Americans Are Like Vinny Barbarino When it Comes to Runaway Government Spending: So Confused and So Goddmaned Awful

If you've ever wondered why we're broke at every level of government, you only need visit two earlier posts today at Hit & Run.

This one shows that despite all the bitching and moaning about supposed austerity measures, state and federal spending has gone on a-growing like an overfed baby.

And this one lays out a plan to trim spending all the way back to 2006 levels, when seven out of eight Americans were starving to death.

Sadly, the plan has no chance of being adopted because it actually suggests, you know, cutting spending. So it won't go anywhere even as Congress must find a paltry $1.2 trillion in net spending cuts over the next 10 years' worth of spending or else face...something. 

Just how puny is $1.2 trillion in cuts? For a laugh, let's assume that the feds spend just $3.6 trillion in each of the next 10 years (to get the joke, consider that federal spending between 2000 and 2010 basically doubled in nominal dollars). That would come to a total of $36 trillion in spending. Slicing $1.2 trillion from that total would cut a whopping 0.03 percent 3.33 percent from future spending. [Author note: Duh on my part, and I cannot plead having gone to James Buchanan High in my defense.]

To get a better sense of just how confused Americans are, consider Cincinnati-area residents, who are being pushed to build a completely idiotic streetcar as a means of urban development. Go here for reasons why the project is beyond stupid. There's an initiative on the November 8 ballot that would ban even thinking about a streetcar for the next nine years. 

The hometown paper, The Enquirer explains:

Most Cincinnatians believe a proposed streetcar would be a waste of taxpayer money, but say they oppose a ballot measure that would prevent the system from being built, a new Enquirer poll shows.

Fifty-three percent of city of Cincinnati respondents said they intend to vote on Nov. 8 against Issue 48, a proposed amendment to the city's charter that would prohibit City Hall from building the streetcar and perhaps other passenger rail plans through 2020, the poll found. Thirty-seven percent said they support the measure.

You got that? A no vote on Issue 48 means that you don't want to make it illegal for City Hall to build the streetcar anytime before 2021. A yes vote means you are saying the city shouldn't even think about it.

That's a bit confusing, for sure. Here is something that isn't: An Enquirer poll that finds 62 percent of Cincinnati residents think it's a stupid idea and 66 percent of Hamilton County residents (in which Cincy is located) think it's stupid. Both sets of residents include 17 percent who call the streetcar a "risky project," which should probably be added to the "Waste of taxpayer money" totals to boot.

Yet, in an article titled "Streetcar Poll Buoys Both Sides," the Enquirer quotes these two elected officials in favor of building a $95 billion million streetcar for a city that has not been able to fund its public sector pensions and is looking at a 2012 budget shortfall in the $60 million range:

But Councilman Wendell Young, who backs the streetcar, said he hopes the Nov. 8 vote ends the debate.

“The problem with revisiting the issue is that, even if we were to decide not to build the streetcar now, at some point we’re going to want one as part of our transportation system,” Young said. 

“And it will never be cheaper to build than right now.”

Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, another streetcar advocate who called the poll results “all good,” added that despite the survey showing that Cincinnatians are decidedly cool toward the streetcar, she would not hesitate to move forward.

“It’s incredible to me that we’re still having to fight to make progress,” she said. 
“I hope we break ground Jan. 1.”

Enquirer article here.

It is precisely the mentality quoted above that explains why we're broke: People who are in a position to know better but who dogmatically insist that the answer to every budget problem and every deficit situation is to keep spending, irrespective of available funds and possible payoffs to "public investment." It'll never be cheaper to build! It represents progress! Here's a better plan to help Cincinnati and all the other broke cities and states and federal governments: Lobby the Game Show Network to bring back Make Me Laugh and then put these clowns on it. Because if they can keep a straight face while saying things like they said to the press, they could keep a straight face if they were being tickled to death by the Marx Brothers.

But it's not just foolish pols and civic leaders who are to blame. It's also the voters who return such people to power rather than sending them packing. In the end, that's why we're broke: We keep electing people - and then re-electing them - who refuse to restrain spending.

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  • silent v||

    0.03 percent is three parts in 10,000. I think you mean a whopping 3 percent.

  • Joe M||

    Yup I was gonna say.

  • ||

    1.2/36 = 3%

    speaking of confused...

  • ||

    Technically 3.333333... %

  • 0.999... = 1||

    Please make a note of it.

  • ||

    I'm with Kronecker on infinity.

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    Maybe.

  • Apatheist||

    Technically you should be using a vinculum.

  • ||

    Derived from the Latin, meaning to bind. Some sort of kinky sex toy used by mathematicians.

  • ||

    And please don't ask me for the etymology of asymptote.

  • Apatheist||

    One of my math teachers in highschool said that using the word vinculum would get me laid. He lied.

  • ||

    He didn't mean the word. He meant an actual vinculum.

  • Joe M||

    “And it will never be cheaper to build than right now.”

    The more you spend, the more you save!

  • ||

    Can you please fix that math error? 1.2 divided by 36 is 3.33 percent.

  • Canman||

    What do you expect from a PHD in English Lit?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Those calculation errors that further our rhetorical point are the hardest to catch.

  • Koan||

    The lesson of Europe is: even when spending gargantuan amounts of money gets you into trouble, the only solution is to spend more money until you either A. get bailed out or B. provoke a revolution. Sometimes both occur, and most of the time it occurs in the order of A-B. We have already initiated A . . .

  • Tony||

    Low interest rates, weak market demand for labor, an infrastructure our grandparents built that is in dire need of repair, and a sluggish economy. Sounds like the best possible time to spend money on such projects.

  • ||

    I'm somewhat sympathetic to this point of view, but only as it applies to existing infrastructure. Plenty of bridges and roads need fixing, and Cincinnati has more than its share of needs in those areas. So why look instead to blow the money on this stupid fantasy of trains and trolleys? Obama announced his jobs bill standing in front of a POS, pretty dangerous bridge in Cincinnati. Don't build a stupid trolley. Fix the fucking bridge!

  • #||

    exactly - i have no problem using this oportunity to spend money on infrastructure projects that have long term value in of themselves. If you where going to do it anyway, now iis a good time to do it.

    Looking for craptastic projects and fantacy trophies to the state on the other hand is another story.

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    I, too, come to note the math error. You can either remove the word "percent" or write "approximately 3%"

  • AlmightyJB||

    wut.

  • Libertarian Boys Club||

    Math is hardish

  • Let them eat calculators||

  • ||

    If the politicians stop spending, that sets a precedent that you can spend less. This is a precedent that they do not want to set, because once it is set, people can run for their positions on a "I will cut spending" message. And people will believe it, once it has been shown to not cause the sky to fall.

    Their own best interests are served by never allowing spending cuts to happen. So spending cuts will not be happening. Welcome to modern politics.

  • Mainer||

    Spending less is so yesterday (literally). Spending more is progress. Why do you hate progress ?

  • Joe M||

    Very true, but I will note that somehow, by some amazing set of circumstances, the 2012 budget is "estimated" to be $91 billion less than the 2011 budget. Magic!

  • Neu Mejican||

    There's an initiative on the November 8 ballot that would ban even thinking about a streetcar for the next nine years.

    There is less cognitive dissonance than this post implies. I may oppose a specific project for very specific reasons, without feeling the need to stop ALL possible variations on the idea.

    This is like saying you don't want tainted meat in your sandwich, but would oppose a ban on all meat products in sandwiches.

    Based on the post...

  • Neu Mejican||

    There's an initiative on the November 8 ballot that would ban even thinking about a streetcar for the next nine years.

    There is less cognitive dissonance than this post implies. I may oppose a specific project for very specific reasons, without feeling the need to stop ALL possible variations on the idea.

    This is like saying you don't want tainted meat in your sandwich, but would oppose a ban on all meat products in sandwiches.

    Based on the post...

  • Mainer||

    But isn't it telling that some group got an initiative on the ballot (no small task in any jurisdiciton), to ban even the consideration of the street car? I keep hearing how whatever government officials do is OK, because it's by our consent that they are in power. But here the citizenry is clearly saying, "forget about the goddam streetcar", and these knuckleheads want to forge ahead anyway.

  • Neu Mejican||

    If they had written a clean bill that just said "no tainted meat in my sandwich" they would probably have had more support. They misread the opposition to the streetcar and tried to use it as a wedge for their other issue. They may have shot themselves in the foot.

  • ||

    Perhaps they have. Though also perhaps the city councilors who say, "This poll proves that I'm right to drive forward with this project" are also shooting themselves in the foot.

  • ||

    Perhaps the initiative should simply state that, unless and until standard calendars indicate that the date is prior to 1900, rail projects shall be suspended.

  • Fluffy||

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireS.....e-14754157

    Yay!

    It would have been better if they had stolen all the "cool" black outfits too.

  • Canman||

    Cincinatti could paint their buses to look like streetcars.

    http://cincinnati.com/blogs/le.....gestion-2/

    The small city I live in actually has a metro bus painted like a streetcar. It looks great!

  • Jeff P||

  • ||

    I used to be goddmaned, but my hairline has been receding for a few years now.

  • DJF||

    """"quotes these two elected officials in favor of building a $95 billion streetcar"""

    Is it really $95 billion?

  • ||

    Maybe it's a high-speed streetcar.

  • romulus augustus||

    Cinncinnatus must be spinning in his grave. Maybe they can hook him up to a generator to power the soon to be money losing streetcar line?

  • ||

    We are doomed. Get used to it.

  • johnl||

    Maybe voters are confused by the yes means no and no means yes problem.

  • Daniel||

    You also can't plead having gone to James Buchanan High for writing that the streetcar will cost $95 BILLION. It's more like $99.5 million, by the city's projections. Of course, these things tend to run over budget--but by a factor of 1,000 seems unlikely.
    But it's still a retarded project.

  • JMW||

    It is precisely the mentality quoted above that explains why we're broke: People who are in a position to know better but who dogmatically insist that the answer to every budget problem and every deficit situation is to keep spending, irrespective of available funds and possible payoffs to "public investment." [...] But it's not just foolish pols and civic leaders who are to blame. It's also the voters who return such people to power rather than sending them packing. In the end, that's why we're broke: We keep electing people - and then re-electing them - who refuse to restrain spending.

    Time to start confiscating the shovels being used by the political leaders to sink America further into debt, because they won't stop digging otherwise.

  • ||

    I'm not getting the Vinny Barbarino reference.

  • Copernicus||

    Did you really mean to write "Goddmaned"?

    If yes, please don't do it again.

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