Deficit commission out of money?
posted at 10:55 am on June 7, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
Today’s Someone Left the Irony On Award goes to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, better known as the Deficit Commission. Barack Obama created the panel ostensibly to reach some kind of bipartisan consensus on reducing the federal deficit; a better title may have been the Accountability Avoidance Commission, since it owes its existence to the need for Obama to avoid political blame for the massive tax hikes he needs to fund his nanny-state agenda. Even before they get to that stage, however, they have already proven that government naturally inclines towards unthinking growth and irresponsibility, as the Tax Prof discovered at Tax Analysts:
Saddled with a tight deadline and great expectations, members of President Obama’s deficit reduction commission say they may not have the resources necessary to meet their task.
The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which the president created through an executive order in February, is charged with developing a plan by December 1 that would stabilize the budget deficit by 2015 and reduce the federal debt over the long term. The group is widely expected to consider a combination of tax reforms and spending cuts.
But despite the weighty demands, the panel has only a fraction of the staff and budget of standing congressional committees. The panel’s own cochairs and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., have criticized the meager resources and called for more support. …
According to fiscal commission staffers, there are 10 to 15 people who work for the commission, including two full-time employees, interns, employees “borrowed” from other agencies such as the Office of Management and Budget and the Treasury Department, and special government employees, who are expected to work no more than 130 days in a calendar year. The number of workers will likely grow to around 20 by midsummer.
The White House has set aside the resources to provide the equivalent of four full-time salaries and $500,000 in operating costs for the commission, fiscal commission Executive Director Bruce Reed told Tax Analysts.
The commission has as many as 15 employees, two full-time, for their work. Congress has allocated $500,000 in operating costs apart from the four full-time employees for the life of the panel, which produces its report on December 1. That is about $50,000 per month to analyze the federal budget and develop proposals for cuts, based on having an unpaid commission full of supposed experts in this field. I ran a call center of 45 people with a budget just over four times that much, which included the salaries and a lot of costs that the Deficit Commission won’t have to address, such as phone lines, rent, capital depreciation, and so on.
This is a microcosm of the very problem that the commission is supposed to fix, and the reaction from Washington pols is priceless for understanding it. The gripe from Harry Reid is that the staffing doesn’t match that of Congressional panels, such as the House Ways and Means Committee. That panel employs 90 staffers and spent over $8 million in FY2009. Ninety staffers equals more than 20% of the entire Congress. Maybe the problem isn’t that the NCFRR doesn’t have enough people, but that Ways and Means spends way beyond our means. In fact, the entire federal government spends way beyond our means, and we can thank the Democrats who added over a trillion dollars in annual federal spending in just three short years for that, increasing the budget by 40% during their control of Congress.
Meanwhile, let’s just savor the irony of a deficit commission that couldn’t get halfway to its goal without running its own deficits.