On Saturday the Washington Post posted an article about some of the end-of-the-year spending done by government agencies. The spending is a result of one of the side effects of baseline budgeting, which is something our government needs to get rid of. Baseline budgeting is the concept that a department’s budget is based on how much money they spent in the previous year. If they spend 90 thousand dollars and their budget was 100 thousand dollars, the department budget will be 90 thousand dollars in the following year. If they don’t spend all of the money in their budget, their budget is cut. This creates a mad rush to spend their entire budget by September 30, the end of the fiscal year. If they spend the full amount and ask for a 10 percent increase and get a 5 percent increase, that is considered a 5 percent budget cut. That is how Congress can claim they are cutting the budget while the spending continues to increase. These two concepts explain some of the rather interesting end-of-the-year spending done in the past few weeks by the government. As you read this, remember that this is under sequestration when Democrats are complaining that there is no money.
The article posts some examples of spending in recent weeks:
On Monday, VA paid $27,000 for an order of photographs showing sunsets, mountain peaks and country roads. They would go into a new center serving homeless veterans in Los Angeles; a spokeswoman described the art as “motivational and calming, professionally designed to enhance clinical operations.”
On Tuesday, the USDA bought $127,000 worth of toner cartridges (“end of year,” the order explained). VA spent another $220,000 on artwork for its hospitals.
On Wednesday, the Coast Guard paid $178,000 for cubicle furniture, replacing high-walled cubes with low-walled ones to improve the air flow in a large office area.
“Other higher-priority projects were not able to be executed, so they moved [money] to this lower-priority project” before the year’s end, said Coast Guard spokesman Carlos Diaz. “The money was going to be spent anyway.”
On Thursday, VA was buying art again. It spent $216,000 on artwork for a facility in Florida. In all, preliminary data showed that the agency made at least 18 percent of all its art purchases for the year in this one week. One-sixth of the buying in one-52nd of the year.
This is not a reasonable system. There is a spreadsheet at adelphi.edu that shows the federal deficit over the years. When President Obama took office, the deficit was approximately 12 million dollars. The deficit is now approaching 17 million dollars. That’s a pretty hefty increase in five years. However, the really interesting part of the spreadsheet is the relationship between the deficit and which party controls the House of Representatives. Remember, the House controls the spending. Please follow the link to the spreadsheet and take a look at the history of the federal deficit.
At any rate–baseline budgeting needs to go.