American Elephants

Bureaucracy and Budget Cuts: Humbuggery and Hooey. by The Elephant's Child


When Republicans go on (and we do) about “Big Government,” many assume we’re just talking about size, and don’t understand what all the fuss is about. It’s the falsity. Nothing is real, it’s all lies and pretense. Government is a bureaucracy, an enormous bureaucracy and so big that nobody really knows what is going on.

The federal budget in 2011, according to the Washington Post, included an undisclosed amount of money allocated for projects and programs already completed or already cancelled. In some cases, Congress removed these funds and counted them as “cuts” instead of actual reductions in real projects:

Late on the night of April 8, 2011, Washington’s leaders announced that they’d just done something extraordinary. They had agreed to cut the federal budget — and cut it big.

“The largest annual spending cut in our history,” President Obama called it in a televised speech. To prevent a government shutdown, the parties had agreed to slash $37.8 billion: more than the budgets of the Labor and Commerce departments, combined.

At the Capitol, Republicans savored a win for austerity. There would be “deep, but responsible, reductions in virtually all areas of government,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) promised a few days later, before the deal passed.

Well, promises, promises.  There were a few real cutbacks in federal spending. but the bill turned out to be an epic kind of Washington illusion. There were gimmicks that made cuts seem bigger than they were and the politicians more responsible than they were.

  • The Transportation Department got credit for cutting a $280 million tunnel that had been cancelled six months earlier.
  • The Census Bureau officials got credit for a huge $6 billion cut for promising not to hold the expensive 2010 census (that was not due to be repeated for 10 years) again in 2011.
  • The Department of Defense got credit for $6.2 billion in cuts which represented $5 billion for base closing and relocation that the Pentagon had already decided not to spend. The remaining $1.2 billion came from “cutting programs that were already cancelled. The Pentagon did cancel one project that it wanted to keep, a $25 million building project in Qatar.
  • The Federal Transit Administration took credit for $680 million” for cutting” programs that had already been canceled for other reasons. One was a project to build a new train tunnel between New York and New Jersey that was cancelled by Gov. Christie.
  • The Department of Energy got credit for $638 million, but the loss of the money was made up for with funds appropriated in the stimulus bill. No federal employees lost their jobs.
  • The Department of the Interior produced a $529 million phantom cut when Congress took back unused money from Interior’s reserve funds. Congress replenished what they had used. The only impact in the real world was that the department had to delay work for hazardous fuels reduction, rural fire assistance and burned area rehabilitation.

When Obama starts talking about all the severe budget cuts that he has made — this is a guide to what they are. The “cut” from not continuing to spend the same amount of money in Iraq as we were before our troops pulled out was well publicized.  The same gimmick has covered Afghanistan.

Big Government is a problem because it becomes too big to understand what is happening and how taxpayer money is being wasted, and how taxpayer’s lives are being diminished by what is, after all, just government fraud and corruption. And under the Obama administration with its Chicago style brand of politics, that is just the way things are supposed to work.

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