Chuck Sheketoff

While it probably makes little sense to try to argue with someone about government waste - if they think it runs rampant, they probably will never be persuaded otherwise....

Here's some tidbits to raise with the open-minded:

Remember, one person's waste is another person's treasure. So, when DHS announced recently that they were buying lots of new HP computers that means a windfall to HP.

If the media or Secretary of State or Grover Norquist could come up with a example a week of waste on par with the lottery's waste from a couple of years ago (just short of $1 million), they'd be uncovering about 1 percent of the state budget (not including federal dollars). So, when folks say there's 20 percent waste in government, they are blowing smoke. Even the national anti-government/anti-waste group says its about 1 percent, not 20 percent.. Put another way, one percent waste in a $30,000 a year household is like mis-spending $1 a day.

People sometimes talk of items that cost in the thousands or a few million as significant waste. Well, sixty seconds is one minute. One million seconds is about 11-1/2 days. And one billion seconds is about 31 years. Given that our state budget is about $11 billion (i.e. 341 or so years), is 11 or 22 days really significant?

The left has to recapture this non-issue of government waste.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)

    I read the linked article. Nowhere did it say that the identified projects were the total amount of waste in the federal budget. Rather they identified entire projects that were wasteful in nature.

    This is very different from recognizing the amount of government waste in budgets targetted for otherwise legitimate purposes. Whether or not federal budgets are generally 20% inefficient or not is a valid question, but that question was not addressed by the linked article.

  • (Show?)

    The linked news release is the total "pork" identified by Citizens Against Government Waste.

    An unsuccessful candidate for Congress (State Senator and Human Resources Subcommittee on Ways and Means Chair Jackie Winters) claimed during her campaign (in an op-ed published in the Statesman-Journal) that "Twenty cents of every one of our tax dollars spent by the federal government is lost to waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement ­ 20 cents of every dollar." If she were correct, that would mean that each week she thinks she will be able to find how much waste each week?

    Choices: $440 million, $850 million, $2.7 billion, $9.2 billion

    I will post the answer later in a comment. I have yet to see a list of the items that would be cut from the budget each week to meet that so-called target.

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)

    Chuck, you don't get to see exact specific items on a list -- they're talking faith-based waste.

    It helps you swallow the myth and internalize the illusion if you know yourself to be twenty-percent wasteful in your personal life. Lies grow tallest on a raised bed of guilt. Plus, the wind scatters seeds from taller lies farther. Direct sunlight, of course -- such as a plain list of items, wilts them.

    I take your important point that too many people cannot tell you or themselves the difference between a Million and a Billion. $147 Million sounds bigger than $1.2 Billion. Million? Billion? Sounds about the same. So 147 is lots bigger than 1-point-2.

    British colloquialisms do better, I've heard. What we call Billion, they call Thousand Million. (Then it worsens: What we call Trillion, they call Billion. Uh-oh.)

    It seems the very anatomy of the human brain plays an inherent part in constraining the scope of numerical estimation and comprehension. For some reason humans do a concept of Ten, fairly readily. (I say it's the fingers.) And with it, a faculty for a line of Ten doubled back Ten times in an area. And areas of Ten Tens stacked Ten high in a volume. So Roman numerals went Ten, Hundred, Thousand ... and who needs to deal with more than that, right?, good old 3-dimensions.

    But then came a Thousand Thousands. That's right at the limit, if not beyond, the brain's grasp of amount. It's a Million.

    After that -- seeing, say, a Thousand Millions, (or Billion) -- all is a void. No story-problem example exists, in human experience, to convey the concept of a Billion and make it concrete to the pupil.

    The only faculty for handling Billion is discipline in numeric methods. Plug and crank.

    Even having said it is futile, here are two examples that come close to putting in mind what Billion means.

    First: There are about one-quarter of one-Billion functional persons in the U.S., (between the ages of 1 and 100; that is, calling a 1-year-old 'functional'). So every federal $one-Billion spent means four dollars from each person. (However, 1-year-olds don't pay taxes, so somebody has to chip in their share.)

    Second: We were promised Iraq could pump 3 million barrels of oil a day; which, in a 33-day month, is about 100 million barrels. In 10 months then, 1000 Million, or 1 Billion, barrels.
    And if we sold it for $50 a barrel, we'd have $50 Billion. So far, we need to cover about $200 Billion is costs that made Iraq oil ours. And that is going to take 4 times 10 months -- 40 months to break even. So that's a sketch of the invasion situation. In detail, 16 months into it, Iraq's daily average pump-out is less than 1 million barrels, and oil sells for less than $50 a barrel, and it ain't all ours. Using detailed numbers, it'll take between 10 and 20 years of Iraq oil sales to break even on our known costs, which are mounting daily.

    Bonus points: Known military spending 'this' year is about $500 Billion, or, way over $1 Billion a day. Did you send in your 4-plus bucks, today? How 'bout your kids'?

    Extra credit: The U.S. credit card has over 7, going on 8, Trillion dollars on it. That's about $28,000 to $32,000 from each of us. (See how it all gets void and meaningless so fast?) Maybe we could just hand over our SUV and call it even. How 'bout your kids'?

    Homework: Global oil consumption is 80 Million barrels a day. The U.S. is 20 Million of that, about one-quarter. (In some wells it is estimated there are 80 Billion barrels -- that's 1000 days' global supply. Were you thinking of driving a new car 1400 days from now, when it's still not all paid for?) So the U.S. drinks 20 Million barrels of oil a day. 10 Million we raise ourselves, 10 Million we import. Our main import sources are: 2 Million from Mexico, 2 Million from Venezuela, 2 Million from Nigeria, and 2 Million from Saudi Arabia. 2+2+2+2 is 8, so that's most of our 10 Million barrel daily import. These numbers are fudged a little bit to make them easier to remember, and because true numbers are not reported and what is reported is at least a year old. (There is not 20 percent waste in these numbers, either.)

    In any case, some approximate sense of what's a Million and what's a Billion should probably be required knowledge for a citizen to demonstrate in order just to be allowed to vote.

  • Javier O. Sanchez (unverified)

    Tenskwatawa---dude? Or sister? DAMN!

    After I finished reading your post, I completely forgot what the hell the issue was and I want to go pet my cat and rub my wall size mural of Timothy Leary french kissing the planet Mars.

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