Pimp My Budget

Posted on 30. May, 2007 by in Taxes

monopoly_guy.jpgI’m a regular reader of Taxpayers For Common Sense – the website for a non-partisan budget watchdog group. Although I believe my thoughts about politics and the government’s use of taxpayer money is well known, I won’t get it to it here. Suffice it to say, I thoroughly enjoyed a recent article by the site called “Pimp My Budget” and thought I’d share a few thought-provoking quotes. I believe it is the responsibility of EVERY SINGLE TAXPAYER to keep tabs on what is done with our hard-earned cash. That’s right, I said responsibility. Along with the freedoms and rights we believe we all have, we also have responsibilities – something I fear too many people forget.

Reserve funds, as they are known, are pots of money that have been called “a clever gimmick to help balance the books, a shell game.” These funds, though not real money, are used to pay for any number of Congress’s wish-list items. The 23 reserve funds in this year’s budget far exceed the previous record high of 13 in 1995. These funny-money pork pots are supposed to be offset by spending cuts or tax increases, but don’t kid yourself. This is deficit spending, plain and simple.

And even if Congress does “pay” for some fraction of these add-ons with cuts from somewhere else, history shows that 1 minus 1 in Congressional math doesn’t always equal zero.

In this year’s budget, the reserve fund for the Farm Bill alone is $20 billion, to pay for more subsidies to fat cat farmers, giveaways to the ethanol industry, or expanded conservation programs. Larry Combest, former Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and currently a rice industry lobbyist, recently said that the 2002 farm bill has saved about $17 billion, the result of higher than expected commodities prices. That may be true, but the $98 billion farm bill was paid for in part by $26 billion from—you guessed it—a reserve fund. Forgive us if we aren’t congratulating Congress for not spending $17 billion that never really existed anyway.

Using phony reserve funds to trick-out the federal budget may be a good way to impress your friends, but they are definitely not a free ride.

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