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More on Stray Federal Dollars

May 31, 2010
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In his column yesterday, George Will exposes the flaws of the President’s proposal to give himself a sort-of line-item veto by pointing out that it won’t really reduce spending and is essentially useless.  He begins, however, by noting the irony of the title of the bill, as well as an emerging trend in federal legislation christening:

Obama’s Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act confirms the axiom that the titles of bills, like the titles of Marx brothers movies (“Duck Soup,” “Horse Feathers”), are utterly uninformative.

I disagree!  It seems to me that the titles of bills are supposed to be Newspeak for what the proposals really do, e.g. the Employee Free Choice Act, the Affordable Care Act, and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.  That is, the titles are informative in that they inform the public of the things which the bill will not do.  Take the Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act, which will definitely not reduce unnecessary spending:

It certainly would not reduce deficit spending: Under the president’s proposal, if Congress kills the projects on the president’s list, the budgetary allocation would not be reduced, so legislators could dream up new things on which to spend the money.

Well, yes, that’s just one of the reasons that RUSA (or RUSE, as it’s been so cleverly nicknamed by David Boaz at Cato) is not a very efficient way of attaining a line-item veto.  A much better plan would be reviving impoundment.  That, however, also has problems, as Will explains:

What about earmarks? If all 9,499 of last year’s had been vetoed, this would have saved $15.9 billion, or a risible 0.45 percent of spending.

That’s the crux of several hundred of this country’s problems, including the President’s non-discretionary spending freeze and this RUSA.   In the end, the savings just don’t really amount to anything because they aren’t applicable to defense or entitlement spending.  I still would like to see impoundment implemented at some point, if for no other reason than to wean Congressmen and their constituents off the perks of federal spending in their districts/states.  If impoundment got out of hand to the point where the President was basically enacting legislation unilaterally, I trust 67 Senators would be offended enough at the undermining of their power to override the President’s veto on a repeal of the practice.  That said, all of this is probably just a political ploy from the President:

Last year, Obama ordered 15 department heads to find economies totaling $100 million, which was then 13 minutes (0.0029 percent) of federal spending. His new rescission proposal also is frugality theater and is similarly frivolous.

The President definitely appears worried that the national debt will be a more serious issue in the November elections than it has in years past, and this may just be another offshore drilling parry—that is, he says he wants a line-item veto so he can say he’s against unnecessary federal spending like he said he’s open to offshore drilling so he could say that he was open to offshore drilling (this was, of course, prior to The Worst Environmental Disaster Ever).  Whatever.  Hopefully the electorate won’t be thrown by the head fake, and hopefully we’ll see the end of pork run wild in federal legislation.  It probably won’t happen with this bill, though.

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