Few Americans were surprised when the so-called congressional “Super-Committee” failed to come up with a recommendation to cut $1.2 trillion in government spending over the next ten years. The national debt right now today exceeds $15 trillion yet Congress can’t even agree to cut $1.2 trillion in ten long years.
The United States government is addicted to spending like a heroin addict is addicted to smack. The mere thought of reducing the amount of the regular fix by a trifle is enough to put an addict into a state of trembling and fear. They resist the consequences of potential painful withdrawal by every means possible.
New spending boondoggles, large and small, continue to pop up daily even as the President and all the nation’s lawmakers, Democrat, Republican, and Independent, know for certain that the process is ultimately unsustainable. At the current pace sooner or later the United States of America will become insolvent and the financial system as we know it will implode.
Even in those rare situations when a government agency elects to cut unnecessary costs in one area, the efforts are too often erased later or made much worse.
The federal government in 2005, for example, decided to cut some costs by closing a 188-year old obsolete Army fort at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. But recently President Obama signed a proclamation designating Fort Monroe in Virginia’s Tidewater area as a national monument.
The President insists that his declaration of a decrepit deactivated Army fort as a national monument, and the spending of millions of taxpayer dollars annually to restore and maintain it, will help create jobs. “Today isn’t just about preserving a national landmark – it’s about helping to create jobs and grow the local economy,” he said.
Yes, it will create jobs all right – more government jobs – jobs which contribute nothing to the economy but only suck vast sums of money from the taxpayer treasury. It’s just more government spending for little or nothing in return.
Meanwhile, a $2 billion renovation of its New York headquarters building is more than two years from completion, but the United Nations is already asking for another $3 billion or so for additional building projects in both New York City and Geneva.
Of the total 193 member nations in the U.N., the United States pays 22% -- the lion’s share of the organization’s costs by far. There are twenty or so other nations which pay most of the rest. This means that the American share of the new proposed building costs alone could run to $660 million or more as the estimated sums are growing.
Additional costs include such nebulous items as a $40 million broadcast center, and $44 million for new furniture. Some $2.4 billion of the total would go for construction of a new office tower in Manhattan to accommodate the organization’s bloated staff of employees.
Another $590 million will be spent on the U.N.’s offices in Geneva, located in the one-time home of the ill-fated League of Nations. These figures are only early estimates far more likely to go up than down.
The cost estimate for the U.N.’s ongoing headquarters refurbishment in Manhattan has climbed roughly 225 percent from its initial estimate of $875 million. And the price hikes are far from over. Auditors predict at least another $227 million in cost increases for the current headquarters renovation and estimate that “this situation is more likely to worsen than improve.”
The U.N. expects its headquarters staff to keep growing -- at a steady 1.1 percent rate annually over the two decades ending in 2034, according to a U.N. study. That would add 3,000 people in New York City alone who will require nearly 1.9 million square feet of additional space which in turn would require yet another additional U.N. tower.
The U.N. organization has spread across large swaths of eastern midtown Manhattan well beyond its original 18-acre campus. When the headquarters renovation is finished it will own about 1.34 million square feet of space and occupy another 2.1 million square feet in 15 nearby buildings.
Is all this outlandish spending on what amounts to an elite international club of fat cats and their kowtowing sycophants worth it to the average American?
I don’t think so. I think its good money down the toilet.
Government spending is escalating on all fronts but as yet not subsiding anywhere.
Congressional retirement benefits are another glaring example of out of control spending worthy of the taxpayer’s meat cleaver. The cushy perks for lawmakers are far more lucrative than those available to typical federal employees and private-sector workers.
Making matters worse, the benefits are still collected by corrupt members ousted for crimes and others who resigned in disgrace over criminal or ethical violations. In all, the National Taxpayers Union estimates that taxpayers spend more than $800,000 annually on the pensions of corrupt former members of Congress.
Benefits become vested after only five years so that a full pension is payable at age 62. Some lawmakers who start out relatively young and serve 20 years can start collecting their pension as early as age 50.
According to a 2011 Congressional Research Service report, 455 retired members of Congress were getting pension benefits as of Oct. 1, 2009, averaging from $40,140 to $69,012 per year.
Congressmen also pay Social Security payroll taxes and receive those benefits as well, plus they can participate in a federal 401(k)-style investment program called the Thrift Savings Plan in which they make pretax salary contributions to their retirement, and the government matches their contributions up to 5 percent.
On top of all that they get the same Cadillac health-care programs as other federal employees along with extra V.I.P. perks such as treatment at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.
"I don't think the Founding Fathers of this country really intended for somebody to come to Congress and make it a career to where there's an expectation that they're going to draw a pension," said Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., who has introduced legislation to dump the congressional pension. "I think they envisioned a citizen legislature, whereby people came from other successful backgrounds to the Congress and didn't see it as a path to a career where they would draw a financial benefit for the rest of their lives."
I wholeheartedly agree.
It’s just more taxpayer money flushed down the national toilet.
Did you know that the U.S. Government spends an average of $51,000 per student every year to send the kids of military personnel to 63 U.S. schools located on military bases, and that the Senate continues to block reasonable proposals to save up to $39,000 per student by simply sending them to public schools at a cost of about $12,000 each?
According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average full-time worker in America earns $39,416 a year. So our spend happy federal government is actually paying $11,584 per year more than the average American worker earns just to send military brats to special schools -- $51,000 which could be $12,000 – still grossly over expensive for the result by any logical reckoning.
A year after Congress voluntarily agreed to give up earmarks -- pork barrel spending projects critics say cost too much and may have an out sized influence on some lawmakers -- the special-interest provisions have crept slowly back into legislation, two senators warned last Wednesday.
Last year, the Senate easily defeated a two-year moratorium on earmarks. In response to that vote, congressional Republicans vowed to swear them off voluntarily and promised to defeat any measure that contained them.
But now: "There is an effort under way to go back to earmarking as usual, as it used to be," said Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pennsylvania. "I think that would be a disaster for our country and our congress and we intend to do our very best to prevent that."
He, and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, have proposed legislation to ban earmarks permanently. "With politicians on both sides of the aisle creatively trying to get around the ban, and talking openly about ending it, it's time to end earmarks permanently," McCaskill said.
But Congress is not going to give up earmarks any quicker than a common alcoholic will give up just one more drink for old time’s sake. It is not in the nature of a lawmaker to stop spending other people’s money which to them is the nectar of life.
And now the recent failure of the Congressional Super Committee to recommend $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years is supposed to automatically trigger cuts in the same amount to accomplish that job.
But, as usual, legislators aren’t going down that path without a fight. Plans are already in the works to block those cuts. The temptation to block them will no doubt grow even larger right after the 2012 elections, depending on the results.
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., say they are writing legislation to prevent what they say would be devastating cuts to the military. House Republicans are exploring a similar move. Democrats maintain they won't let domestic programs be the sole source of savings.
So we can probably forget about the cuts; the Congressional weasels will find a way to make them disappear.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Never underestimate the U.S. government when it comes to spending your money.