will cause Japanese quail to engage in high-risk sex? Good news! The government is funding a study on that very topic!

iPads for kindergartners? Why not! A "First Lady's Organic Garden" game to fight obesity? What a terrific idea! Studies of smoking amongst University students... in Jordan... who only smoke hookahs? Money well spent! $300,000 to fund interpretive dancing "to facilitate dialogue on the physics and origin of the universe?" A bargain at twice the price!

While the report (which you can download as a PDF right here) initially makes for some pretty funny reading, the joke wears pretty thin as Coburn documents page after page after page of idiotic expenditures which make a mockery of politician's claims to be careful (or even mentally competent) stewards of our money.

As much as we like to sum up the day's commentary with an original punchline here at Hope n' Change, there's no way we could beat the one that Senator Coburn came up with. Citing the fact that Congress (quite justifiably) has an approval rating of only 9%, he says "perhaps there was no bigger waste of the taxpayer's money in 2011 than Congress itself."

Now that's on the money.


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This $300,000 dance didn't really explain "the origin of the universe,"
but it gave us a MUCH clearer understanding of fiscal black holes.

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24 comments:

Angry Hoosier Dad said...

The trick was getting the American people to believe there was nothing they could do to change the way that Washington worked. Once they accomplished that, well...it was just a happy snowboard ride down a mountain of money.

pinkertonjamesl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Emmentaler Limburger said...

@Stilt: That post above is SPAM. WordPress automatically whacks 'em. Wonder why Blogger doesn't?

@AHD: They've never accomplished that. "We" don't believe that there is no way to change how Washington works; THEY, the Denizens of the Beltway do. As Henry Ford once aptly opined: "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right."

In terms of changing the way things are done, the first step is to vote as many of the entrenched politicians as we can out of there, and get those who BELIEVE they can change the way things are done. Just the act of bouncing all the morons that don't have a bloody clue will (should) give those left behind the hint so that they at least play along to save their seats. Next, those we put in need to go with the mandate of implementing term limits, and session limits - get Congress back on the track the Founders intended: common citizens serving for a limited time, addressing only those things necessary to preserve and maintain THE UNION rather than usurping our liberties and our positions while preserving their electability.Of course, too, there must be the dismantling of all the perks that make it so attractive as a career position:

• the ability to legislate for the rabble while exempting themselves
• the ability to perform "insider trades" in the financial markets
• The dismantling of the welfare state in total, eliminating the "easy 50%" for those who continuously prop it up
• the dismantling of all of the "agencies" that have cropped up since the late 19th century, removing the ability of Congress (and the President) to anonymously create regulations in he background, preventing the electorate from "pinning the crime" on them directly (though Presidents have been more blatant in this act, Congress has been guilty as well)

Do I expect to ever see this? Though I harbor high hopes for the next cycle, I frankly think we're long past the so-called "tipping point". Politicians as a whole are too cowardly to make such sweeping change, and I have so little faith in them as a whole that I believe that those who suggest similar "controversial" actions do so in the safety of knowing "the rest of them" will never let it happen - Ron Paul included. And a huge swath of the electorate are either beneficiaries of the target policies, actively desirous of the destruction of our liberties, deluded into believing they are "helping the poor", or are Union members incapable of thinking for themselves and following the direction of their leadership - of course, I repeat myself. That last group is included in the first two.

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@Angry Hoosier Dad- Moreover, too many voters are in favor of their own representatives bringing home pork, while claiming to want it reduced everywhere else. The politicians are able to play that hypocrisy like a Stradivarius.

@Emmentaler- I'll nuke the last remnants of the spam message later, but wanted to leave a placeholder so it didn't look like you were pointing an accusing finger at Angry Hoosier Dad (grin).

Regarding the far more important matters of spending and legislation, I agree with all of your points- including (unfortunately) the nagging suspicion that it may already be too late to enact the changes necessary to prevent disaster. Still, I've got to believe that 2012's elections can offer a vital first step towards making the future somewhat better than it would otherwise be.

Pete(Detroit) said...

Emmentaller - Brilliant
Also what needs to happen is 'grass roots revolt' in teh party itself. Time long since past to get the smug, self righteous 'student council' types the hell to the curb, so we can GET "real" candidates nominated and supported, not just party policy wonks who sell their souls for the party line.
Or, rather, we put a fundamental change on the party line they sell their souls to...

Emmentaler Limburger said...

@Pete: Aren't all us Dudes from The D supposed to be brilliant? Excluding Kwame, of course. OK, and Conyers. Alright, also excluding Young, the Levin brothers, Dingell...

Shoot. I retract my original premise.

Mike Porter said...

Q: What do you call a bass player without a girlfriend?

A: Homeless.

So America is the girlfriend and Washington is our freeloading house guest, laying around all day watching our television, smoking our cigarettes and drinking our beer. Always gassing out orders between promises of greener pastures - if only we hang in there until the 'big break' arrives. But we know better. This bum is nowheresville squared - doesn't pay any bills but has no trouble spending our money everywhere else, on everything else, and always 'needing' more. The above joke is from my now long gone band days, where I learned that some people could be the epitome of excellence at one thing, but completely suck at just about everything else (just ask their girlfriends). So in the spirit of today's post, here is an old joke adjusted to fit the present context:

Q: What do you call a government entity without funding?

A: Damn near perfect.

John the Econ said...

These boondoggles are chump change compared to the real thieves - nearly everyone. The unfunded liabilities that are Social Security, Medicare, government employee pensions, and eventually ObamaCare are what will ultimately bankrupt us.

A prime example of this fraud is the current political theater taking place over the "Payroll Tax Cut". They can't call it an "income tax" cut because it's not. It's a cut of your contribution to Social Security, which is already insolvent. The problem for Democrats is that it's not possible to cut $1000 in taxes for "ordinary" Americans when nearly half of them don't even pay income taxes. Most of an honest "income tax cut" would end up going to the evil "rich" who are already paying most of the income tax. So instead, they'll rob it from Social Security, and worry about it later. Or actually, they won't worry about it later since we're now living in the post-budget age, where budgets are just political liabilities and so we'll just spend money on boondoggles and forget about the pretense of budgeting for them.

And to the gutless Republicans: Will not at least one of them question at least one Democrat as to why this particular "tax cut" doesn't have to be "paid for" like they demand that every other one be?

Anonymous said...

@John the Econ: You mention social security and how it is pretty much screwed and is taking all of us with it. You are, of course, correct. One of the arguments I always hear out of the "Save Social Security" Crowd is "I want back what I paid in!" So I can't help but wonder, what if Congress passed a measure that said essentially that. You will get back exactly what you paid in. No more. No interest either. Any interest will be fed back into the Social Security fund to pay back all the money stolen over the years. (Of course the assumption is Congress will, at the same time, stop taking additional monies from social security.) Unfair you say? You deserve interest you say? You trusted the government to setup a retirement fund for you. The interest is the price of stupid.

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@Pete(Detroit)- I think you're describing the Tea Party, and I'm looking forward to seeing it get up on its haunches and ROAR this coming year. I've been reading that Boehner can't control the Tea Party types, and they're pushing their policies hard and are unwilling to budge. To which I say, "Amen!"

@Emmentaler- Yes, when you actually start clearing out the "non-brilliant" Dems, you find you're left with pretty slim pickings.

@Mike Porter- Great analogy; the freeloading bum who believes he's paying his keep by making promises based on his "big dreams."

And your musician joke reminded me of another favorite of mine...

Q: What does it mean when a band's drummer is drooling out of both sides of his mouth?
A: The stage is level.

@John the Econ- Unquestionably the amounts cited in the "Wastebook" report are chump change compared to the real financial horrors - but that's also part of the reason they sail through Congress; when you're squandering billions and trillions, what's a few million here or there?

And I couldn't agree more about the phony baloney "middle class tax cut" which is really just defunding Social Security at the worst possible time. Why don't the Dems just drop any pretense of integrity and say "We'll buy your vote with $1000 that we'll steal from your grandkids."

@Anonymous (immediately above)- Geez, I'd jump on that "get back what you put in" deal in a heartbeat. Only the money has all been stolen, and there's nothing to "give back" with interest, without interest, or in any other way.

I'd like a high-profile politician to just be honest with the American people and say "Everything has been stolen, and the men and women in Washington DC are the thieves. We can't give you what we promised, or give you back what you put in, because every cent is gone - now deal with it."

And just MAYBE if people got pissed about Washington DC stealing "lockbox" funds, they might actually start getting annoyed about the fact that the Dems haven't submitted a budget in years.

Anonymous said...

@Stilton: You are correct. There is nothing in the Social Security fund, but I suppose, theoretically, if Congress stopped taking money out of it, and the fund did not pay out more to recipients than they paid in, you MAY have a chance to get it solvent again or at least start phasing it out.

That is a lot of ifs though. And if pigs had wings they would fly...

pryorguy said...

Mike Porter, being the musician from wayyy back when,(and still am), that description of a picker is dead on!!!
Great posts again today, guys...glad Im not alone in my frustration at the way things are going! And, today, Congress is at another 'impasse' as the Dems and GOP are at opposite ends of the spectrum again. Didn't we just do this couple months ago? Ohhh, it's down to the wire again!!!
Im acquainted with Sen Coburn here in Oklahoma, think a lot of him. He was here speaking at a meeting little while back, said he thinks we need to just "throw the bums out!"

Angry Hoosier Dad said...

Stilton:
It is true that most people hate politicians but like their own representatives. It is this idiocy that keeps putting scoundrels back in office and this reason why I support term limits for every stinking one of them. Just take the ignorant voter out of the equation at some point. Can they be replaced by more greedy scum? Yes, but at least they will be new and improved greedy scum with a set limit on how much damage they can do. Also, once you get the electorate in the habit of voting for new faces, they may find they enjoy the experience and actually look forward to cleaning house from time to time.

Suzy said...

I just have to say that I still read every comic, Stilt, but these days the news is so horrifying that I am speechless when it comes to witty or intelligent replies...so I just...read and weep. :-) I've even lost all will to follow the news on the primaries...its just become a horrible circus. The comic today is hilarious...in a really sad and pathetic way...

John the Econ said...

I have to differ with @Mike Porter's analogy. For one thing, at least the stupid girlfriend invites the player in. I never asked the government to borrow over a half-million dollars in my name to spend on crap. Also, the girlfriend has the option of kicking the lousy player out when she tires of him. I get no such option.

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@Anonymous (five above)- Sadly, the only way the government could do the "pay back what you put in" plan is to cut off benefits for young people and still make them pay to reimburse the older people. So the question for politicians is: shall we screw the people who will die soon, or the people who will be voting for a long, long time?

And in case you think this question is hypothetical, look at the ways Obamacare will soon be thinning the grey-haired herd...

@Pryorguy- I think we're all getting sick of the threats of a "government shutdown," especially since A) they never happen and B) we'd desperately LIKE the freakin' government to shut down for awhile.

@Angry Hoosier Dad- I like the idea of "taking the ignorant voter out of equation at some point," but we'd have the devil's own time making it happen (especially since so many on the Left and in mainstream media take it as a given that Tea Party types are "ignorant voters"). But perhaps a little of that ignorance could be chipped away if the truth about misspent money and government lies was more broadly reported.

@Suzy- Astoundingly enough, "Hilarious in a really sad and pathetic way" is the motto on my business card! But in all seriousness, it does get hard to watch the news and then make the attempt to find either humor or hope in it. Mind you, I'm still trying...but when "Johnny Optimism" is my lighthearted material, you know these are scary times.

@John the Econ- The analogy works again if you substitute a stupid roommate who invites the player in, and enjoys sharing the goodies that the musician steals from you while you're at work.

And it works even better if the musician admits to a fondness for pot and booze; maybe a little blow when he can afford it...

Pete(Detroit) said...

Think you're mixing the metaphor a bit there Stilt - Clinton was the sax player, Barry the Blowhead was a Jock (or wanna be, anyway)
Still, point made.
While girlfriend is out at work, musician / player is making time w/ the roomie, wineing, dining her on money stolen from the girlfriend, fiddling and diddling her behind her back, and all the while berating the girlfriend for not paying "her fair share"... yah, sounds about right.

Jarheads Blog said...

(Fishbowl DC) — Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), known for his cantankerous ways and for not speaking to media unless it’s his idea, was overheard at the Delta Crown lounge at Reagan National Airport today talking on his cellphone about an incident he said occurred three weeks ago while at an Episcopal church auction. Please note, a church auction.
Our source, a Democratic operative who heard the whole thing, said he was “very loud”. Sensenbrenner was overheard saying that after buying all their “crap” (his word) a woman approached him and praised first lady Michelle Obama. He told the woman that Michelle should practice what she preaches — “she lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself.”

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-eaQCPdrKRPU/TvKi4Tfq5mI/AAAAAAAAI2M/HrJIcfJ4O4Y/s640/1Mooch-Fat-Ass.jpg

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@Pete(Detroit)- Thanks for the metaphorical correction!

@Jarheads Blog- I've got to admit that I found Sensenbrenner's comment pretty funny. And frankly, I do think it's a good idea for our country to get smarter about nutrition and fighting obesity, but I don't think a government-funded "virtual garden" game is going to change any young minds. Although the idea of creating a game where kids learn to eliminate waste in government spending might be worthwhile...

John the Econ said...

What a crock. Listening to Obama list off the standard list of sob stories, and all the wonderful things that people will not be able to do without an extra $40 in their paycheck.

How about this: By the further defunding of Social Security, all of the people who literally will be eating Alpo in their retirement? How about them? Sure, with that extra $40 a check they'll be able to go out to eat another night a week. But only at the expense of being able to do so at all after they retire.

Emmentaler Limburger said...

@Jarhead: Funny you should mention that. It was the subject of my blog this morning...

http://pateratic.com

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@John the Econ- I hear you, brother. How can $40 be so precious when a trillion dollars is just "mad money?" And IF $40 is so critical to people who need the money, won't it be JUST as critical when it doesn't show up in a Social Security check?

I sort of wish Boehner would up the ante and ask people if they'd like to keep ALL of their Social Security money from now on, since most of those paying in will never see benefits anyway. And as for those already getting payments? They can ask Obama where their lockbox funds are...

John the Econ said...

AMEN! Simply brilliant! If the GOP had any intellectual capacity, someone would stand up and make that point. I'd much rather have a secure retirement tomorrow over another hamburger today.

What this whole circus is really about is what a joke both our tax code and Social Security really is. If anything, they should be increasing the Social Security withholding instead of handing out another $1k/year payoff to the voters.

Or better yet, just concede that it's all a complete fraud, and let me have the 15% of my money you're taking in the name of my retirement and let me invest it myself.

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@John the Econ- spoiler alert: this topic continues in tomorrow's cartoon!