Tad DeHaven

White House Reinflating Housing Bubble

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration plans on spending $35 billion on state and local housing agencies to bolster lending to low- and moderate-income home buyers. The effort would come on the heels of other federal interventions to prop up the ailing housing market:

Bailout for FHA?

For the past couple of years the Department of Housing & Urban Development’s Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has been doing its best to re-inflate the housing bubble.

"Stimulating" Beer and Cigarette Sales

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out which is more infuriating for taxpayers: illegal fraud in a government program, or legal abuse of that program. The State of New York recently took $140 million in federal “stimulus” money and handed it out with no strings attached to people on welfare for the ostensible purpose of back-to-school needs.

Government Moonshine in Trouble

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal took a lengthy look (subscription required) at the deteriorating financial situation of domestic biofuel producers. According to the Journal:

Veterans Affairs Workers Collect Bonuses

Over the weekend, CNN.com reported on a cringe-inducing story out of the Department of Veterans Affairs:

“While hundreds of thousands of disability claims lay backlogged at the Department of Veterans Affairs, thousands of technology employees at the department received $24 million in bonuses, a new report says.”

Privatize the Post Office

Another day, another story on financial troubles at the federal government’s mail monopolist.  We don’t expect the government to make our blue jeans, transport fruits and veggies from the farm to the market, build computers and IPods, or manage the manufacturing of automobiles, so why must it continue to deliver first-class mail? 

Sen. Coburn’s List of 100 Questionable “Stimulus” Projects

My old boss, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), has a report out this morning that identifies 100 “questionable” projects funded by the federal “stimulus” package.  I’m not going to mention particular examples here.  I’ll simply say that I hope the theme that readers of the Coburn report come away with is that the federal government should not fund state and local activities.  The numerous examples in the Coburn report provide concrete evidence of this truth, and I wish the report would have spent more time in the introduction fleshing it out.  Fortunately, my colleague Chris Edwards wrote an excellent policy analysis on the problems with federal subsidies to state and local government.  Thus, I would encourage those interested to read the Coburn and Edwards reports together.

The GOP Is Not Serious about Cutting Down Spending

A month ago, President Obama issued a list of proposed spending cuts that I dismissed as “unserious” due to the fact that they were trivial when compared to his proposed spending and debt increases.  Today, the House Republican leadership released a list of proposed spending cuts.

I’d love to say I’m impressed, but I can’t.

Both proposals indicate that neither side of the aisle grasps the severity of the country’s ugly fiscal situation, or at least has the guts to do anything concrete about it.

The GOP proposal claims savings of more than $375 billion over five years, the bulk of which ($317 billion) would come from holding non-defense discretionary spending increases to no more than inflation over the next five years.

First, it should be cut — period.  Second, non-defense discretionary spending only amounts to about 17% of all the money the federal government spends in a year, so singling out this pot of money misses the bigger picture.  At least, defense spending, which is almost entirely discretionary, should be included in any cap.  But it has become an article of faith in the Republican Party that reining in defense spending is tantamount to putting a white flag in the Statue of Liberty’s hand.

Congressional Priorities and the FY2010 Budget Resolution

Yesterday the House and Senate passed a bloated $3.5 trillion budget blueprint for fiscal year 2010.  According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), “What is important to us as a nation is reflected in this budget. It’s a very happy day for our country.”

Included in the blueprint is language that calls for an equal pay raise between military employees and civilian federal employees.  President Obama had originally proposed slightly higher pay for members of the armed services.  The exact pay raise for bureaucrats will be determined in the appropriations process, but it’s likely to be a hike of anywhere from 2.9% to 3.9%.  This would come on top of last year’s 3.9% raise.

Omitted from the blueprint was language included in the Senate version by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) that would have “required agency managers to report to Congress within 90 days of the bill’s passage on any programs that are ‘duplicative, inefficient or failing, with recommendations for eliminating and consolidating these programs.’”  A simple report to be issued by the agencies themselves. That’s it.  There would be no guarantee that anything would actually be cut or consolidated.

Feds Pay Farmers to Till the Desert

No, this headline and story is not brought to you by The Onion.

The latest proof that there’s nothing more permanent than a temporary federal program:

As drought forces families in the West to shorten their showers and let their lawns turn brown, two Depression-era government programs have been paying some of the nation’s biggest farms hundreds of millions of dollars to grow water-thirsty crops in what was once desert.

My sympathy for this farmer lies somewhere between that which I have for Bernie Madoff and Ted Stevens:

Jim Hansen, a 69-year-old cotton grower in California’s Central Valley, said his family business would crumble if the government took away low-cost water and the nearly $1.7 million in crop payments he received in 2007 and 2008.

For more on the insanity that is federal farm policy and why the USDA needs to be downsized and/or done away with, click here.

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