Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cruising the Web

Why isn't this getting discussed more? The reason we have to have a continuing resolution is because the appropriations bills haven't been passed. So how many bills have been passed already? Let's go to the Library of Congress website to check it out. Of the Appropriations bills necessary to pass, the House has passed four of them; the Senate has passed zero. Why hasn't the Senate been doing its job? Why are we even in need of a continuing resolution in the first place? Why did the entire Congress basically take off the month of August without getting of its job done? Do you get to go on vacation from your job if you haven't completed your basic tasks?

I wasn't in favor of a government shut-down tactic for the GOP because I feared its political results, not what it would do to the government. We'll see if my fears were justified. But it's not hard to want to shut down practices like this:
This past week, the Department of Veterans Affairs bought $562,000 worth of artwork.

In a single day, the Agriculture Department spent $144,000 on toner cartridges.

And, in a single purchase, the Coast Guard spent $178,000 on “Cubicle Furniture Rehab.”

This string of big-ticket purchases was an unmistakable sign: It was “use it or lose it” season again in Washington.

All week, while Congress fought over next year’s budget, federal workers were immersed in a separate frantic drama. They were trying to spend the rest of this year’s budget before it is too late.

The reason for their haste is a system set up by Congress that, in many cases, requires agencies to spend all their allotted funds by Sept. 30.

If they don’t, the money becomes worthless to them on Oct. 1. And — even worse — if they fail to spend the money now, Congress could dock their funding in future years. The incentive, as always, is to spend.
I've experienced a bit of this on a very small level when I was chairman of the foreign language department in a regular, non-charter public school. We'd get the memo about using it or losing it and then we'd just go on a purchasing spree. I would buy foreign language videos and posters and teacher aids, half of which I'd never use. But we had to do it because we wouldn't get budgeted the following year to spend the money that we didn't seem to need in the first place. So this is an idiocy that is mirrored on the national, state, and local level.

Here is something I bet most people aren't aware of. Since 1976, there have been 17 separate government shutdowns. I certainly hadn't realized that that there had been so many.

Yeah, I bet this really scared the House GOP when they were told by a Democratic congressman that Obama had drawn a red line on vetoing the CR if it included measures he didn't like. The funny thing is that he'll probably stick to this red line. It's all of a piece with his willingness to treat the House Republicans as if they are the real terrorists he has to fear in this world.

Jonathan Rauch has a very intriguing essay on the importance of compromise in the Madisonian system that is our federal government. I love me some Madisonian constitutionalism as much as the next person, but wonder why his strictures on compromise are all aimed at Republicans. Doesn't it take two to compromise?

I think Megan McArdle is one of the best columnists out there because she is fair and honest. She keeps bias out of her writing. Here she is today talking about "11 Pieces of Obamacare Conventional Wisdom That Shouldn’t Be So Conventional." Some of her points refute GOP talking points, but most of them go to combat the sorts of arguments we hear from Democrats.