Comments: Hundreds Of Billions Of Dollars

The bill cut money for NASA? Does this Bush doesn't want to go to Mars anymore?

Posted by Lawrence Krubner at July 25, 2004 01:30 PM

NASA is funded in a different appropriations bill - the VA/HUD one I believe. That bill hasn't gone to conference yet between the House and Senate, but here is a clip from a House release:

NASA is funded at $15.1 billion, $229 million below last year and $1.1 billion below the request. The bulk of these savings come from the elimination of funding for new initiatives. The reductions include $30 million for technology maturation efforts; $230 million from Project Prometheus related to Jupiter Icy Moon Orbital; $438 million resulting from delaying the Crew Exploration Vehicle; and $100 million from Space Launch Initiatives by accelerating the termination of activities. The bill fully funds shuttle operations at the requested level of $4.3 billion. The committee fully funds Mars programs at the requested level of $691 million.

I think the WH has threatened the President may veto the bill if some of those "initiatives" aren't restored by the conference committee.

One of the cost saving measures with the Mars project is making it one-way - volunteers?

Posted by Col Steve at July 25, 2004 11:21 PM

I've wondered sometimes if there would be economic efficiency gains if the President made a push for "structured pork." That is, allow pork but demand that it conform to some national priority. This could be a pretty loose constraint, yet still possibly bring some benefits. Suppose getting to Mars was a national priority. The President could insist that most pork have something to do with getting to Mars - that could be fairly wide open, like grants to the local university to do more research on some as yet unsolved technical problem, like dealing with osteoporosis in space, or how to improve spectral analysis of far away objects.

Or, more obviously, you could insist that education was a national priority, and insist that all pork do something to improve education.

Could such a constraint be imposed and still have pork fulfill its political purpose? Would it make pork even worse, as a social ill? Would it make it better? I've wondered.

Posted by Lawrence Krubner at July 26, 2004 02:13 PM

I think the problem would be mental. (Or do I mean psychological?)

If you start codifying pork and qualifying it as "appropriate" under certain circumstances, then it will be perceived as legitimate budgetary spending.

After that, a whole new category of "pork" would evolve and we'd just wind up with double the amount of "pork."

I mean, we recently read about the attachment of approval to use federal funds to build a swimming pool somewhere. It's unlikely in the extreme that that would fit under any "structure," but that won't stop the representative from wanting to get it funded, or the leadership from helping her/him find a way to fund it in return for his/her vote on some issue.

Posted by Anne at July 27, 2004 08:20 AM

"After that, a whole new category of "pork" would evolve and we'd just wind up with double the amount of "pork.""

Good point.

Posted by Lawrence Krubner at July 27, 2004 10:21 AM

I was wondering if you could just come up with an allotment proportionate to the size of one's district (or a fixed % for senators) - but tie the entire "pork pool" to a performance metric on the overall size of the budget relative to (real) GDP growth (to take inflation into account).

So, if GPD grew by 4%, but the final budget only grew by 3%, then the "pool" would be an extra 1% to divy up based on the formula. States or districts would submit "wish lists" approved by the Gov/legislature and the spending could only be on items on those lists.

This might cause some strange alliances, especially among folks representing big districts but w/o the seniority to sit on the big pork committees (ie. Appropriations)..

I suspect though that they would find away to change the accounting to know, make something idiot proof and they'll invent a better idiot..

Posted by Col Steve at July 28, 2004 12:16 AM