Federal Government

One Point for pelosi

She finally gets something right:

Big win for liberals: In an interview set to air on Ed Schultz’s show tonight, Nancy Pelosi will make it official: She’s opposed to allowing the measure banning the release of detainee photos to remain in the final war spending bill.
“I don’t think Congress should make an exception to FOIA,” Pelosi will say, her spokesperson, Brendan Daly, confirms to me.

The stripping of the measure is a big victory for liberals and civil libertarians, and puts the House Dem leadership at odds with the White House on a highly sensitive national security and civil liberties issue.

Please: transparency, transparency, transparency.
Only scoundrels hide behind the veil of national security.

Via Glenn Greenwald.

Your Legislators Would Never Lie to You

Or would they?

But a professor at Oxford University in England has done a compelling series of studies trying to get at why big public-works projects such as bridges, tunnels and light-rail systems almost always turn out to be far more costly than estimated.
“It cannot be explained by error,” sums up one of his* papers, matter-of-factly. “It is best explained by strategic misrepresentation — that is, lying.”

Don’t think for a minute that this problem is limited to large public-works projects.
It permeates every branch of government and every political party.
It’s not just that they don’t know what they are doing:

It’s not technical challenges or complexity or bad luck, he asserts. If that were so, you’d get more variation in how it all turns out. He concludes the backers of these projects suffer from two main maladies.
One is “delusional optimism” — they want it so badly, they can’t see its flaws. I know about this firsthand from when I supported the monorail.
The second is worse: They knowingly are lying to the public.

Large public-works projects are small compared to wars and massive social programs and the same maladies apply.

*The person referred to is Bent Flyvbjerg. See here and here for more detailed information

Already Stimulating?

With all the talk of a desperately needed stimulus from the federal government one would think that the feds aren’t spending enough money, that perhaps the budget is balanced.
Alas, that is not the case. Looking back over the past 4 months, all bush legacy, it is clear that the federal government is spending at a rate dramatically higher than what they are taking in. From WSJ.com:

The Senate passed its $838 billion stimulus legislation today, setting the stage for negotiation with the House to draw up a final package. While they debate, the government appears to be losing a couple billion dollars a day in tax revenue.
With a deep economic contraction underway, federal tax revenue declined by about $88 billion — roughly 10% — in the first four months of the fiscal year (which started Oct. 1) compared to the year-earlier period, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis. Almost half the decline — $43 billion — came from a 43% drop in corporate profit taxes. Tax withholding from paychecks declined $19 billion due to lost jobs, while estimated tax payments declined by $12 billion.
In all, the CBO estimates the Treasury Department will report a deficit of $563 billion over the four-month period, or $474 billion higher than the four-month deficit through January 2008. Even remove the $284 billion in outlays for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and that’s $190 billion in higher spending or lower taxes so far this fiscal year.

At the rate of the past 4 months the deficit will be $1.68 trillion over the next 12 months.

Just why do we need the paltry additional $838 billion of deficit spending?