The Audacity of Budgets (Part 4)

The Department of Commerce

Gotta love Funding Highlights and bullet points. It gives opportunity for grandiose claims of major reductions. Bullet point one: “Provides $8.8 billion in discretionary spending, a decrease of $5.1 billion from the 2010 enacted level“. At first glance; outstanding! But how did we manage such a feat? And what about that word enacted? 

Normally when you enact something, in legislative terms, you make into law for a determined amount of time for a specific purpose. We are talking about budgets and spending, we must be funding this legislation. But why enacted?

Yours truly had to find out. Weaving my way through this portion of the Budget, I discovered we have leaped over ‘fuzzy math’ directly to the Twilight Zone.

From the 2012 Federal Budget: Department of Commerce (pg 58) we find;

Total Discretionary – Actual 2010 – $13.8 billion   (Est) – 2011 – $9 billion   (Est) – 2012 -$8.7 billion.

That is a $5.1 billion reduction to be sure. But where did it come from? It came from the Census. Big disappointment. 

Periodic Census and Programs:  2010 – $6.97 billion vs.  2012 – $753 million. 

Remember we had a Census in 2010 (enacted legislation) and it cost $6.97 billion to conduct it. That fact alone causes me to shake my head in disbelief. The net result of this fact – since we are not going to have another Census in 2012 we are going to save $5.1 billion without any effort from Obama. But he gets his funding highlight nonetheless. Nice to be able to take credit for doing absolutely nothing.

Don’t despair for the poor Census folks, are going to get a bone from the Administration of $1 billion in 2012. For what, I ask? Well according to the budget “to complete tabulation of the 2010 Census data,” and “will lead to the development of a cost-effective and accurate 2020 Census”. Give ma a break! The Census cost $6.97 billion, now they want to spend another $1 billion to tabulate the results, and get ready for 2020. Really?

Hence the word ‘enacted‘.

So is the $5.1 billion is a real reduction? Fat chance!

Note the bottom line (pg 58); Total outlays:  2010 – $13.2 billion  vs  2012 – $13.1 billion.

(Note also that numbers for 2011 are not there. That’s because the 2011 Federal Buget has not been passed yet). Back on topic.

Where did the $5.1 billion reduction go? The twilight zone I guess. That’s the zone where you cannot distinguish between sight and sound. Or in our case – cut and spend. Let’s not stop spending those ‘enacted funds’ for the 10 year Census. No sir! We need to re-allocate that money. We will give the Census folks their $1 billion of the original $6.2 billion reduction leaving us with $5.1 billion.

Pretty much everyone else gets a raise in their funding to use up the $5.1 billion. Not point in giving it back to the tax payers.

There are a couple of Funding Highlights in the 2012 Dept of Commerce Budget of my own I would like to point out.

1. One of those who departments get a raise in 2012 is National Institute of Standards and Technology. And what do they do? Well, they do a lot of various scientific projects. One is developing measurement systems for all kinds of things – like CO2 emissions from Energy plants.

Energy Conservation, Alternative Energy, and developing standards for the measurement of fossil fuels, fossil fuel consumption, and their Environmental Impact is another. Why are we doing that?

Looking ahead; in order to regulate and begin taxing something you have to set standards by which to do that. And the Physical Measurement Laboratory division of NIST is who is going to do that for the Government. So what you say, aren’t measurements and Consortiums a good thing? Yes, unless they are being set up in secret to help facilitate Cap and Trade (legislation that is not passed). This is exactly what they are getting ready for. Cap and Trade.

They have already ‘hit the ground running’ so to speak, by virtue of the $34 million grant they got from the Stimulus money. Take a Scroll through the list of projects listed.

2. All of the Congressionally Directed Projects in the NIST, under the Department of Commerce, have been eliminated in the 2012 Federal Budget.

They are now under the Discretionary Spending category. I find that a little suspicious. We want to continue funding to the NIST without Congressional Direction or Oversight? Why?

3. That money, once under Congressionally Directed Projects has been shifted to Public Safety Innovation Fund (which is in the discretionary category now). What is that? Here is a list of those projects under the NIST. 

These funding highlights are disturbing, but what they feather into is even more alarming.

In conjunction with this Public Safety Innovation Fund, we read in the 2012 Budget “Invests Spectrum Receipts to build a Public Safety Broadband Network, Expand Wireless Broadband to Rural America, and Promote Cutting-edge Wireless Technologies.” What a load of …..

Continuing; “the Budget proposes $7 billion of mandatory funding over the next several years” The 2012 Budget shows a budget amount of $1.45 billion for 2012. So when do we get the bill for the other $5.5 billion? They are saving that for the budget from 2013 and beyond.

And if that wasn’t enough- they are going to isolate a block of bandwidth for this purpose. That bandwidth is valued at $3.2 billion, and by taking it off the market, they are going to forgo that $3.2 billion in revenue. They are not going to forgo it, we are going to lose it!

Now our investment is $10 billion. “In addition to funding provided directly to the Department of Commerce, the President’s Budget will provide $5 billion to help expand next generation wireless broadband networks in rural America.” Are you kidding me? Not only are we going to build new homes in rural America, and build Grocery stores for the new home owners (according the Department of Agriculture Budget), now we are going to make sure they have wireless broadband internet. Oh, and guess who gets the contract- the NIST.

That is a total of $15 billion invested thus far. And what are we investing this $15 billion in? Can you say Net-Neutrality boys and girls? Yes, that’s right, one of the parts of the Net-Neutrality bill is to provide high-speed internet to those who ‘cannot afford it’ on their own. And if the Government funds it, they make the rules on who gets free access and who doesn’t. Yet another back door set up for passing legislation that has to this point been rejected.

They are also planning on leasing or selling additional bandwidth that will, according to their estimates, generate another “$27 billion in revenue over the next 10 years”. Where is that money going? Why it’s going to the “Presidents Wireless Innovation and Infrastructure Initiative.” I guess that is in addition to the other Broadband projects previously mentioned. $3 billion of it to start with.

In this section of the 2012 Federal Budget it’s not what is listed that’s important, but what is not listed. We have listed several billions of dollars of outlays that are mentioned in paragraph, but not listed in the outlay tables. The replacement of Congressional funded projects with discretionary spending is disturbing, but not nearly as disturbing as the behind the scenes funding of systems to accommodate Cap and Trade, as well and Net-Neutrality.

In this section of the 2012 Federal Budget we have crossed over to a place where the real expenditures are not listed and monies that we haven’t even collected are already allocated to projects that are the groundwork for Legislation that has not been passed. Where control has been taken out of the hands of Congress and given to the land of Discretionary spending. Truly we are in the twilight zone.