Sunday, February 11, 2007

A waste of time

Is there a problem with how reporters report on the federal budget, or is the problem how Washington debates it? I suspect the problem is both.

The Wall Street Journal should be able to talk numbers as well as anyone. But on February 9, the WSJ reports on Senate deliberations...

Here, we see discussions of how to spend amounts like $50 million, or $200 million, or even $500 million. In fact, the whole bill is for about $463 billion total.

That sounds like a lot of money. But consider that the federal government will spend about $2.5 trillion this year.

That means when the Senate argues over $463 billion, they are arguing about less than 20% of what Washington will spend this year.

Of the $2.5 trillion that will be spent over a year, about 80% of it will go to either 1) Social Security, 2) Medicare, 3) debt service, or 4) defense.

It is ridiculous that anyone in our government debates, pro or con, $50 million for oil and gas research. $50 million is 2 one-thousandths (2/1000) of the budget. It is not even large enough to be a rounding error.

That goes for most of the items in this $463 billion bill.

It's bad enough that anyone in our government would waste time talking about it, and it's even worse that reporters report on it, as if it were significant.

This is very dangerous for the long term health of our country. It is time spent fiddling while Rome burns.

My suggestion for us voters:

When your Senatorial, Congressional, or Presidential candidates talk about anything, anything at all, ask them whether it directly affects:

1) Social security spending
2) Medicare spending
3) Debt service spending
4) Defense spending

If the answer is "no", then tell them to shut up, and talk about something important.

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