Economist Laurence Kotlikoff warns that we face $222 trillion in federal liabilities, almost 14 times the total GDP. But you wouldn't know that from watching the Congress-Critters at work. And it isn't just Democrats who think the purpose of taxpayer money is to waste. So do leading Republicans.
It took up just three lines in Congress’s last big appropriations bill, on Page 123 out of 487. But it is a legend, a wonk’s campfire story — the government spending nobody could kill.
“For payment to the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation . . . $450,000, to remain available until expended.”
This is a great survivor in the vast ecosystem of federal funding: a 20-year-old program that gives cash prizes for work in science. President Obama has called it inefficient and redundant. He and House Republicans — who agree on almost nothing — have tried to eliminate it.
Each time, however, it has been saved by a powerful friend in the Senate, Thad Cochran, the senior senator from Mississippi.
Granted, the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation doesn't spent a lot of money by Washington standards. But the nation's capital is filled with money-wasters of that sort. Closing up all of the irrelevant, redundant, wasteful, silly, and ineffective federal boondoggle would save a lot.
But equally important is the moral issue. The money belongs to the people who earned it, not politicians like Sen. Cochran. It should not be taxed away but for good reason. And funding boondoggles, even if small, does not qualify.
If Sen. Cochran really thinks the Foundation is such a great deal, he could designate his income for that purpose. Let the Treasury send his paycheck directly to the organization. And allow the rest of us to keep a bit more of what we earn.