White House tours are still off. That nasty 'ol Sequester monster wants to spoil the kiddies' spring trips to Washington, D.C., and the White House is moving heaven and earth to make sure Republicans get blamed. At least they didn't sink to the level of Harry Reid, who linked the deaths of seven Marines in a training accident to the Sequester - meaning, of course, Republicans. It's not a new low in the history of partisan slimeage, but it's close.
The president, who never met a tax hike he didn't love, will release a budget tomorrow calling for "revenue increases" so he can - among other things - reopen the White House to tourists. Apparently, he forgot he got a $600 billion tax increase three months ago. Such is life in Washington, where hundreds of billions of dollars evaporate in the course of everyday business.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, it costs about $77,000 a week to keep White House tours going. Simple multiplication gives us a bit over $4 million a year, total. Since the President is unable to find this sum in the current federal budget, in the interest of bipartisan helpfulness the following are a few possible sources for the money.
Consider Michelle vacationing in Aspen while the president golfed with Tiger. Yes, he probably paid his own greens fees and she bought her own lift tickets, but what about communications and security, not to mention transportation? The Tiger trip alone cost around a million dollars, including hotel rooms. It was one of three vacations so far this year.
We could question the Federal Highway Administration's spending $529,000 to install a fourth visitors' center on the 54-mile-long Taliamena Scenic Highway, spanning Oklahoma and Arkansas.
We could inquire why $500,000 in Federal redevelopment money went to "DC Pancakes LLC" to open an IHOP in Columbia Heights, Maryland - a trendy new shopping district, not an "underserved neighborhood," as the grant specified. This foolishness almost equals that of a $484,000 community block grant given by HUD to the "Mellow Mushroom," a drug-themed pizzeria in Arlington, Texas - perhaps to address the Lone Star State's acute shortage of pizza and beer.
See? We're more than halfway there. Should we spend $300,000 to "ensure formal workers' benefits in El Salvador, or $2,500,000 for Tibetan refugees in South Asia? Should we give the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt $4,000,000 for "global disease detection activities," to say nothing of the military equipment we're showering on them?
Interested in big boondoggles? The Department of Agriculture pays U.S. farmers an average of $2 billion a year not to farm. And according to the Government Accountability Office, the federal government spends about $25 billion a year on federally owned buildings that are unused or abandoned.
We're way past that $4 million mark, aren't we?
But in the world of stupid federal programs, there's always more - like the National Institutes of Health spending $400,000 to determine why gay Argentine men engage in risky sexual behavior when they're drunk. Or the $175,000 research program to determine if Japanese quail engage in "sexually risky behavior" while high on cocaine. No, really. Quail.
Nothing illustrates the Obama administration's cynicism like its checking of the "yes to all" box on federal spending, while excoriating the "evil rich" if they object to emptying their pockets to advance our knowledge of video games, growing mangoes in Pakistan, and whether politicians "gain or lose support by taking ambiguous positions." We spent more than $30 million on these three programs, and an additional $2.6 million to "teach Chinese prostitutes to drink responsibly."
We should all remind ourselves of the old aphorism: "To govern is to choose." Doing so should make abundantly clear which political party is really responsible for Washington's "inability to govern." Giving favor to supporters and promising more, while forcing the productive sectors of the population to surrender their gains to fund such giveaways is not governance, but its opposite.
Failing to determine what level of spending our economy can sustain is not good politics, it is the willful surrender of long-term prosperity for immediate advantage. Refusal to eliminate even the most egregious examples of waste, while choosing more of the same to further political objectives, is worse than incompetence. Unless you think that the sexual behavior of coked-out quail is a question of national security.
Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.