Fiscal Responsibility Begins at Home

Posted on February 10, 2010


I’ve been going through Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year 2011 budget.  The budget is 184 pages long, including a 5 page introduction by the President.  The most interesting document for me, however, is the detailed Outlays spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet is 4,705 rows long, and goes back to 1962.  It’s organized by Agencies/branches of government (Legislative, Judicial, Dept of Defense, etc), then by Bureaus (Senate, House, Supreme court, etc), then by accounts (what they’re spending the money on).

It makes for very interesting reading – much more than the budget itself, which is full of spin and obfuscation (perhaps not any more in Obama’s administration than any other, but it’s clearly there).

It will take me some time to work my way through it completely, but since the budget starts with the outlays for the Legislative branch, let’s take a look at what we spend on Congress.

I divided the spending into four categories: Senate, House, Joint spending and Other.  Other includes the Capitol Police, the Office of Management and Budget, the Library of Congress, Government Printing Office, etc.  Here’s the summary:

2009 2010 2011 2012 % increase 2010-2011
Senate 873,009 960,010 1,068,011 1,024,012 11.25%
House 1,349,000 1,545,000 1,587,000 1,475,000 2.72%
Joint 22,000 22,000 22,000 20,000 0.00%
Other 2,460,000 2,898,000 2,904,000 2,775,000 0.21%
Total 4,706,018 5,427,020 5,583,022 5,296,024 2.87%

A couple of things jump out from this table.  The first is the obscene increase in the Senate budget.  How many of you are getting 11.25% increases in your household budget?  I don’t see a lot of hands up.  Second, this budget represents almost $11 million per Senator ($10.68 million to be exact).  Each Senator is paid $240,000 per year, which sounds like an awful lot to most people, but is probably reasonable given how much many of them could make outside the Senate.  But the real expenses are for Senate staffers and expense accounts, over $10M per senator.

Do we really need $11M senators?  Sure, it’s hardly going to make a dent in the deficit for Senators to freeze their own expenses at 2010 levels, but it’s surely a symbolic gesture worth making.  Does anyone think the Senate will function any poorer if we freeze their staff and expense account budgets?

I didn’t think so.

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