Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Government Waste

I remember watching the movie Dave, when the "fake president" was trying to get money back into the budget in front of the entire press corps. He questioned some multi-million dollar expenditure for an ad campaign to make people feel better about cars they'd already bought, which to HIM was a monumental waste of money. I liked that scene, because it showed how an Average Joe might approach spending at the federal level. To wit: if you save a little money enough times, eventually you've saved a lot of money.

I think of those things when it comes to waste by our REAL federal government, schools, universities, et. al. At the household level, I'm pretty sure all us Average Joes and Janes budget this way: we save a little money a lot of times, and over the course of the week and month and year, we save a lot of money. Organic diced tomatoes at Kroger run $1.59 per 14.5 oz. can; the non-organic cans are 79¢. I likes me some organic, both for what it represents in terms of what I put in my body and the environment. BUT, at a very real level, if I save 80¢ often enough, pretty soon I've saved a bundle of money.

Yesterday we got an envelope in the mail from the Census Bureau. I thought it was the actual Census form, but no: it was a single-page letter informing me that the actual Census form would be coming in the next week.


So, I figure I can safely assume that this letter was sent out to all 129 million households in the U.S. That's 129 million sheets of paper, 129 million envelopes, and the associated costs of actually delivering the fucking things. A quick check shows yer basic ream of 500 sheets of all-purpose paper from Staples is 7 bucks…do the math, and that's $1.8 million for the paper alone. Gummed window envelopes of the kind this letter was mailed in run $23 per 500, for another $5.9 million. That's 7.7 MILLION DOLLARS just in the cost of the physical objects. I have no way to figure the ink cost, nor the mailing fees…although, at 44¢ for a 1st-class letter, it would cost the Average Joe $57.8 million to mail 'em all. Presumably it costs the government less, but how MUCH less is a figure I can't come up with.

Suffice it to say, mailing out this letter - to tell me to expect another mailing next week - is at least an 8-figure outlay. And for what? A friggin' reminder??

An 8-figure outlay might represent the tiniest drop in the overall federal budget bucket, but it's REAL MONEY. And that, my friends, is the problem with federal spending. The CBO gets its undies in a bunch with underfunded Social Security projections, and with two foreign wars running us in the high-9-figures every year…but if we'd save money on stupid shit like this reminder letter, the way our Average Joe would do, we could be looking at some real savings.


Blogger Violence Worker said...

So far, I've gotten two of the exact same letter, each addressed to "resident".


12:13 PM  
Blogger Suze said...

Yup, we got one, too. A friend of mine is working for hte Census this year in SW Wisconsin...I think the reminder is so that people are more likely to fill out their census forms in the hopes that the data the gvt receives will be as accurate as possible. It's worth the extra paper, i think.

9:18 PM  
Blogger kat said...

I thought the same thing. IMHO (I did that just for you!), wait and spend the money on reminders for people that don't send it in. I mean, I've seen the commercials and the billboards and the posters. The message is definitely out there: Fill out the census. It is important.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Okay, so I had my census form.

It was around here somewhere, I swear it.

I mean. . .

Geez. Oh. Well. Guess I gotta move on.


11:56 PM  

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