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September 23, 2005

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» Republican Priorities: Operation Offset Edition from The Stakeholder
Yesterday, the Republican Study Committee released a list of suggested cuts to offset spending on Hurricane Katrina relief. Today, we take a closer look at this proposal to slash spending on vital government programs so that Katrina relief can be... [Read More]

» Jupiter! from Political Animal
JUPITER!....Over at Obsidian Wings, Hilzoy is channeling the Medium Lobster:When NASA announced Monday that it would be spending $100 billion to send people to the moon, I said: huh? Now? I have since concluded that it was announced so that... [Read More]

» Jupiter! from Political Animal
JUPITER!....Over at Obsidian Wings, Hilzoy is channeling the Medium Lobster:When NASA announced Monday that it would be spending $100 billion to send people to the moon, I said: huh? Now? I have since concluded that it was announced so that... [Read More]

» Jupiter! from Political Animal
JUPITER!....Over at Obsidian Wings, Hilzoy is channeling the Medium Lobster:When NASA announced Monday that it would be spending $100 billion to send people to the moon, I said: huh? Now? I have since concluded that it was announced so that... [Read More]

» Jupiter! from Political Animal
JUPITER!....Over at Obsidian Wings, Hilzoy is channeling the Medium Lobster:When NASA announced Monday that it would be spending $100 billion to send people to the moon, I said: huh? Now? I have since concluded that it was announced so that... [Read More]

» Jupiter! from Political Animal
JUPITER!....Over at Obsidian Wings, Hilzoy is channeling the Medium Lobster:When NASA announced Monday that it would be spending $100 billion to send people to the moon, I said: huh? Now? I have since concluded that it was announced so that... [Read More]

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...and you were in control of the Federal Budget, what would you do? Via ObWi.... [Read More]

Comments

Dear hilzoy,

A tax increase is not a saving. A scrapped tax cut is not a saving.

A scrapped expenditure is a saving.

Think hard, you'll work it out.

I read a's comment, and I had to remind myself of Rivka's Social Psychology Lecture. Also of the posting rules.

Dear a

Who cares? Choose life!

Just think.

Hilzoy quotes some creep on Porkbusters: Since actual help for bona fide victims of domestic violence does not exist anywhere in these programs, why not start with one of the most damaging and money-wasting programs we have in the US?

Of course, a man who beats his wife and perceives himself as the victim when she leaves him, might well argue in this fashion.

a -
surely reduced expenditures on debt service is a saving? Surely reduced inflation is a savings? Surely Thomas Jefferson was right when he said any debt incurred by the nation should be paid off within the same generation (20 years) ?


The total isn't even close to half a trillion bucks over ten years.

Check out Josh Marshall.

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2005_09_18.php#006610

The $500 B is based on a typo, which is corrected in the footnotes but not in the end totals.

You know, I'm not a bit surprised by the idea that the pork-cutting brainstorming would come up with some candidates that are in fact not legitimately pork. I don't think that bad choices for cutting diminishes the overall validity of this...call it what you will. I don't think hilzoy has said or even implied this, but you never know who's going to.

Haven't examined VAWA, so I have no idea what it is, actually. So, this: I propose that the budget-flensing (thanks, forget who introduced this recently) mock process being done in the blogosphere, there be a sanity-checking of the results. And no, I'm not volunteering, although I would nominate hilzoy (for maximum sanity).

Slarti: thanks. And I do think that having citizens like us go through and nominate "pork" is a really good thing, as long as there is some sort of vetting process, so that I don't get to nominate, say, the entire executive branch and have that sit, unquestioned, on the list.

a: you're right: I forgot to point out ine little thing that I thought was obvious, namely: that the point of these exercises is, immediately, to pay for the recovery from Katrina (and probably Rita), and also to lower the deficit. Eliminating tax hikes that have not yet materialized will pay for Katrina, but of course it's not wasteful spending.

I say we spend a the $500 trillion, more or less, on building those space ships to the other side of the universe.

The passengers will be those Republicans in Congress and the White House who wish to cut Medicaid and programs such as Hilzoy describes, and the tough guys across this great country of ours who beat the crap out of their wives and girlfriends, probably both.

Just to see what happens.

As a budget-cutting line item, we could forget to provide enough fuel and ground support staff to let the ship get any further than 20 minutes outside the atmosphere with no way back. We could save on heat shields, too.

The doomed passengers would have a live feed to C-Span to watch me explain in mock seriousness my definition of pork.

I say we spend a the $500 trillion, more or less, on building those space ships to the other side of the universe.

There is no other side of the universe, really. As a matter of fact, it's all the other side.

Apropos of almost nothing, the subject of this post is a guy who was a known beater of women. How he got elected judge to begin with is an utter mystery. I spoke with a friend who still lives in the town I grew up in, and asked him how this fellow got elected judge, given that everyone who knew him knew his tendency to commit violence on women. He had no idea. I heard that in the end, his ex-wife testified against him as a character witness, which doesn't surprise me in the least.

blah, blah. boo hoo. don't you know we're at war? god knows we can't actually raise revenue to pay for it...

I realize you were being snarky, and most of what you say I agree with, but the bit about the moon sounds ignorant. This is the proposed ramp-up to replace the shuttle program, not some fantasy new money that can be painlessly cut. I think it's a crap idea, but if that moon thing is cut, that is basically 40% of all NASA employees, and a large number of aerospace contactors out of work, and basically starving an industry where we are very strong (believe it or not). There is a real opportunity cost on the table.

Sadly, this crap is what NASA has to propose to the current science-hating administration. 'Boring' things like more probes won't be supported.

Bacon: I, at least, was quite serious about cutting the moondoggle, as well as all future manned space flight. I think it's an expensive dangerous program without much scientific payoff, as opposed to the unmanned flights, which gather a lot more data for a lot less money.

If you'd like more probes, or even just servicing the Hubble telescope, I'm with you. Manned space flight, no.

hee! moondoggle. That's a great word. moondoggle. Yes, I'm twelve.

Oh, and one more thing: moondoggle.

(:

It's probably the Moondoggie connection. I know it is for me.

My case for manned spaceflight is here.

"Oh, and one more thing: moondoggle."

I recently learned something I built is called an "automated dongle".

For the record: I don't think I came up with 'moondoggle'. I have some dim recollection of having read it elsewhere. Whoever did think of it gets cheers from me.

Moondoggle?

Isn't that a Van Morrison song?

Can I have one of your moondoggle keychains?

Allow me to echo, with enthusiasm, everything Arachnae said in her link. As well as to note that the scientific side benefits of manned space travel are, while nice, beside the point. I could proselytize about the need to spread beyond the Earth and get some of our eggs out of this one fragile basket, but I understand this is rarely convincing to anyone not already passionate about space travel.

What strikes me as a far more timely argument is that manned space travel makes Americans proud of their country. When we've got people out there in space achieving new things, it gets the nation excited, brings us hope, and gives us something to be proud of. It's a rare exception to my usual distaste for nationalism--and frankly, I think it's something we could really use right about now. We've been sliding into a miasma of cynicism and despair since 9/11, and a lot of it is justified--but that doesn't mean it's healthy.

We've been sliding into a miasma of cynicism and despair since 9/11, and a lot of it is justified--but that doesn't mean it's healthy

The word you are looking for is "malaise".

The word you are looking for is "malaise".

That works too.

For the record: I don't think I came up with 'moondoggle'. I have some dim recollection of having read it elsewhere. Whoever did think of it gets cheers from me.

Might it have been Kieran Healy?

What Catsy said. It would be one of the most profoundly proud moments of my life as a human being and an American to watch, on live television (well, with a 10-minute delay) a human foot step on the surface of Mars.

That said, I fully support a lot more of this research -- and the associated costs -- being farmed out among private players. Let competing private interest find the safest, cheapest, most efficient way of getting people there, just like they're doing with the X-Prize stuff right now.

Josh -- it might indeed. Thanks.

About manned space travel and pride: I actually have rather strong views about this, on the opposing side. I, too, think that it is a good form of nationalism to want my country to do great things. But I think it's essential that those things actually be great -- that we resist, at all costs, the temptation to substitute "great" things for genuinely great ones.

Now: I am willing to be convinced that there are benefits to manned space flight that I have not yet considered. But I do not think it's a good reason for having them that they would make us feel good about ourselves, even though there is no scientific or other reason for having them, other than their effects on our national pride etc. That's "greatness", not greatness.

Far better to call attention to the genuinely great achievement of being able to send unmanned flights to other planets and have them actually do what they are supposed to. -- I love watching the people at the Jet Propulsion Lab cheer and hug each other, as they totally deserve to do, when one of their wonderful devices lands and sends back its first pictures. It is genuinely great that we can do that.

It's also genuinely great that teams led by US scientists eradicated smallpox. That's not just about ameliorating the lives of lots of people, important though that is; it's the genuinely great achievement of wiping a disease off the face of the earth.

But sending people to the moon, again, at vast expense, without any compelling scientific (or other) justification? That, to my mind, is kitsch.

But sending people to the moon, again, at vast expense, without any compelling scientific (or other) justification? That, to my mind, is kitsch.

Whereas to me it is its own justification. I think there are some things that, even in the absence of other benefits--and no such absence exists for manned space travel, but I stipulate such for the sake of argument--are worth doing for their own sake.

And as far as matters of national pride go, I am totally in agreement with you about greatness vs. "greatness", and that some of the examples you provided--wiping out a terrible disease, for example--are things of which we can and should be justifiably proud. But there is something different, something magical about manned space travel that tugs at us as a nation. Right or wrong, manned space travel affects our sense of pride and commonality in a way nothing else does.

I wouldn't say that smallpox is exactly eradicated. What we believe to be currently tightly held (also: note the word "officially" in the linked piece isn't a guarantee that these are the ONLY stores of the virus) can someday be set free. But I think the larger point, that we eliminated smallpox as source of accidental human death, is still true.

Best to keep those stores in mind, though, as well as the possibility that there may be other, unofficial ones.

I am related to a NASA employee. His whole division (which works on aviation safety issues) is being eliminated to gather the money for the moondoggle. As was stated above, the Bush administration has directed NASA management to take the money from science and safety programs throughout NASA and use it for this. It is not new money.

Don't be ridiculous, Hilzoy. There is no violence against women. Just ask most of the right side of the blogosphere.

Or the writers on iFeminist.

I don't care what you saw. You're obviously lying or exaggerating.

Nope. There is no violence against women, therefore, VAWA is pork.

But sending people to the moon, again, at vast expense, without any compelling scientific (or other) justification? That, to my mind, is kitsch.

What was the compelling reason to cross the Atlantic in tiny wooden boats? "Liebenstraum"? There was a hell of a lot more living space in Europe in the 15th-16th century than there is now.

The freedom to worship (or not) however you please? We're all going to need some more of that some day soon.

I reiterate my central argument - we used to know how to do something (land people on the moon and bring them back safely). Now we can't. That's a bad bad sign.

I like manned space flight; I'd like there to be more of it. The problem is that, with this administration, they *will* screw it up beyond all belief. Even after, as the saying goes, allowing for how badly they can screw it up.

So the end result of this will be a NASA which is less-capable in all other areas save going to the moon, and none too capable there, either. If you thought that the Shuttle was bad, you'll love 'Shuttle II: Halliburton Boogaloo'.

As many right-wingers liked to say, elections have consequences. It's long past time for NASA to get its share of those consequences. Given that it is a hotbed of Evul Science, including atmospheric studies (a significant source of global warming data), I'm surprised that it didn't get hit long before.

Part of the problem with a big project like a Mars landing is that it sucks money from other parts of NASA. My brother in law, a pilot, has just been notified that the project he was working on, the Flight Deck Research Display Laboratory (FDDRL), is being shut down for lack of funds.

The first "A" in NASA stands for Aeronautics. This is probably getting lost.

I'm all for going to the moon (a telescope on the far side, for instance, would probably be great), but I have no confidence in this administration's choice of priorities, nor in its competence.

It's not that I don't see the appeal of manned space flight. I just don't see $100 billion worth of appeal.

I'm all for going to the moon (a telescope on the far side, for instance, would probably be great), but I have no confidence in this administration's choice of priorities, nor in its competence.

Yeah, but in '06, or '08 at the latest, they won't be calling the shots any more.

It's not that I don't see the appeal of manned space flight. I just don't see $100 billion worth of appeal.

You'd rather spend 100 billion turning the middle east into a torture chamber? Come on, it's not as though we're not spending a lot of money anyway.

(BTW, I didn't mean to hijack your thread on domestic violence - blame it on how Kevin Drum linked to you, heh. I'm all for spending on the kinds of things you outlined.)

There's a right way to do spaceflight (send cheap rockets run by robots first, then nth-generation rockets carrying people later) and a wrong way (send expensive rockets run by people pushing buttons when the computer tells them to if the rockets don't blow up first). I'd rather spend $100 billion making much more progress the right way then spend $100 billion to make little progress the wrong way.

Arachnae, given the woeful record of Bush administration planning (and execution), I'd rather wait a few years before embarking on a big NASA project. The up-front design, especially on a huge undertaking like this, is the most important part. I suspect the organization has been damaged and I think it will take some time for it to recover.

BTW, great to see you over here on ObWi.

Arachnae: I echo the welcome, and don't worry: threads here have a habit of turning into whatever we want. I've always thought of it as one of the fun parts of ObWi, but then I never did have much of a compulsive streak.

Turning to the matter at hand: "You'd rather spend 100 billion turning the middle east into a torture chamber?"

Well, no, actually. Are these my only choices?

hilzoy: It's not that I don't see the appeal of manned space flight. I just don't see $100 billion worth of appeal.

Given that the biggest technical challenges of manned space flight involve resource management -- efficient collection/production and consumption of energy, recycling water, controlling air quality -- I think 100 billion dollars put into such an endeavor would be an unequivocally good thing. When I compare our energy economy to that of the 1970's, I'm hard-pressed to see a lot of differences. We've made tremendous strides in information and communications technologies (which are big challenges of unmanned spaceflight) but precious little progress in the area of renewable energy. We aren't challenging ourselves, and we are only beginning to pay the price.

Of course, implementation is key, which is why I, like others here, think these projects need to wait for a competent administration. I fully expect Bush to earmark some of those funds for oil exploration on Mars.

Gromit, I don't think you want to use the word "efficient" in a comment about NASA...

I have some minor experience with violence against women. That being said, even if if the particulars given by Porkbusters about VAWA are incorrect -- and I don't know -- it doesn't actually matter in terms of whether VAWA expenditures are considered "pork." All Federal money under VAWA might go to immensely effective anti-violence programs. I doubt this is the case, but let's assume it is for the sake of argument. We are left with the following questions: Is this a meaningful expenditure of public monies? Is this a wise expenditure in the present context? Is this an expenditure that the Federal government is best able to make? Is this an expenditure that only the Federal government may make? Is this a legitimate, Constitutional function of the Federal government?

The answer to each question is assuredly, "no."

Hilzoy's personal experiences are quite moving. They are also irrelevant. The definition of "pork" is not an ineffective expenditure: there are many well-functioning dams in West Virginia named after Robert Byrd, after all. Rather, pork is unneeded, pork is extra-Constitutional, and/or pork is not of broad benefit to the nation at large.

Q: Is this a meaningful expenditure of public monies?

A: No.

Why? Which of shelters, victim's rights programs, prevention and treatment, law enforcement training is unneeded, extra-Constitutional, or not of broad benefit to the nation at large?

Why did you bring up your personal experience yet note that personal experience is irrelevant? One or the other was unnecessary.

Why did you make an argument without offering any supporting evidence?

[L]et's assume [all Federal money under VAWA might go to immensely effective anti-violence programs] for the sake of argument.

OK

Is this a meaningful expenditure of public monies?

Surely "immensely effective" meets whatever test is implicit in "meaningful."

Is this a wise expenditure in the present context?

If immensely effective, surely it's wiser than many ineffective expenditures. What is wisdom measuring here other than effectiveness? The importance to the general welfare of decreasing violence against women? Are you saying that decreasing violence is not wise?

Is this an expenditure that the Federal government is best able to make?

I see your point. But let's ask this a little differently. What is the scope of the problem? Is it in some way limited to particular municipalities? States? Are there economies of scale (or other intrinsic advantages) in dealing with the program on a national basis? For example, is the national government better able to call on academic research and other resources from across the nation? Or to ask another question: does the problem geographically track with ability to pay? Or is it perhaps possible that domestic violence and poverty positively correlate? (These are not rhetorical questions, by the way).

Is this a legitimate, Constitutional function of the Federal government?

This is the easiest. Yes. There's no restriction in the Constitution that prevents federal funding of these programs. If the people, through their representatives, want to spend their money in this way, what prevents it? I just took a look at Article I, section 9. Nothing in there precluding it. I'm not saying the Constitution requires that we have a HUD, or Social Security, or a Bank of the United States, but the argument that it precludes these things was settled long ago.

(I actually had an opponent one time who wanted to relitigate M'Cullough v. Maryland -- specifically, he wanted to argue that Congress lacked the authority to create the federal savings and loan system, and/or endow the OTS with the power to promulgate regulations that preempt state laws. On reflection, he backed off.)

I would be more sympathetic to the idea of leaving this to the states if I thought the more theocratic ones would act responsibly.

Tac: I think that my experiences establish what they were meant to establish, namely: that the claim that "actual help for bona fide victims of domestic violence does not exist anywhere in these programs" is false. They were also meant to provide detail for anyone interested in assessing the more general claim that the programs VAWA funds are good ones; someone with no experience of shelters might wonder whether (for instance) our normal clients were in fact seriously abused, or just pouting after an argument or something.

Personally, I would have thought that they would be programs a conservative would like. They are precisely tailored to meet a real need; they are very short-term (the maximum stay at the two shelters I worked at was three and five weeks), and they are not sufficiently appealing to anyone outside their target population to invite misuse. (Really, no one who wasn't abused would want to stay in a shelter: it's usually one family, or several single women, to a room, with a bunch of complete strangers, and absolutely no frills. The only non-abused women who ever tried to stay there were homeless.) And they tend to be pretty cheap, since they pay next to nothing and survive largely on donations.

I suppose it's probably worth adding that while it's presumably obvious that no one deserves to be beaten, it's less obvious that abusers can be hard to spot in advance. Most of them, anyways: there were a few who were just thugs who hadn't figured out that violence is not a normal part of human relationships, and those were easy to spot, but most were different. The warning signs were things like: he falls for you too hard and too fast; he lacks measure and a sense of proportion; he wants to know where you are all the time; he seems unusually dependent on you; he is jealous.

Now: a lot of these things are not obviously bad, unless you're wandering around with a checklist of 'Warning Signs of Abuse' in your head. They can seem like attentiveness or even love, not things to worry about. This is especially true, I found, for women whose previous relationships had been with guys who were indifferent: for them, it seemed to be easy to second-guess themselves if they found something off about the abuser (e.g., 'the last time I was involved with someone it didn't seem that he cared whether I lived or died; now I am unnerved because he there's something about the way he cares so much, and always wants to know where I am and what I'm doing, that's a little spooky; am I just impossible to please?')

Which is all to say: people generally don't find themselves in these situations out of stupidity or personal failings. They get involved with a guy and, in the manner of charitable people everywhere, accept his faults. The abuse often doesn't start until fairly late in the game: last time I checked, the two most common times for the onset of abuse were the honeymoon and the first pregnancy.

So: it's a crisis program to deal with a serious, genuine, and unforeseeable need, tailored to fit its population, with very little waste, and cheap. It also helps the kids. What's not to like?

2shoes and rilkefan first:

Why did you bring up your personal experience yet note that personal experience is irrelevant?

Personal experience is irrelevant to the policy question at hand. It invoke mine for a different reason entirely. In the interest of furthering your self-education, I leave it to you to figure out what.

Why did you make an argument without offering any supporting evidence?

Not my fault you're unsure what "supporting evidence" is.

Rilkefan, the purpose of the Federal government is not per se to counteract state governments you dislike.

But sending people to the moon, again, at vast expense, without any compelling scientific (or other) justification? That, to my mind, is kitsch.

Again, that's why we let the X-Prize type guys figure it all out with their money and their investors' money, and let the only NASA expenditures be a few prizes or research grants that would cost far less than the total ground-up cost of developing such a program.

CharleyCarp next:

The answers to your non-rhetorical questions are, in order: sporadic and ill-measured; no; no; no; no; no; yes. I base this upon having participated in a domestic violence intervention and policy design study group this past summer. Hardly the last word, nor even a uniquely authoritative word, on the subject; but not ex nihilo, either.

Finally: simply because the Constitution does not specifically prohibit something to the Federal government does not mean it is permitted. See the Tenth Amendment.

"Rilkefan, the purpose of the Federal government is not per se to counteract state governments you dislike."

Agreed. But irrelevant. If a state refuses to defend the basic rights of its populace, the feds should step in.

Finally, hilzoy:

I think that my experiences establish what they were meant to establish, namely: that the claim that "actual help for bona fide victims of domestic violence does not exist anywhere in these programs" is false.

You then proceed to argue that because this specific claim is false -- and surely it's a factual error on the part of the Porkbusters folks -- VAWA spending is not "pork." It is to this that your experiences are irrelevant.

Personally, I would have thought that they would be programs a conservative would like.

This is mostly due, I guess, to your unfamiliarity with conservatism. I'm all for such programs when run by communities, churches, and charities. It is, as you note, a real and persistent problem. But Federal intervention to attack it is an inherent absurdity.

What's not to like?

I guess if you don't care overmuch about the Constitution, separation of powers, etc., nothing's not to like.

I wouldn't say that the Constitution necessarily permits everything that is not explicitly prohibited. I would say that Congress is endowed with the power to "provide for . . . the general Welfare," which, for all practical purposes, limits the effect of the 10th Amendment wrt anything colorably within that definition.

Do you think M'Cullough v. Maryland was wrongly decided?

Do you think HUD is unconstitutional? Social Security? The Home Owners Loan Act of 1933?

Personal experience is irrelevant to the policy question at hand.

Yes, it's generally filed under interesting, but ancedotal.

It invoke mine for a different reason entirely.

I see.

In the interest of furthering your self-education, I leave it to you to figure out what.

It's certainly becoming increasingly clear that you aren't offering any sort of insight so, yes, I'll have to rely on myself.

Not my fault you're unsure what "supporting evidence" is.

Actually, I'm quite clear about the concept of "supporting evidence", and you didn't offer any. For example, if a woman's shelter is unneeded, someone trying to make a serious point would offer up statistics...pre-existing shelters that negate the need for the one under discussion...that sort of thing. If a shelter is extra-constitutional, then someone trying to make a serious point would offer up the appropriate passages in the constitution that indicates so.

Oh well.

I would imagine that Trevino offered his personal experience because if he hadn't, a dozen people would have immediately stepped away from the actual issue to paint him as a woman-hating neanderthal possible abuser himself. Not that I'm generally a fan of his pissing-in-the-sandbox, posting-rules-don't-apply-to-me style, but I'm 100% certain that's exactly what would have happened.

CharleyCarp, do you believe that given your parameters that Congress is empowered to buy everyone in the U.S. a 55" plasma television?

Phil- Do you think buying people luxury goods is really analogous to protecting women from being beaten?

"I'm 100% certain that's exactly what would have happened."

Disagree.

"empowered"

Does the constitution forbid stupid actions?

Frank, what does that have to do with what I was asking CharleyCarp? I mean, I can understand asking it for the sake of being tendentious, but do you really think that's what I think, or do you simply not understand why I asked the question?

rilkefan, given Charley's parameters, are there any limitations whatsoever on Congress's spending actions? If not, why have enumerated powers at all?

Note, none of this is to state that I agree or disagree with the Federal VAWA spending. But it's absolutely necessary to examining the question of what is and isn't pork. If, as CharleyCarp says, there are no practical limitations on Congress's Article I powers on spending our money, then how do we legitimately decry anything as pork?

CharleyCarp, again in order: probably; yes; yes; don't know enough to say.

I'm also unaware that the Preamble is meant as a serious delineation of the mechanics or powers of government, but perhaps someone does take it to signify just that. Seems unwise, though.

I mean, heck, obviously there are a lot of fans of manned space flight here at ObWi, and across the US, so a well-run manned space flight program and its accompanying rah-rah benefits promote the general welfare, right? So why is that pork?

Phil- I think its you who don't understand here. There is a reason I pointed at the difference between your example: 55" plasma television, and what we are talking about women in fear for their lives and their children's lives, and incidentaly their whatever of their property they can carry into a shelter.

I thought it was generaly understood that one of the jobs of the Federal government is to make the people secure in their persons and property. I guess not.

Pay attention, Frank. Given the constraints of the question I'm actually asking, rather than the one the Phil in your head is asking, the distinction is irrelevant.

CharleyCarp claims that, pursuant to the preamble of the Constitution's aim to "promote the general welfare," and Congress's power in Article I, Section 9 which states "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law," that the Tenth Amendment, in practice, offers very few limits on what Congress may spend money on, enumerated powers or not.

I'm asking if, given those parameters, Congress would be permitted to pass a low allowing them to buy 55" plasma televisions for everyone in the U.S., and then to do exactly that. If they would not, why not?

Phil- In order to discover what is or is not pork a little common sense has to be applied. One thing we might think about is how proportional the spending is to the result.

I don't think anyone is claiming that it is unconstitutional to spend $250+ million dollars on a bridge for 50 people in Alaska, so maybe the constitutional test is not the most useful/important here.

make the people secure in their persons and property<->

There is a reason I pointed at the difference between your example: 55" plasma television, and what we are talking about women in fear for their lives and their children's lives, and incidentaly their whatever of their property they can carry into a shelter.

The urgency and seriousness of a problem does not make it a matter for Federal funding if there are Constitutional limitations, no matter how much we would all like it to be so.

I'll see that and raise you "promote the general welfare," Frank.

Bold off?

Phil, I had understood (or misunderstood) "pork" to refer to spending on local projects of little utility to the country for the benefit of representitives of those locales. To the extent that manned spaceflight is intended to benefit the country as a whole (and not the congressperson from the district where Enterprise will be built) I would refer to it as "wasteful" or "shortsighted" or "budgetary fat" but not "pork".

I still don't agree that the constitutionality of shelters is relevent to the topic at hand.

You seem to be saying you think they are constitutional under general welfare as well, well whatever.

I still haven't seen any reason given to think that shelters are pork under the normal meaning of the term.

I think the Feds do lots of things under commerce that are unconstitutional, but neither of our opinions are likely to be considered seriously by the supreme court.

Not the preamble, but Article I, section 8, clause 1.

I don't think constitutionality is the test of whether or not something is "pork" -- for example, I can't imagine a reasonable argument that funding a large number of highway projects in particular congressional districts is prohibited by the constitution. They can do it. The question is whether they should do it. I think Tacitus' 4 questions are the right ones to ask -- while the last will always trump whatever you get on the first three, it's a trump card very rarely available. I'd be interested to see a list of appropriations ever stricken down on constitutional grounds. To my mind, Tacitus assumed away the answers to the first two of his questions by conceding for the sake of argument that the program was "immensely effective." I too accept the assumption for sake of discussion, and have little knowledge of its validity.

To answer Frank's question, I would say that buying TVs would fail the first three of Tacitus' questions. I'm not sure about the 4th: why would Congress buy the TVs? Would it be able to construct some kind of Commerce Clause rationale? It's not coming to me, but then I'm sure Mr. Delay could find a valid reason if he really had to. That is, I don't think that the Constitution is much of a limitation on expenditures.

I thank you, Tacitus, though for giving a direct answer on HUD, Social Security, and http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=case&court=us&vol=17&page=316>M'Culloch.* (HOLA is the statute by which the federal savings and loan system was created). Chief Justice Marshall's opinion is certainly one of the great reads on the extent of the federal power.


* I'm always misspelling it.

Phil: Again, that's why we let the X-Prize type guys figure it all out with their money and their investors' money, and let the only NASA expenditures be a few prizes or research grants that would cost far less than the total ground-up cost of developing such a program.

While I find the notion of commercial space travel very promising and exciting, and the X-Prize was a brilliant idea, we haven't exactly made great strides in the arena of private space travel since Gagarin went up more than four decades ago. Others are probably much more qualified to speculate as to the reasons, but my guess is the risk involved is too acute, the resources that have to be pooled are too great, and the payoff is too difficult to predict in the near term (though I am confident the payoff for humanity will be tremendous in the long term).

I'm also very wary of the prospect of corporations being the first to reach other planets. I think history is instructive on this point, even if there are no indigenous peoples to exploit.

I'll let Hilzoy defend her position on manned space travel, but I'm not clear she's saying it is pork per se, but rather that she thinks the moonshot in particular is pork.

Bold begone!

<\>Crud

dagnabit.

OK, rilkefan, given those constraints, in what way does a women's shelter in East Bumblefart, Iowa, benefit the entire United States of America rather than the citizens of the district in which East Bumblefart is located? Outside of the very abstract "We are all better off when etc.?"

See, one can't discuss issues like this without sounding heartless or callous, which, again, is why Trevino offered his personal anecdote caveat. I understand the need for women's shelters, but I do not understand why Federal funding for them is objectively not-pork.

So the key seems to be using a bunch of closing tags. I tend to do "tag foo antitag antitag antitag antitag bar" to be paranoid.

Phil- I still think common sense is indispensable for that. One test, which would be would the beneficiaries of the largess preffer 10% of the outlay in cash instead of the program. I'd bet everyone who will benefit from that road would prefer to get 1/2 million dollars to having that bridge.

But is the issue a single low-value shelter in a particular district? Or is it well-designed national program? Since it's the latter, the program's not pork in my view.

Re the preemptive some-of-my-best-friendsing, I think most commenters here are adult enough to realize you're making an argument based on a desire to reach a shared set of goals, and I stand ready to be called on to shout down any who aren't.

See, this is just why I am not smart enough for politics. To me, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments are the two most important; and in my dream world, the constraints are:

-- For the state, everything not explicitly allowed is forbidden
-- For the people, everything not explicitly forbidden is allowed

That's a gross simplification, but I think you get my meaning.

Gromit, my understanding is that the lack of progress in private human spaceflight research has been due to the fact that the Federal limitations on such research, and the near-impossibility on getting licenses to conduct manned suborbital tests, made it an unprofitable avenue to pursue. Still, all the habitat modules for long-term spaceflight has been developed by private interests under NASA's aegis; why not let them pursue the launch, travel and return vehicles, too?

OK, rilkefan, given those constraints, in what way does a women's shelter in East Bumblefart, Iowa, benefit the entire United States of America rather than the citizens of the district in which East Bumblefart is located? Outside of the very abstract "We are all better off when etc.?"

There are very frew programmes, projects, whatever that benefit the entirety of the locality. The East Bumblefart Shelter wouldn't be of benefit to the entire citizenry of East Bumblefart. What difference, then, does it make if it is funded by the national government.

rilkefan, my experience on the internets over many years has been never to take it for granted that the people on the other end are going to grant a priori that I'm arguing in good faith and for practical policy reasons rather than because I'm a dick. Witness Frank's first instinct, which was to lecture me on the difference between televisions and wife-beating.

Ah, 2shoes, you're not going to get real far with me arguing that, because the East Bumblefart shelter doesn't even benefit all East Bumblefartians, let alone everyone in the US, that that makes it more necessary that the Feds fund it. Under that rationale, the Feds should fund *everything*. Which is, not to put too fine a point out, grotesquely unnecessary, not to mention Constitutionally impermissible.

Phil, you might be interested in Chief Justice Marshall's take on the omission of the word "expressly" from the Tenth Amendment:

Among the enumerated powers, we do not find that of establishing a bank or creating a corporation. But there is no phrase in the instrument which, like the articles of confederation, excludes incidental or implied powers; and which requires that everything granted shall be expressly and minutely described. Even the 10th amendment, which was framed for the purpose of quieting the excessive jealousies which had been excited, omits the word 'expressly,' and declares only, that the powers 'not delegated to the United States, nor prohibited to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people;' thus leaving the question, whether the particular power which may become the subject of contest, has been delegated to the one government, or prohibited to the other, to depend on a fair construction of the whole instrument. The men who drew and adopted this amendment had experienced the embarrassments resulting from the insertion of this word in the articles of confederation, and probably omitted it, to avoid those embarrassments. A constitution, to contain an accurate detail of all the subdivisions of which its great powers will admit, and of all the means by which they may be carried into execution, would partake of the prolixity of a legal code, and could scarcely be embraced by the human mind. It would, probably, never be understood by the public. Its nature, therefore, requires, that only its great outlines should be marked, its important objects designated, and the minor ingredients which compose those objects, be deduced from the nature of the objects themselves. That this idea was entertained by the framers of the American constitution, is not only to be inferred from the nature of the instrument, but from the language. Why else were some of the limitations, found in the 9th section of the 1st article, introduced? It is also, in some degree, warranted, by their having omitted to use any restrictive term which might prevent its receiving a fair and just interpretation. In considering this question, then, we must never forget that it is a constitution we are expounding.


That's interesting stuff, Charley, and certainly perfectly understandable. Nonetheless, it seems to me that, even given the necessary broadness of the existing Constitutional parameters, many of the powers that the Congress and the Executive have given themselves over the past century or two rise to the level of requiring Constitutional amendment rather than just simple legislation. Social Security might very well have been one of those; national healthcare might very well be another.

Since I've been so persnickety about all this, by the way, my first two choices for funding cuts or absolute elimination would be the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the DEA. Not because I'm a drug user (I'm not), but because the War on Drugs is an absolute obscenity which has caused more tears in our social fabric, in terms of harmless people jailed and rights trampled upon, than it has ever prevented.

I wasn't arguing that the space program was pork; just that I wouldn't fund it now. 'Pork' only entered via the Porkbusters site, which listed all VAWA spending is pork, which seemed to me just false. That's all.

Ah, 2shoes, you're not going to get real far with me arguing that, because the East Bumblefart shelter doesn't even benefit all East Bumblefartians, let alone everyone in the US, that that makes it more necessary that the Feds fund it.

It's not an argument that the Federal government must fund such things, only that it can, East Bumblefart being part of the national polity.

Phil, I agree re: the war on drugs. We have as much chance of getting our way on that as Tacitus does getting his way re HUD and Social Security.

Again, Chief Justice Marshall:

It has been truly said, that this [power to create a bank] can scarcely be considered as an open question, entirely unprejudiced by the former proceedings of the nation respecting it. The principle now contested was introduced at a very early period of our history, has been recognised by many successive legislatures, and has been acted upon by the judicial department, in cases of peculiar delicacy, as a law of undoubted obligation.

It will not be denied, that a bold and daring usurpation might be resisted, after an acquiescence still longer and more complete than this. But it is conceived, that a doubtful question, one on which human reason may pause, and the human judgment be suspended, in the decision of which the great principles of liberty are not concerned, but the respective powers of those who are equally the representatives of the people, are to be adjusted; if not put at rest by the practice of the government, ought to receive a considerable impression from that practice. An exposition of the constitution, deliberately established by legislative acts, on the faith of which an immense property has been advanced, ought not to be lightly disregarded.

I'm entering rather late to respond to Tacitus's linked anecdote, which when I first read it I found very moving as a description of a society where neither the culture nor the institutions for helping women out of abusive relationships existed.

Tacitus and his friend Julia tried to intervene, but the abused woman in question couldn't imagine that anyone could be on her side and the cop didn't understand how he could have helped.

I am glad that Tacitus tried to help, on an individual level, but I hope that he understands that the real mechanisms of assistance for such women are institutional. That woman had to have the hope that when the immediate charity of a sympathetic stranger dried up, some other entity--besides her punishing boyfriend/pimp--would care whether she lived or died.

Maybe I'm being a bit thick about the lesson that Tacitus would have me learn from his anecdote, and I'm certainly muddled about his seeming constitutional barrier to federal aid to such women, but what I learned when I first read his anecdote some months ago was that the last thirty years of feminist activism in this country had made a real difference in how cops behaved in such situations and how vulnerable women might perceive their options.

Tacitus suggests that such initiatives be undertaken on a local or a church level. As someone who grew up in a tight-knit church organization, I literally cannot imagine the humiliation involved in fleeing a partner to a charity run by people I might know socially, people who might know my partner, who might see my partner as someone who could never possibly be so bad, who might try to persuade me that I was exagerrating matters and to think of the children...

When a problem is manageable, it's only a minor embarrasment to bring it to your local or church interlocutors, but when a problem threatens everything and goes deep into your sense of self, it's easier to go to someone you can see unproblematically as a disinterested professional.

Does that necessitate a federal mandate? I'm not sure. But I have heard horror stories about women being pursued by abusive partners across state lines, and cases of interstate custody disputes seem to be increasing in number. While a lot of people are on the move between states, others are trapped in small communities and literally cannot imagine living elsewhere. "This American Life" had a segment a couple of weeks ago about a charity group from Colorado with an absolutely stellar offer that couldn't convince New Orleanians that they wouldn't freeze to death in the snow. That kind of lack of perspective is not rare among vulnerable people and might even be one of the reasons they're vulnerable. An abused woman has an even more closed imagination--which is why she's in an abusive relationship.

So, to summarize, I'm questioning your assertion that for "Federal intervention to attack [violence against women] is an inherent absurdity" on the grounds that a) at least some violence against women crosses state boundaries, b) local community/church mores might pressure women (directly or indirectly) to reconcile with their abusive partners, c) vulnerable women need to believe in a disinterested, professional, and uncompromising institutional support in order to flee the abusive known to the unknown, and d) building such institutions is crucial to enabling such women as Tacitus encountered in Korea to trust any scintella of the kindness of strangers.

And the moondoggle is stupid.

Cutting out the j--ish Meme from all over the united states of America would save you personally from a wasted life of pointless materialistic crap, I estimate the worth of this as 100000000000000000000000000000 buh-gazillion dollars a year. It would also have benifit for each generation ever after, air would be cleaner, grass greener, no biomass wasted on the false science of egaltarianism, the trend of the earth towards a red planet would reverse.
Kick the shabbos goys out of office. Every single one.

NoChineseFood, I agree wholeheartedly with you (work with me here) that Jackmormon's post was an excellent one with which to end this thread.

I'll assume your post was sarcastic. Unfortunately, this still fails to make your comment coherent. YMM(must)V. If you just want more silliness, you can click my url. If you meant the opposite of your (assumedly sarcastic) post, then electing Jews simply because of that characteristic was hardly supported by your post.

NoChineseFood: I'm banning you. If you were kidding, email me.

If NoChineseFood was attempting to communicate offensiveness, he or she failed: I didn't understand anything from the comment.

Re: CJJM -- I didn't know it was his http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/24/AR2005092400524.html>birthday.

Re: NCF -- I think I'll eat some Chinese food today.

Hmmm, so hilzoy is no fan of manned space exploration, yet supports unmanned space exploration.

I wonder if hilzoy would support unmanned exploration if hilzoy knew how much it relies upon nuclear power. For example, the rovers on Mars have small plutonium capsules to prevent freezing during the cold Maritian nights, and the Cassini probe at Saturn is powered by large Plutonium thermoelectric generators. In fact the most impressive unmanned exploration missions all use nuclear power including all of the missions to the cold region of the solar system where the outer planets are.

re: various comments about how things sure were better when we had a space program we could be proud of, let me point out that we didn't get smarter because we had a space program that worked, we had a space program that worked because we were smarter. Or to be precise, we decided to get serious about science, which included getting a space program that worked, because the Soviet Union was beating our pants off in math and chess, and then it launched up Sputnik and Gargarin. So science, especially space science, became patriotic. State and federal governments made money available for science classes, businesses sponsored competitions, and we all worshipped our astronauts.

But without a specific national threat to aim at, re-creating a moon program will not resurrect national respect for rationalism. That's Cargo Cult thinking. Build it all you like, they won't come.

Much more likely, we won't be able to build it at all because there's no pressing need and the money looks so much nicer when it's spent on pork that is called space-related. We'll keep on being just as incompetent about space exploration as we have been since we gave up in the late 70s, we'll just piss away even more money on the failures.

We'll return to rationalism only when we perceive that it will help us against a real threat again. For that, we need a real threat (terrorism scarcely counts so far, and I say that as a former New Yorker and current Washingtonian), the ability to recognize it when we see it, and the grit to tackle it rather than blame it on some minority group. The space program is simply irrelevant to this.

I had heard via email that this might happen, but: Porkbusters has removed VAWA from its list of pork.

Good for them.

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