Sunday, November 18, 2007
Daniel J. Summers
Today's Albuquerque Journal (website) had a couple of front-page stories that caught my eye. First, the one full of good news was titled "Others' Message to Illegal Immigrants: Leave!" The Journal doesn't put their stories online to link to, so I'll quote enough of it to give you the idea…
States surrounding New Mexico have recently passed laws aimed at cutting off illegal immigrants from social services and jobs.
The goal? To drive them away.
In Oklahoma, where a set of laws known as the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act took effect Nov. 1, Latino churches have reported losing up to 20 percent of their members and Tulsa County alone estimates a population exodus of 25,000 people, mostly foreign born.
Sounds like that's a law that has actually done what it set out to do! And kudos to the Journal reporter, Leslie Linthicum, for including that oft-excluded qualifier illegal when describing the people being targeted by the legislation. (That wasn't the case through the entire article, but it was refreshing to see it.)
The instructive article was the one beside it entitled “Fast Track: Critics Say Rising Rail Runner Tab Slows Road Work.” The Rail Runner is pretty cool - I've ridden it with our Cub Scout pack. It's a light rail passenger train that goes from about 20 miles south of Albuquerque to about 15 miles north of Albuquerque, but will eventually extend to Santa Fe. It's been in operation just over a year.
The article had a lot of information about how it (and lots of highway improvements) came about, through legislation passed in 2003 called Governor Richardson's Investment Partnership (GRIP). The initial estimates for the Rail Runner was $90.2 million, but the current expected total cost is $420 million (plus $50 million in escrow, to address “issues” that may arise). This in and of itself has some folks upset. However, the way the GRIP legislation was written, funding can be shifted amongst the several projects - and, because the Rail Runner has such high visibility, money has been diverted from highway improvements to the Rail Runner.
The instructive part, to me, is the cost balloon. Whether the Richardson administration willfully underestimated the cost, or whether it has simply grown due to unanticipated costs, I don't know. It's probably some of both, and it's not really important to the lesson I think we can learn. As an example - New Mexico did not even apply for federal funding of the Santa Fe leg of the Rail Runner. Why?
Rail Runner officials last summer cited problems with grant program rules and the limited federal funds available as reasons for not applying for the money.
And the state was working on a fast track.
A legislative analysis from 2005 stated that the process of applying for federal funds could have delayed the second phase for up to several years - beyond the December 2008 deadline the Richardson administration had set.
“The project needs to be proposed and there are a lot of requirements necessary,” [Federal Transit Administration spokesman Paul] Grasso said. “There's an environmental review that has to be done; there's a cost effectiveness standard that has to be met. There are all kinds of things that have to be worked out in advance.”
Any government entitlement program costs more than originally estimated - every single one. It will take longer and cost more than the original estimate every time. So, when you hear politicians (especially now during campaign season) pitching their programs, remember that. $400 million today is probably $3 billion once implemented.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Daniel J. Summers
Today, we discuss an article published in Stars and Stripes entitled "Air Force: Shift in funds may affect payroll". Let me preface this by saying that, although this may appear to be a fisking, it's not - I'm simply using this as a launching pad for saying things that have needed to be said for a long time. With that in mind, look at the selective quotes below…
The Air Force said Wednesday that it might not be able to pay its airmen in the coming months if the Pentagon is forced to shift some $800 million to the Army to fund the war in Iraq.
The Army announced this week that it will slow spending and prioritize repairs to equipment as it waits for Congress to review emergency funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, the Pentagon has asked Congress for the OK to shift $1.6 billion in funds meant for the Navy and Air Force to pay the Army's operating expenses, according to an Army news release.
“The Air Force believes this is a prudent measure and expects that the funds will be restored quickly so that military payroll will not be disrupted,” Araujo said in an e-mail response to Stars and Stripes.
“Bottom line: we need the bill to be passed quickly to avoid any further impacts to readiness,” she wrote.
Think about what that says for just a minute. The Army is so strapped for cash that they're considering dipping into the Air Force's payroll to fund their equipment repairs. Why in the world would they be doing that? The clue is in the first sentence of the second quote. They are waiting on Congress to pass the emergency funding bill.
I have about had it with this new Congress. They are the most power-hungry group of people I have ever seen. The President requested this legislation February 5th. February 5th! If continuing stalemate on April 24th and beyond is considered “emergency,” let us all pray that neither Harry Reid nor Nancy Pelosi ever become the fire chief in your town.
And speaking of Reid and Pelosi, let's take a look at the so-called “leadership” of this new Congress. Over on the Senate side, they're led by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). While some, through their tough, dogged leadership, may think it positive to have the nickname “Dirty Harry,” Sen. Reid has earned his moniker. Though you wouldn't know it from the nightly news, he earned over $1M from a land sale that was, to put it as nicely as possible, legally dubious. This past week, he made the statement that the war in Iraq was not just unwinnable, it was already lost. (Though he clarified what he meant by saying that the military portion was won long ago, I have to agree with James Taranto of OpinionJournal.com (fourth article, entitled “The Old Green Lady”)…
Haven't we been hearing for years that President Bush was an arrogant fool for appearing on a ship with a banner saying “Mission Accomplished”?
But we can't leave the House of Representatives out, now can we? Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is the current Speaker of the House. For those of you not up on your Constitution, this means that if President Bush and Vice President Cheney were to meet their demise, she would be the President. (I'll pause while the shuddering stops…) Speaker Pelosi decided that, rather than leave international diplomacy to the Executive branch, where it should be, she would rather take it upon herself to begin visiting foreign heads of state. Of course, this trip started with Syria - a state sponsor of terrorism with whom we are currently already working. I swear, sometimes I think that Democrats have never met a terrorist they didn't like; either that, or they so hate President Bush that they're falling into the “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” mentality. Either way, it's dangerous for our nation. And, when the House recently enacted a minimum wage increase, American Samoa was exempted. Why was that? Seems StarKist tuna, a subsidiary of San Francisco-based Del Monte, employs nearly 75% of the island's workforce. Rep. Pelosi's district includes San Francisco. And the Democrats have the nerve to say the Republicans have a “culture of corruption”?!?!?
This is the same problem that is now plaguing the emergency funding bill, flailing nearly three months after it was requested. Congress has passed a bill - but it was so loaded with pork that neither Jews nor Muslims would come within a mile of it! “Bringing home the bacon” has always been an art form in Washington, D. C.; but to stock up on the backs of the troops on the ground is beyond reprehensible. Coming back to the article that started this, the situation is so bad that the Army is considering borrowing from its sister services. But, pork is not the only thing holding up this bill.
The Bush administration has requested an additional $100 billion in war funding, but the request has stalled as Congress tied those funds to a deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq. President Bush has vowed to veto such a bill, leaving the Army with little funds to carry out its mission in Iraq.
The timetable! Not only does this Congress want to usurp foreign policy and diplomacy, they want to usurp the Commander-in-Chief duties as well! I applaud any vetoes of the bill that contain these treasonous, un-Constitutional provisions, and I hope that all the blame for the funding delay falls squarely on the shoulders of those responsible - the power-hungry, overreaching Democrats in Congress.
But hey - if we miss a paycheck, we can just tighten our belts, right? Here are some of the money-saving initiatives the Army is considering…
Among the belt-tightening measures being considered by the Army are a freeze on new civilian hiring from outside the Army and laying off temporary employees, the statement said.
According to the Army statement, beginning in mid-April, the Army will slow the purchase of repair parts and other supplies, relying instead on existing inventory to keep equipment operational. Priority will be given to repair and refurbishment of immediately needed war-fighting equipment, while training and other nonmission critical equipment repair will be deferred, officials said.
In addition, the purchase of day-to-day supplies with government charge cards will be restricted, nonessential travel will be postponed or canceled, and shipment of equipment and supplies will be restricted or deferred altogether, unless needed immediately for war efforts, the statement said.
Well, that doesn't sound too bad, right? “Nonmission critical,” “nonessential” things will be canceled, while “immediate needs” will be addressed. But in the lingo of the military, the things that are being foregone are not “nonessential.” Many things that are considered non-essential are essential when viewed long-term. What the Army is saying is that they're basically going to let everything slip, things go unfixed, and soldiers go untrained so that they can afford the immediate need. This is not sustainable - and, the Army went on to say (emphasis mine)…
...even with these spending restrictions and the possible shift of $1.6 billion from the Air Force and Navy, funds are sufficient to keep operations running only until the end of June.
So, we've dropped all the replenishment and taken the Air Force's and Navy's payroll money, and we've only bought 2 months. This is absolutely despicable. Congress needs to get off its collective duff and get the military the money it needs.
I'll close with this. In this country, we have always disagreed about when, where, and to what extent our military should get involved. Prior to Vietnam, though, the side that didn't get their way shut up and supported the troops and their mission, through to its completion. In Vietnam, this changed; and our government's failure to prosecute treason back then is one reason the Democrats are so bold today. Whether they actually want America to fail, or they just want President Bush to fail so badly that they don't care if he takes America down with him, they have now invested themselves in our defeat. If this isn't treason, I don't know what is.