Silly Season On Spending Getting To Obama's Plans

Last Updated Jul 21, 2009 5:58 AM EDT

The Federal Government buys a great deal of different things. It didn't start off that way two hundred odd years ago but the number of Federal programs and responsibilities have increased exponentially. Congress and the Executive Branch have stuck their noses into lots of things often for good reason. This has led the government to purchase cabbages and kings and lots of other things.

Drudge and some bloggers had a field day today due to a misrepresented contract item purchased with over a million dollars of stimulus funds. The way the item was written at Recovery.gov it seemed to say that two pounds of ham were purchased when it meant to say that ham in two pound containers were actually bought by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The tongue in cheek criticism must have touched a nerve as the White House as well as the Secretary of Agriculture actually took the time out of their supposedly busy days to directly comment and correct.

The point is not that the Government is buying ham to give to food banks to feed Americans. That is a worthy goal but is it really a stimulus? One of the problems to date with the $787 billion in funds contained in the bill is that much of it have gone to traditional state and Federal programs rather then those needed to create jobs which was the whole point of the thing. How much canned ham will create one job? It is hard to estimate that.

In another blow to good government the Government Accountability Office (GAO) had at Congress' request looked at how the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) manages its finances. The conclusion is due to the dual nature of funding sources and the multiple missions carried out by the Agency is that it cannot. The FDA gets money from the companies it inspects and the taxpayers. This has caused it to focus more on new product reviews as that part of their mission are paid for by private companies. Taxpayers fund safety monitoring and tracking products in use. If an agency cannot estimate its own budget how can it spend the money it receives properly?

The Obama Administration is dying a death of a thousand cuts on the "stimulus" as different cases are made that the money is being wasted while unemployment continues to grow. The whole point of the bill was to create jobs and that has not happened yet. Maybe it will next year, or the next, but that will not help the Administration regain credibility. There is already talk of a second stimulus targeted specifically at job creation rather then just giving money to government entities to spend as they see fit. Unfortunately time may be running out for that kind of thing with all the money required for Cap and Trade and health care reform.

The national debt is increasing dramatically with no commiserate return in economic improvement the stock market not withstanding. This alone may make it impossible for the Adminsitration to rally support for more extreme spending and borrowing in an attempt to gain some stimulus to the economy. Public opinion, rightly-or-wrongly, is swaying against current efforts and the political effects may be quite strong in the future. Some day all of this borrowed money will have to be paid for by somebody.

  • Matthew Potter

    Matthew Potter is a resident of Huntsville, Ala., where he works supporting U.S. Army aviation programs. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he began work as a defense contractor in Washington D.C. specializing in program management and budget development and execution. In the last 15 years Matthew has worked for several companies, large and small, involved in all aspects of government contracting and procurement. He holds two degrees in history as well as studying at the Defense Acquisition University. He has written for Seeking Alpha and at his own website, DefenseProcurementNews.com.