Some time back I signed up for email “alerts” from the purportedly conservative group RightMarch.com (copy and paste if you must, I won’t favor them with a real link). Today I received the latest in their line of ridiculous exhortations to help with some questionable cause. They’ve avoided economic issues completely in favor of regular pleas to ban brown people from immigrating to the US, repeal the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment and trash federalism for a variety of reasons.
In this case, the alert was titled “Help Taxpayers ‘Google’ Federal Spending”. “Aha!” I thought, “They’re finally doing something worthwhile. They’ve put together a site on runaway federal spending and want help to get a good Google ranking.” That’s what conservatives would do after all. They figure their site is better than Heritage or Cato’s and they want to be on top.
In fact what they wanted was help promoting a new federal project!
It’s time that changed — and folks from across the political spectrum are coming together to make sure it does.
U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Barack Obama (D-IL) have introduced the bi-partisan bill S. 2590, the “Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act,” a bill that will create a Google-like search engine and database to track approximately $1 trillion in federal grants, contracts, earmarks and loans. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs approved S. 2590 unanimously this past week.
Wow. Let me count the ways this one stinks. 1. Barack Obama. 2. This is appropriate for the Homeland Security committee to waste time on? 3. A Senate committee approved it unanimously? Can’t be that good. But those are all fairly minor.
If conservatives want to “Google” federal spending they do what I did. They type “www.google.com” in their browser bar (or actually in my case hit the “Homepage” button) and enter the words “federal spending” in the search box. The third and fourth results, much more useful than anything put together by government bureaucrats with their inherent conflict of interest, are this page of research on federal spending and this PDF file on capping federal spending from the libertarian conservative Cato Institute and the fifth and sixth were this and this from the economic conservative Heritage Foundation. The top result is a group calling for a Constitutional Convention to push through a balanced budget amendment. Neither are ideas I particularly care for, but their front page breaks down the federal budget by categories in a way that should satisfy anyone not needing to do detailed research. Their shiny graph is sufficient to see where the problem lies – Health and Human Services is the largest budget item and combined with Social Security is more than all other spending combined, including defense and interest on the debt. If the public wants to Google federal spending the results they get now are just fine without Obama’s help, thank you. (A quick aside – Mr. Coburn, I realize politics make strange bedfellows but some bedfellows are worse than rampant lesbianism in Oklahoma high schools. Obama? Really?)
No wonder Congress is engaged in an orgy of runaway spending when an ostensibly conservative grassroots group’s solution to the problem of federal spending is another federal spending program instead of the obvioius – private action to bring attention to the problem. Especially so when private actions better than the proposed “solution” already exist and are so easily found as a quick visit to the search engine named in the group’s own email.