A shave and a haircut will cost you more than two bits just about anywhere, but it’ll run you over two Hamiltons at the U.S. Senate barbershop — more than double what barbers in some parts of the country charge. Yet despite these high prices, the shop, which is supposed to be self-sustaining, ended up $300,000 in the hole last year and got its own taxpayer bailout, proving once again that government is incapable of performing even the smallest tasks cheaply and competently.
For nearly four decades Congress has ensured that federal spending rises inexorably by guaranteeing that every budget item increases automatically each year. And woe to anyone who seeks merely to reduce these automatic increases, for he shall be labeled a heartless, slash-and-burn budget cutter!
Feeling pain at the gas pump? Congressman Dennis Kucinich thinks he has a solution: Tax “unreasonable” oil company profits. The Ohio Democrat has introduced the Gas Price Spike Act, which he claims will “reduce the price of gasoline” by confiscating part or all of an oil company’s profits that exceed an amount deemed “reasonable” by a panel of unelected bureaucrats.
Congressmen long ago granted themselves the privilege of mailing items to constituents at taxpayers’ expense, a process called “franking.” Usually such a mailing amounts to a barely disguised plea for reelection, bragging about how much pork the congressman has brought home and listing services he offers to his constituents.
Anyone trying to figure out why Americans don’t trust their elected officials need look no further than an October 17 New York Times article. Entitled “Farmers Facing Loss of Subsidy May Get New One,” the William Neuman-penned piece reports that “in the name of deficit reduction,” Congress, backed by “major farm groups,” is considering eliminating a $5 billion farm subsidy — only to turn around and enact another farm subsidy costing almost as much. “In essence,” observes Neuman, “lawmakers would replace one subsidy with a new one.”
Many observers of the political scene suspected that the creation of the congressional deficit-reduction supercommittee was just a sham to allow legislators to increase the debt ceiling while giving the appearance of being serious about long-term deficit reduction. With each bit of news that trickles out of Congress, such suspicions are being borne out.
Taking a notably different tack from fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “fiercely attacked President Barack Obama’s new jobs plan Tuesday,” according to Politico. While House Republicans have taken what Rutgers University political science professor Ross Baker, in an interview with Congressional Quarterly, called a “tactically polite” approach to Obama’s $447 billion bill, McConnell came out swinging against it.
One of the terms of the recent debt ceiling deal between Congress and the White House was that Congress would vote on, but not necessarily pass, a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. The deal did not, however, specify the language in the amendment, giving legislators plenty of opportunities to sneak in loopholes that might very well render any amendment that does pass meaningless.
Almost everyone is aware that the federal government pays farmers not to grow certain crops. But not many know that taxpayers are also being forced to pay airlines to fly empty planes. It’s true. According to the Associated Press, the $200 million federal Essential Air Service (EAS) program subsidizes airline service to less populous areas of the country; and because it does so on a per-flight — not per-passenger — basis, airlines sometimes fly empty planes back and forth just to keep the free funds flowing.