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Budgetary Gimmicks – We’re Only Fooling Ourselves

Anyone who has run a business or even a household budget, knows all too well that budget “gimmicks” will turn around and bite you sooner or later. Whether you are shifting overrun costs from one year to the next or spending more than you take in, most gimmicks are basically a deception and denial of reality. Unfortunately, this slight-of-hand is a common practice in our government budgeting methods.  These politically motivated budgetary deceptions are killing our infrastructure and eroding our economy and as The Wall Street Journal reported, it may soon impact our credit rating.

Moody’s Investors Service said in a report Thursday that the U.S. will need to reverse an upward trajectory in the debt ratios to support its triple-A rating.

“We have become increasingly clear about the fact that if there are not offsetting measures to reverse the deterioration in negative fundamentals in the U.S., the likelihood of a negative outlook over the next two years will increase,” said Sarah Carlson, senior analyst at Moody’s.

Our government exudes incompetence and a lack of true accounting practices today, when we look at the massive gimmickry they use in budgeting the taxpayers hard earned dollars. The truth in this statement is quite obvious in the following example.

TSA Hiring Project Runs 700% Over Budget

According to the Washington Post, in 2002, the TSA issued a $104 million contract to hire airport screeners. By 2006, the cost had skyrocketed almost 700% to $741 million.

“TSA officials then moved forward with no planning ‘or adequate cost control,’ the report said, and they ignored warnings from contractor NCS Pearson Inc. that project costs had far exceeded the budget approved by Congress.” When asked why the initial cost projections were so inaccurate, the TSA program administer who managed the program said, “That $1 billion was a number out of the air, frankly.” He continued, “All I got from the DOT was, ‘When you hit $1 billion, come back to us.’” With this level of insightful analysis put into estimating the true costs of the project, it is less than shocking that TSA’s contractor went over budget.

Fast forward to today. With the addition of the new scanners, thousands of new workers, and other assorted equipment that the TSA currently employs on American citizens when traveling, we cannot even form an educated guess as to the total cost overruns there. In this case, the original budget gimmickry is that there was an initial start-up cost assessment, yet there appears to be no long term Life-Cycle Budgeting. This is akin to a blank check for the never-ending expansion of the TSA, with no built-in accountability or transparency. As noted in the article above, when they hit 1 billion tax dollars, come back to us. There is the gimmick. “A no-limit budget.” It is impossible to declare any form of fiscal sanity with cost projections approved of $104M, and four years later you have spent $741M. Where is the oversight and cost-controls that should slow this money-train down?

In the TSA example, there was no Life-Cycle Budgeting involved, and there are no stated plans to install any. In the real world, the TSA would be declared bankrupt and closed down. This is a deceptive form of fraud against the taxpayer, as we are being asked to fund a never-ending expansion of the TSA with no transparent or accountable budgeting involved. We can do better, and our current economic situation demands it be done immediately.

Infrastructure projects are an important part of our economy and when not budgeted properly, can have devastating long-term economic consequences. These projects are a critical investment towards our economic growth and stability. When we neglect our infrastructure through short-sited, stop gap measures and temporary repairs, we are headed for a disaster of epic proportions. Our transportation system will eventually grind to a halt. Businesses will no longer be able to get materials and products from point A to point B. Our roads, bridges, rail systems, and shipping ports must be maintained and rebuilt with true a more complete and transparent set of practices – life cycle budgeting.

These projects must contain an honest level of transparency in all phases. Access to the budgeting process is necessary towards understanding the true costs of proposed, ongoing and future projects. This must include initial construction costs, plus long term maintenance costs over the lifespan of the project, and together they must be included in the initial proposed budget figures. When we fail to do this, we have people being killed by crumbling bridges due to lack of proper maintenance and inspections and transportation delays that have a massive trickle down effect on our economy. When this type of disaster happens, the reports state that the government didn’t have the money or resources to maintain the project. Wouldn’t they have had the resources if they had properly figured the complete life cycle costs for the project in the beginning?

When discussing our economic problems of today, we have to really look into how our Government spends our tax dollars to find a working solution.. Without transparency in the budgeting process, the nation is kept in the dark as a whole, and the problems of short-sightedness in our budgeting will continue to weaken our economy. Is our Government actually so incompetent and short-sighted ?

When people buy a new car, do they expect to have expense-free transportation for the next twenty years? Even the youngest generation of drivers soon learns that there are life-cycle expenses in owning a car. These include proper maintenance, such as oil changes, new tires, and operating expenses, such as fuel. Without proper budgeting for all expenses involved with driving a car, the person can end up with a car that isn’t able to get them from point A to point B when needed. They may get four years of use out of the car without any maintenance, but then their original investment is lost and they have to go out and buy another car. This isn’t cost effective, and people are quick to learn to use life-cycle budgeting when buying a new car. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say. Figure in the cost of maintenance and related expenses when buying a new car, and you will never end up having to use your vehicle maintenance funds for fuel , which then leads to shortening the life of your investment. This should be common sense, but it doesn’t seem to apply to the people in our Government today. When it comes to calculating the actual lifetime costs of Infrastructure projects, our Government displays seemingly major incompetency and ineptitude. Why is that?

Politics, of course.

Our Federal and State governments today way too often try to score political points instead of trying to get more bang for the Taxpayer’s buck. This has been going on for decades with no end in sight. From funding bridges to nowhere, to Airports that only serve a dozen people a day, to paying out millions of dollars a year for maintenance on federal buildings that were tore down years ago, the abuse and malfeasance can almost always be traced back to political posturing, corruption, fraud or flat out cronyism. A lack of transparency is at the main root of these wasteful projects. Politicians that are more concerned with vote-buying through “bringing home the bacon to their districts,” than the actual betterment of our Nation, are robbing our Nation of critical infrastructure dollars. This is a direct threat to our Economy and National Security. Federal and State legislatures are supposed to be the guardians of our nation through the proper use of taxpayer dollars. The most effective, proven way to ensure this, is to demand transparent, full life cycle cost budgeting in all forms of government spending. The future of our great Nation depends on it.

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Rich Mitchell

Rich Mitchell is the editor-in-chief of Conservative Daily News and the president of Bald Eagle Media, LLC. His posts may contain opinions that are his own and are not necessarily shared by Bald Eagle Media, CDN, staff or .. much of anyone else. Find him on twitter, facebook and

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  1. We have Cities asking how to declre bankruptcy today. We have States billions of dollars in the red with no viable plans for long term recovery. Proper life-cycle budgeting must be implemented, along with cutting back on the size and scope of State and Federal governments. Why can’t elected officials understand this common sense concept?

  2. If we don’t get things in order and spending under control we are going to collapse sooner rather than later. We can’t keep spending and spending, it’s going to catch up with us.

  3. I agree with you here Carol, except that I feel it has already caught up with some States, such as Calif and Illinois, who just raised their State taxes 66%. Instead of doing some serious long-term budgeting and planning, they just decide to take more money from the working people.This June, we will really see some problems as States run out of Fed Stimulus dollars then. It will get nasty when they can’t pay all those big Union pensions they have been promising Union members for decades.

  4. Where was all your concern about the budget when bush and the gop congress took a yearly budget surplus and turned it into a trillion dollar per year deficit? bush added 5 trillion to our national debt and there was another 2 trillion surprise after he left office because the cost of his wars was “off the books”.

    1. Geez Tom, I dont recall seeing any blame there in this article, guess you should read the title again. I also didnt think Bush was running any states today. Yes State and Federal budget gimmicks are being discussed here. Looks like we have a troll here,folks.
      Regardless, Debt school is in today just for Tom here.

      Lets take a look at your stated “Trillion dollar Bush” budget deficits shall we? I keep just such records right on hand here. TOTAL National debt was 5.7. Trillion in 2001, then totaldebt was 8.4T at end of 2006. That is 2.7 trillion dollars of total debt for GWB first 6 years in office. Enter Democrat Party controlled Congress,2007- I am sure you understand that no President is control of the purse, it is done in the House and has to be approved by our Senate. GWB did sign 32 vetos against the Dem spending , which most were over-ridden in Dem Congress, which puts 2007-2010 spending directly on the shoulders of your Liberal Democratic party of the last 4 years. So lets see if your fake statement holds any water here. 2007-2010 went from 8.4 Trillion to over 14 trillion.That puts your Liberal fake Democrats directly responsible for 5.5 trillion in debt in 4 years. GWB first 6 years total is 2.7 T. How does that equate to over 1T a year with your idea of math there? GWB 6 years- 2.7T– Liberal budget gimmick masters and reality deiniers- 5.5T dollars of debt in 4 years.

      Let me know if you require further math lessons and/or another reality check, I am always happy to expose liberal fairy tales such as yours here.

      By the way I am a registered independant.There was no Repub vs Democrat discussion here… until you invited it. I am also way too educated to let you try to pass on that sorry excuse for math on my watch. Also if you are so concerned with the cost of the wars, maybe you should call up your Messiah and ask him to end them,and while you are at it, ask him why GITMO is still open too. Promises are very easy to make, when begging to be elected, yet keeping them is a whole different ballgame.

      2010 was just the start- 2012 will be phase 2 of restoring America through the Conservative American voters.

    2. Forgot to let you know Tom, the wars are still off the books, after 4 years of Dem total control of Congress. Since Liberal fake Social Justice fraudsters and math experts refused to stop the wars we should add that to the 5.5T dollars of debt they have rung up in the last 4 years. Fair is fair.

    3. Many Conservatives were quite outraged at the spending that took place in the Bush and Clinton years. What you seem to have missed is that this article was written in 2011.

      Tom, your position is silly. You are basically saying that the author should not have written this article simply because he didn’t write exactly the same article several years ago. Wow, just wow.

      2012 is gonna be fun if “Blame Bush” and “Blame Palin” are the only real arguments that come to light from the left.

      1. Ranger is correct that many Conservatives were and still are outraged at GWB. The reasons vary across the spectrum. This article is calling for transparent life-cycle budgeting in all phases of gov’t to inject some reality into State and Federal spending projects.
        Tom here seems to not have a decent level of reading comprehension. The author states:
        “Our Federal and State governments today way too often try to score political points instead of trying to get more bang for the Taxpayer’s buck. This has been going on for decades with no end in sight”

        Decades . Did you catch that? Finding solutions to permanently fixing our financial crisis includes avoiding the mistakes that got us to this point, regardless of Party politics.
        This is also a direct result of having manufactured politicians who have no real world experience in anything, injected into our Gov’t to further someone’s agenda. People who can’t balance a checkbook, run a business, or lack the vision to understand that buget gimmicks create fiscal chaos, shouldn’t be deciding how our tax dollars are spent. That kind of ignorance at the voting polls is how we get things like running our Government in 2010 with no set budget resolution. It is the job of the House Speaker to make sure our gov’t has a budget. Anyone wanting to discuss why we didnt have a budget in 2010, and the gov’t irresponsibly ran on a blank check should ask Nancy Pelosi. One thing you can take to the bank in 2011, is that the new House Majority will do what it is paid to do, and create a budget. The days of the blank checks and no limit credit cards of the US Gov’t died with the elections of 2010.

        A 5 year old can run a lemonade stand without any proper budgeting experience, because Mom and Dad are footing the bill. As the child gets older, they learn proper life-cycle budgeting by secenarios like when buying a car as explained above. They learn that tires , gas and proper maintenance are required or they lose their investment value. For the past 4 years our federal Government has been operating like 5 year old kids on steroids and the people footing the bill( the taxpayer) have had enough. Being able to properly budget taxpayer funded programs is needed to help reduce our national debt. After all that is what we pay elected officials to do. That is their job. If they can’t, or won’t do their job, they get fired, just like in the real world. See 2010.

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