OX GORING

Posted in Rants on November 23rd, 2009 by Ed

The Federal budget is nearly always discussed in abstract terms – it is "too large" or whatever – or with precision but bereft of context, as billions and trillions and numbers with decimal points are thrown around by people who haven't the faintest idea what portion of our budget those figures represent. The 3.99 trillion dollar FY09 budget, for example, makes almost any individual program look like a drop in the ocean. But I digress.

Where does all of that money get spent? Popular wisdom says Congressmen fight over it and eventually divide it up among the 435 districts in vaguely similar amounts. In reality Federal spending overwhelmingly favors just a few patches of real estate in this country. Note that the figures I am about to discuss are raw dollars, not dollars per capita, and exclude entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Between 2004 and 2009, 11% (10.88% to be exact) of all non-entitlement Federal spending went to six districts, or 1.4% of Congressional districts. Quite logically, four of these six districts include the District of Columbia, two bordering districts in northern Virginia, and one bordering district in Maryland. These districts receive copious Federal dollars because the Federal government itself resides in them. The remaining two, however, are quite a way from Washington D.C.

Over the last five years no Congressional district outside of Washington D.C. itself has received more Federal cash than Texas 12, ably represented by fiscal conservative Kay Granger (R). Since 2004, $32.6 billion tax dollars have been shoveled into this vast, empty swath of land west of the sprawling Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington agglomeration. It is with rich irony, then, that I read tripe on her website like "Granger Decries Healthcare Bill." It mixes cheap regurgitation of Contract With America-era nonsense ("It should include tort reform.") with non-stop whining about the costs. Rep. Granger sure is vigilant about looking out for our tax dollars, no doubt making sure that the encroaching threat won't siphon off her district's gravy train. I mean, that $13.9 billion in 2008 for "Construction of Structures and Facilities – Miscellaneous Buildings" doesn't just grow on trees!

The disconnect between fiscal conservative rhetoric and the reality of Congressional spending is considerable but rarely cast in high relief. Being "opposed to government spending" essentially means being opposed to spending that benefits individuals, and specifically individuals who live outside of one's district. Opposing spending means opposing "welfare" and unemployment benefits (which I believe are about $5000 per month in the minds of Glenn Beck and the idiots who attach themselves to his doughy hide like barnacles). Today it also means opposing healthcare reform, which like welfare and unemployment exists only to suck money out of the pockets of white hard-working people and give it to black shiftless people. The inability or plain unwillingness of voters and elected officials to recognize just how heavily they depend on a steady flow of cash from Washington D.C. is almost impressive. But when that money is threatened we find that their attitude quickly changes. Anti-spending attitudes are meaningful and deeply held only until one's own ox is being gored.