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Budget Fever

For those who love this stuff, check out the Obama Budget. For those who don't like such concepts as "a $1.75 trillion deficit," I suggest you take the day off.

[NASA, by the way, is slated to get an extra $900 million over the Bush administration's last budget request, which by my calculation will allow it to fire three more satellites into the ocean every year.]

The president's opening message is largely an echo of the speech the other night. Turning crisis and adversity in opportunity, etc. Time to stop talking, start doing.

World-famous deficit raptor that I am, I wanted to see how Obama would broach the debt issue (and yes, I remember that in December 2000, in the waning days of the Clinton administration, the Congressional Budget Office projected a ten-year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion). Here's what Obama says:

"[W]hile our Budget will run deficits, we must begin the process of making the tough choices necessary to restore fiscal discipline, cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office, and put our nation on sound fiscal footing."

Smart strategy: It's always easier to cut a deficit in half when you start out with a huge one.

Now I need to find a link to the all-important Appendix. That's where the good stuff is.

[From my budget deficit story a couple of years ago:

"The general public struggles to remember the difference between the annual deficit and the overall federal debt, and perhaps that's a good thing, since the national debt is a number so horrific it comes close to being the literally fatal number once dreamed up by Ian Frazier in a story in the New Yorker: a killion."]


And now, retrieved from a dungeon where it has been consigned lo these many years since the people deleted it from our servers, a bonus Rough Draft column from 2000:

Sizzling off the presses, Budget for Fiscal Year 2001 is an eye-popping feast for budget aficionados. If you like numbers, this is your document. It's a boffo budget that I suspect could generate as much buzz as Budget for Fiscal Year 1992, and possibly approach the cult status as Budget for Fiscal Year 1987. Readers who access it on the web are strongly advised to avoid accidentally hitting the "print" button, as that will tie up the printer until the year 2075.

Normally at this time of year I make sure to join the hundreds of people who camp out overnight outside the Government Printing Office hoping to be the among the first to hold a copy of the president's budget in their hot little hands. It's always a long, cold night, but we sing songs and share our favorite stories about past budgets and various "line items" that have tickled our funny bone. I've heard tales about the Dairy Indemnity Program, the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990, and the Land Acquisition Reinvestment Fund that I'm afraid I can't repeat in a family newspaper!

(Republicans this morning called the president's budget "dead on arrival," the 162nd consecutive year, dating back to the Van Buren administration, that congressional opponents have used that phrase to describe a new budget.)

The real meat of the budget, the serious numbers -- the hard stuff, if you will -- is in the Appendix. But before you dive into that bad boy, you'll want to amble through the brief, 421-page overview document. My advice is to avoid skimming, because you'll miss some of the gems and will be clueless later today when people are laughing at various budget jokes around the water cooler.

This budget begins, as always, with a message from the president, which foreshadows the thrills and hijinks to come. The message is partisan. The president's essential message is that human existence was nasty and short and brutish before his election and a delightful romp ever since.

What you notice when you read the budget is that the federal government is interested in every single element of the human experience, right down to how much time people spend fluffing their pillow before hitting the sack. The government will soon have an Interagency Task Force on Pillow Fluffing. This is not some hands-off outfit.

This is a government that wants smarter kids, happier marriages, tastier food, less dangerous tornadoes -- and has initiatives and task forces and programs and goals for all these things. For example, the federal government's 2001 goal for airplane fatalities is 0.031 per 100,000 flight hours -- exactly that number. (Although presumably even fewer would be acceptable.)

In this budget you can read about the Priority Management Objectives, the New Markets Initiative, the Food Safety Initiative, the Early Learning Fund, the 21st Century Learning Community Centers, the 21st Century Research Fund, the 21st Century Policing Initiative, the Science and Technology Initiative, the Greening the Globe initiative, the Clean Water action plan, the Clean Energy initiative, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and so on and so on.

These are all fairly transparent in their goals, but the budget also contains allusions to more mysterious and intriguing things, like the Clinger Cohen Act of 1996, or the Organic Act of 1944. Someone needs to find out what these acts are all about -- what exactly was the Agricultural Act of 1949? -- and whether this is the kind of behavior the American taxpayers should be subsidizing.

You might ask, how can the government afford to have so many acts with so many implicit actions? It helps that it has "receipts" of $2,019 billion. That makes you wake up in the morning with a lot of initiative. (In general the government tries not to use the word "taxes" or, for that matter, the word "trillion.")

[Jeepers, how dated is that last line???]

By Joel Achenbach  |  February 26, 2009; 11:36 AM ET
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Posted by: Gomer144 | February 26, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Kim1 | February 26, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Oops, not moi!

I went back to get everybody, but it wouldn't let me post, said that I had posted too many comments. Ouch! Official reprimand for boodle hogging.

Posted by: Kim1 | February 26, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for digging that out of the archives Joel - very funny.

So did you camp out this year?

Posted by: dmd2 | February 26, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Joel, your calculations are incorrect; sorry, dude. That budget increase allows for *building* 3 more satellites per year. Launch costs extra.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 26, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Uh-oh. Front page alert.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 26, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Tim, we could save a bunch of money on the launch if we just omitted mounting them on rockets, and filling the rockets with fuel, etc. We could just tow them a few miles out to see and jettison them over the side. Problem solved.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 26, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

If it wasn't on the Front Page now and then, how would new legions of boodlers find their way?

And in those immortal words: We're all Bozos on this bus.


Posted by: DoubleVision | February 26, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Everyone knows there's no free launch. Sheesh.

Posted by: Boko999 | February 26, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

DV, anyone who can quote Firesign Theater is more than welcome here.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 26, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Didja see that the last Clinton budget projected eliminating the deficit by 2009? Oh jeez, that hurts so bad. The Bush initiatives have come sooo close to sending us down the tubes. I hope Obama will be able to right this ship. If not, we're done for.

Posted by: slyness | February 26, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Joel, your line about cutting the deficit reminds me of the old line about auto racing:

Q: How do you make a small fortune racing?
A: Start with a big one.

I wrote a long comment about how folks who actually make money racing leave others holding the bag when bills come due, but it became self-indulgent and depressing.

Mainly because it reminded me of our economy.

Note to self: Scrooge McDuck *never* picks up a check.

Much of large-scale budgeting and finance - be it corporate or government - seems to have to do with assigned numbers and theoretical values which may or may not have much to do with how much things actualy cost and real payments for anything.

Some suggest that everything went to h3ll in this country once we moved away from the gold standard. One more thing to blame on Nixon, I suppose.

Since information is the most valuable thing in the world these days, wouldn't an Information Standard make some sense - assigning monetary value to informational units of some sort? Get paid for trading information - oh, wait, I'm reading the on line for free...

Never mind, please forget I suggested it.


Posted by: -bc- | February 26, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Are we really done for? Can the banks' diddling with decimal points really portend our devolution into a "Road Warrior" style of anarchy? I have some otherwise sane, college-educated friends who are buying up some of the guns that are flying off the shelves and for what? Are we really and truly worried that this great country will fall apart because of some Enronconomics?

I don't worry. As an atheist, I have little faith in the supernatural, but my faith is strong in our country and our new leader. I am not concerned with arming for the apocalypse (unless it involves hordes of the undead, in which case I hope my lever-action carbine and my machete will suffice). Our country will weather this storm as it has so many others, and this crisis will be the high-(or low)water mark by which we measure future crises.

I want to wish good fun and great times to all who are at the IBPH, and give you another reason to celebrate; I turn 33 years young today and, though you couldn't pick me out of a lineup, I hope you'll raise a glass and think of me, oiling my gun and hording gasoline.

Posted by: Gomer144 | February 26, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Someone has already put together a business based on what I (independently, but too slowly) suggested a week or two back for a way for newspapers to make some money: Kachingle,

You put in some dough, and click a little button on blogs that you like. In exchange, based on the amount of activity you record at each blog, your little bit of money gets distributed to the bloggers. No reason it couldn't work for newspapers, as well.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 26, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Admittedly, my plan differed somewhat form Kachingle. In my plan, you rack up a tab based on donating a known amount (say, 25¢) for each blog item that you like, then you get billed when your tab reaches a certain level. Kachingle's plan is more reliable, in that they hold your money in escrow, but less generous, in that you decide in advance how much you are going to pay for web access, regardless of the extent to which you use it. Kachingle provides the distribution mechanism for your largesse.

And that's how Information gets turned into currency that can be exchanged for goods and services, as in bc's 1:24 PM.

(And what is a 'PM' anyway? A 'Poo Movement?')

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 26, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

ScienceTim, you are speaking of micropayments I believe.

A tough nut to crack, me thinks, or it would have been done by now.


Posted by: DLDx | February 26, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

PM - Post Meridian.


Posted by: DLDx | February 26, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Also: A California French Restaurant in the East Bay.


Posted by: DLDx | February 26, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

I think it's the first "$1.75T" headline I see. So a Trillion has entered everyday language. What's the next step?

ante midi / post midi ?
(I have no clue, Avant-Midi/ aPrès-Midi?)

The black guns flying off the shelf might just be that those good people fear the return of the "assault weapon ban". That this was a ban of large capacity magazines got lost in the static.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 26, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

*Tim, aren't launches a sunk cost?


I wonder if NASA had flood damage insurance on the OCO?

[sorry again]

Y'know, when global warming's really kicked in and there's a coral reef where the OCO splashed down, the American Taxpayers can proudly point to our Dollars at work.


Speaking of Reagan, this talk reminds me of the bit Howard Stern did - sheesh, 28 or so years ago now? - where he called Air Florida inquiring about prices for flights from National (now Reagan) Airport to the 14th Street bridge.

The difference between funny and cruel can be very relative, as is everything. Sometimes there's all the difference, sometimes there's none.


Posted by: -bc- | February 26, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Micropayments? It already has a name? How many decades behind the time am I? "I'll threaten to destroy the whole world if they don't pay me ... a MILLION dollars!"


Regarding PM, I was speaking humoristically. As an astronomer, I am all too familiar with the meaning and derivation of PM as Post Meridian.

But, perhaps I should someday visit that French restaurant in California (is it okay to speak of things French, once more?).

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 26, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Actually, about 10 microseconds after I posted the PM thing I did a palm-to-head ca-thunk. ScienceTim asking about Post Meridian? Must be something funny there that I missed. Which is why I posted it.

As it is not funny if one has to have the joke explained, I shall forever remain clueless. (a relative constant state) Ah, me.


Posted by: DLDx | February 26, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Visually and phonically, PM and BM (bowel movement) sound very similar to me. Yep, toilet humor, that's what I'm talking about.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 26, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

No. But French-Canadian is OK. And french fries. French dip. French cuffs. French's mustard. Lee French. Mr. French.

That's about it.

Take that! you snobby Academie Francais!! Bwahahaha!

Le revenge, she ees sweet.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 26, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Beginning to feel a bit under the weather. Feels like a reoccurrence of my old nemisis, the dreaded scurvy. Mayhaps I shall leave early today (in, oh, 96 minutes) to go see medical relief and sustenance.

Not that I'm counting the minutes, Yoki.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 26, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, you forgot French Kiss!!

Heading out the door have a few stops to make,then on to dc and the bph,maybe a few of you should look out the window from time to time and see if you can spot a west by godder walking around aimlessly in the big city.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | February 26, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Are you a Clem or a clone, DoubleVision?

p.m., I get. What the heck is a IBPH?

I knew I smelled a tax increase coming. BTW it's okay with me. If I have a job, I'll be okay. Standard Keynes says, I think, don't pump taxes up too much in a recession, but when the good times roll (and I hope to live so long) it's a good time to ramp up some capital gains taxes, high-side income tax, and even some modest import tariffs.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 26, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

You left out French kissing. And French toast.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 26, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

IBPH = International Boodle Porching Hour. We have a foreign guest coming. Passport, funny furren accent (she says bawks of boox), the whole nine yards. So glam. We are all a-twitter. (Well, OK, I am.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 26, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

French kiss AND French toast?

*smacks forehead*


Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 26, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

French maids. French and Indian War. Braids, doors, dressing. French Twist (it's a hair style YJ).

Posted by: LostInThought | February 26, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Boko999 | February 26, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Sacre blur!

*smack smack smack smack smack smack smack*

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 26, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

French cuffs
French seam

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | February 26, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Did French cuffs.

Never heard of a French seam.

but *smack* anyway

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 26, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I know, LiT. My wife wore a French twist on our prom date. I was very disappointed to find out what it really was.

And keep your French letters to yourself, boko. But at least they keep you from catching the French disease.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 26, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

French manicure, French Laundry...

Posted by: MiddleofthePacific | February 26, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Boko, you're on a roll this boodle. First the launch, then the letters. Ha.

Posted by: -bia- | February 26, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

French dressing wasn't what I had hope it was either.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 26, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

frenched chicken breast or other cut meat

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | February 26, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Now you're just being cruel, CP.

Posted by: Boko999 | February 26, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Note that there is no such thing as English kissing.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 26, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, I see that you are a proud graduate of the Aubrey Académie of Approximate French. Keep on the good work my friend.

Good IBPH to all.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 26, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

I'll only apologize for the launch.
If I have too.

Posted by: Boko999 | February 26, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Please, I don't want anyone Frenching my chicken breast before I eat it unless it's, like, Heidi Klum or Paulina Porizkova or Cheryl Tiegs (someone of that ilk) -- and I get to watch.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 26, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Boko, you and byoolin (MIA) are consistenly funny in a drive by, perfect timing, acerbic, concise way.

French bangs: short and thick bangs cut at eyebrow level and all the same length; bunt cut bangs like classic Agent 99 in Get Smart.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | February 26, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Pagint dmd and dr and frosti:

French lilacs aka the LeMoine hybrids

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | February 26, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

French bulldog
french-cut pants

Back to grading papers now.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | February 26, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

No apology necessary on my account, Boko. That "ha" was entirely sincere. (I've never been able to bring myself to write LOL.) I suppose what I actually produced might more accurately be called a snort, but it was an audible expression of amusement, in any case.

Posted by: -bia- | February 26, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I have a large, flat, black-and-blue spot on my forehead.

Yes, CP, please *do* go back to grading papers, before I start to bleed and/or get a concussion.

Ah, Cheryl Tiegs. An oldie but a goodie (still). Tim, you are a man after my own heart. Fine wine, fine wine.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 26, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Oh crap. French drain.

(I don't have to smack myself if I think of it first.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 26, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

I like "sacre blur." It's actually a keeper.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 26, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Would Kathy Ireland do or does she have to be French?

Posted by: yellojkt | February 26, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Have fun at the IBPH, Al. I'm driving the bus this evening for the soccer squad. Two drops, then a nap until kick off.

Posted by: -jack- | February 26, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

And tell me that you spelled Paulina Porizkova from memory.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 26, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

yello, he looked it up in the restraining order.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 26, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

French marigolds (tashkent series)

French provincial decor

Back to papers. Enjoy, y'all the international gathering. Somebody request a French dip sandwich for me.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | February 26, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Couldn't care less about the budget today. My husband keeps incessantly poking me in his sleep in order to teach me a science lesson (still in his sleep).

So unfair that he gets to sleep through all that poking and mumbled biology.

I want a French dip sandwich, too.

Posted by: Sara54 | February 26, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 26, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

We covered both poking and food in the previous kit.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 26, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Oh, yes, he also incessantly poked me later in his sleep until I finally said, "What?!" and he said, "You're really good at Mario" and laid back down.

I really need some Ambien or Lunesta and my own bedroom.

Posted by: Sara54 | February 26, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Excuuuuse me -- I sure did spell Paulina Porizkova's name from memory.

Kathy Ireland has that massive jaw line -- looks like she could crack, um, hard-shelled large tree seeds with those teeth. But I once bought affordably-priced laminate flooring that bore her name, not that that influenced my purchase. Anyway, she doesn't play such a large part in my Frenched chicken breast fantasies.

Now, please let me stop wallowing in my shallowness.

(Wallowing in my Shallowness would be a fine name for an emo song).

CqP, I think that Tashkent may be my favorite exotic place name ever.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 26, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Wallowing in Shallowness is available as a Boodle handle. But you'll have to wait until Scotty gets back to register it.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 26, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I read laminate as intimate and had to go back.

Posted by: Boko999 | February 26, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

New kit!

Posted by: -dbG- | February 26, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Alex, I'll take Supermodels Of The 80s for $600.

"This Uptown Girl took a 'Vacation' with Chevy Chase"

And remember to answer in the form of a question.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 26, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

*vewy, vewy qwyattwe tippy-toeing out*

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 26, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

For those attending please pass on a big hug to Yoki and the others. Have fun, I am going off to a corner to sob.

Posted by: dmd2 | February 26, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

See ya at 5, Mudge-san.


Posted by: -bc- | February 26, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse kit.

Posted by: slyness | February 26, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I like that we can now build the bridge to nowhere as the main part of the new budget but drop all the other ideas which are just too expensive. Besides it seems like the gov't going nowhere most of the time. So we just as well build a bridge to it!

Posted by: artg | February 26, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

English kissing exists.
It's called the handshake.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 26, 2009 7:04 PM | Report abuse

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