Friday, August 23, 2013


According to the latest posting by Congress,

The 535 men and women who comprise the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have been a busy and productive bunch.  In the first 7 months of 2013, they have passed, and gotten the President to sign, 22 bills. Why that’s more than 3 a week!

These accomplishments include the "Freedom to Fish Act", which stops the Corps of Engineers from restricting public access to waters downstream of a dam, and decisions to name the bridge across the Mississippi River on I-70 east of St Louis, the "Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge," and name the provisions of the IRS Code relating to individual retirement accounts of married individuals the Kay Bailey Hutchison Spousal IRAs.

Congress has also authorized a display to acknowledge donor contributions to the visitor center at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, empowered the Treasurer of the DC Government to fill vacancies in his office, and despite the high-minded enmity of Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee to almost all proposals to spend Federal money, Congress passed 2 bills (9% of its total output) to let Uncle Sam’s sawbucks behind a couple of electric power systems in the Beehive State. No grid lock in Utah.

Congress did pass a couple of significant bills, preventing the FAA from reducing operations and staff (can you say, “flying home to my district?)” and funding Federal Flood Insurance.

But, by far the most “impactful” (a true Washington word) bills to meet the Presidential pen were the ones that allowed the U.S. Government to continue appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013, and ensure the complete and timely payment of the debt obligations of the United States Government until May 19, 2013.  Since May 19, the Treasury has been juggling accounts against the promise or prayer that Congress would raise the ceiling on the National Debt before this session ends sometime this Fall.

Until Congress acts, the government is once again facing a possible end-of- September shutdown, and financial default.  Today’s NY Times says right now things look bad.

So, while we all wait for that decision, it might be worth considering the costs to us, the taxpayers, of these exercises in Congressional brinksman(and woman)ship.

When Congress threatens to shut government down, take it from one who has seen this from the inside, government stops almost everything else it is supposed to be doing to prepare.  Every day that is devoted to these necessary preparations is time stolen from the ordinary important functions of government.  And they are necessary.  Federal workers can’t simply close their computers and turn off the lights, certain truly vital services have to be sustained, and that takes a lot of planning. And, lots of stuff has be more than put away, but secured, and that takes both planning and time) Based on a 365 day year, the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) figured the daily cost of running the Federal Government for FY 2011 was about $11 Billion. After the sequester, it’s likely less than that right now, but, say $10 billion bucks a day, round numbers.  For nothing.    

These are your tax dollars at work. Or diverted from work.

Then there’s the cost of the made-in-Congress “panic” that accompanies loud talk on Capitol Hill about defaulting on our government’s debt obligations.  According to a backgrounder done at the Council for Foreign Relations (

A 2012 [GAO] study estimated that delays in raising the debt ceiling in 2011 cost taxpayers approximately $1.3 billion for FY 2011, [with] the ten-year costs of the prolonged [Congressional] fight at roughly $19 billion.

These tax dollars aren’t going to just disappear, they are going to migrate from your pockets to those of the 1%, the people and Wall Street institutions which cash in the government’s increased borrowing costs which result from the higher interest rates charged “risky” borrowers.

And it’s not just the government which gets fleeced on account of this gratuitous throwdown, over something that had never been anything but a routine vote to approve before the Tea Party crazed, or at least intoxicated the Republican Party. editor Jonathan Masters also noted, “Rate increases would also raise capital costs for struggling U.S. businesses and cash-strapped homebuyers.”  More money from you, to them.

So the next time you hear your Senator or Congressperson suggest he’s gonna shut down the government and stop the rise in the national debt, picture loose lips sucking cash out of your wallet and puking it into the accounts of Wall Street bankers or country club plutocrats.  Picture many of those WSBs and CCPs “contributing” or better yet “bundling” cash for your S or C’s latest election campaign.

Not a pretty picture, but probably the heart of the Congressional report card for their work from January through July.


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