Signing a check is the easy way to make it seem like you're doing something. Take, for example, the administration's desire to make us all greener.
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Vice President Joe Biden proposed this week to spend $53 billion of our taxpayer dollars on passenger trains and high-speed rail projects over the next six years. One of those projects would link Tampa and Orlando.
The irony is that John Mica, a congressman from Florida, doesn't even want the money. He likes high-speed rail, but thinks the Florida project is well, marginal.
“This is like giving Bernie Madoff another chance at handling your investment portfolio," Mica said.
What's more, the train system we already have - Amtrak - doesn't even run at capacity. In other words Americans aren't wrestling over train tickets.
When the president addressed the State of the Union, he called for the hiring of 100,000 teachers to boost the proficiency of students in science and math. Wouldn't it be better to make the teachers we have better trained at what they do?
No. Instead, we're asked to spend more.
Then there is the spending politicians do to keep their jobs. The president said this week he's going to help states by waiving interest payments on what they owe the federal government, meaning he'll eventually give states the nod to raise taxes to collect more from employers to boost funds for jobless claims.
The 99ers - the folks who've run out of benefits after 99 weeks of collecting checks - are a big constituency. Loud and growing louder.
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So we spend a little more. You might say, “Hey it's not jobless benefits we need, but better training for workers.”
But listen to these results of a new GAO study: Our federal government spends $18 billion a year on 47 different job training programs run by nine different agencies.
All but three of the programs overlap with others to provide the same services to the same group of people. Here's what the authors of the report concluded: “Little is known about the effectiveness of the programs."
Spend more? You might say, hey, there is a big need to help poor communities grow and revitalize. There's already a federal development program for that. The new markets tax credit program was designed for that very purpose - but in the end the program was used to build upscale hotels, condos and office buildings.
Big U.S. companies benefitting from the program include Prudential, Goldman Sachs and U.S. Bankcorp
That doesn't seem right.
Look, we spend so much and we don't think so much about what it is we are spending on. Let's slow it down, turn down the taps and get back to a more reasonable spending level. Tweak the programs we like and get rid of the programs we don't.
It's our money.