The federal program that wouldn’t die

There is a line item in the budget that costs nearly a half million dollars.  Republicans oppose it.  Democrats oppose it.  President Obama wants to kill it.  The House Republican leadership wants to kill it.  And yet, this program has gone on for twenty years and NO ONE CAN END IT.

David A. Fahrenthold in the Washington Post:

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.

Now, Washington is enmeshed in another battle over spending. But the Columbus foundation shows how both parties are struggling to turn their hard-nosed rhetoric about austerity into action. After all, it would be hard to imagine a less painful cut than this one: a program with two full-time employees and bipartisan enemies.

And yet, it lives.

See why this is and learn how our messed-up system works by reading the whole article:   Columbus Fellowship Foundation lives on, illustrating budget struggles in Washington – The Washington Post.

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  • SKPeterson

    The sad thing is, while this program might be a joke (like Obama saying it was inefficient and redundant), it is not the problem. Granted there may be 1 million other programs of the same size chewing through the federal fisc, but the real problem is with the big programs, not simply multi-million dollar programs, but the multi-hundreds of billions of dollars programs given names with appendages like “defense” or “security” or “health” or “education” or “commerce” or “justice.”

  • mikeb

    You have to start somewhere.

  • Justin

    I think Ronald Reagan said it the best, “The closest thing to eternal life we will see here on earth is a government program.”

  • Kirk

    I’ve got some friends (including a PHC alum) that work for Sen. Cochran. He’s renowned as being the worst pork barrel spender in the whole Senate. It’s kind of an old southern good-ole-boys network sort of thing. Anyways, he goes by Thad the Impaler, which always makes me chuckle.

  • One wonders how one senator can wield so much power all by himself.
    I probably don’t really want to know.

  • You’d think the one thing they could all agree on is the one thing that could be ended.

  • Oh, I just realized what SKP @1 was talking about.
    I see what you did there.

    I notice “energy” is not on the list, though 🙂

  • DonS

    I remember that they finally got rid of the telephone tax, originally implemented to fund the Spanish-American War, about a decade or so ago.

    It would be nice to have our politicians, and Americans who like to say “the Government should do something about this …”, consider these things before starting a new program. Its clientele will fight to the death to never let it die.

  • tODD

    No one actually cares. The guy got re-elected in 2008 with 62% of the vote, and he’s almost certainly gonna get re-elected again next year. Nor will this funding be an issue.

    Anyhow, read the article, people. This isn’t really “pork-barrel spending” (@4), because the foundation is in upstate New York, while Sen. Cochran is from Mississippi. None of his constituents appear to benefit.

    Nor does he appear to be wielding “so much power” here. It’s just a bone that is continually tossed his way, apparently so that he can be convinced to vote for much more important things.

    Now, that doesn’t explain at all why the guy seems to care so much about this program. Which does seem odd.

  • SKPeterson

    Mike @ 7 – I could add “energy” to that list to, or “lands”, “resources”, “trade” or even “veterans”. “Children” might be the worst.

  • tODD

    SK (@10), why do you hate children?

  • SKPeterson

    Because I’m a Lutheran and think their little sinful selves should be drowned in Baptism.

  • Don’t all conservatives hate children? 🙂

  • (SK @10) The surest way to guarantee longevity and lavish funding to a federal program is indeed to claim that it is “for the Children” (capitalization intentional — “The Children” being a comparable metonym to “The People.”)