A Pandemic Fourth

Weekly WastebasketA Pandemic FourthPartying in a pandemic should be less wasteful

This will be a Fourth of July celebration like none of us have experienced. Fireworks, but without the crowds. Backyard grilling but socially distant. Basically, toasting our nation’s birthday, but less party.

In that vein, as we think about what taxpayers could use less of, we thought of a few things…

Oprah style budgeting – House and Senate Armed Services Committees gave each of the services more F-35s than they even requested. In fact, the Marines – who are reducing the number of F-35s per squadron got more F-35s. You get a fighter, you get a fighter, and you get a fighter too!

Royal(ty) pains – In an effort to promote their energy dominance policy, the Trump administration is pursuing energy idiocy. In the midst of low prices from the oil glut and reduced demand during the pandemic, the administration has been giving away royalty relief like candy thrown from one of those parades you’re not likely to see this year. Royalties are what companies pay for the oil and gas they extract from taxpayer-owned lands. So this is how you spell this type of relief: W-A-S-T-E.

Commissar of Agriculture – Instead of candy, Agriculture Secretary Perdue has been tossing wads of cash to the favored few in farm country. A relic of the Great Depression, the Commissar – err Secretary – has tapped the Commodity Credit Corporation to the tune of tens of billions of dollars per year for trade aid and bailouts all without any Congressional oversight. And some lawmakers want to double this “walking around” money to roughly $60 billion per year.

Pain in the Tongass – In the case of royalty relief, you could argue that at least industry is paying something. You can’t say the same thing about selling timber from the Alaska’s Tongass National Forest – the nation’s largest. Taxpayers lose big money on every timber sale. A whole different kind of stupid (yeah, we said it). Yet the administration is pushing to end the roadless rule, which prevented sales in unroaded areas of the forest. This would damage main economic driver in the area (tourism and recreation) and lose taxpayer cash – a twofer.

Infrastructure Behemoth – The House just adopted a ginormous infrastructure package that instead of providing targeted investments that could benefit the nation threw cash around willy-nilly. We believe there is a role and need for federal investment in infrastructure, particularly in mitigation and adaptation in the face of climate change. But instead of user pays, the package uses the Treasury to bail out the Highway Trust Fund, for instance.

OCO Abuse – The Overseas Contingency Account is supposed to be used for what it sounds like, unforeseen (contingency) projects not in the U.S. (overseas). Instead it has been used as a slush fund to evade budget caps, which is why you find $252 million in overseas military construction projects – which are planned years in advance – stuffed in the account.

Those are just a few items that taxpayers and the treasury would be better off socially distancing from. Better yet, get rid of them entirely.

By all means, celebrate our nation’s 244th birthday, but after the last firecracker explodes, the last firework fades, the last sparkler wanes, there is a lot of work to be done to get policymakers to tackle the pandemic, budget, and debt in fiscally prudent, targeted and effective way.

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