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While You Looked the Other Way: $8,000 in Government Spending

The drama of the financial services bailout, coming right at the end of the congressional session and the beginning of the new fiscal year, was very distracting. So distracting that it was easy to miss the partial/temporary spending bill that Congress hurriedly passed.

The bill (now law) is Public Law 110-329, the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009. Total cost: $8,000 per U.S. family.

The financial services bailout law cost a little under $3,000 per U.S. family, according to our analysis of a relatively vague government cost estimate. (It will probably really cost more like $6,500 per family.)

But this spending bill – which received almost no comment in the press or consideration in either House of Congress – cost about eight large per family.

Here’s a breakdown of where the money goes in the bill, which is split into five “divisions”:

  • Division A is a “continuing resolution, which spends money on domestic, non-defense government programs through March 6, 2009. Cost per U.S. family: about $1,650, or $525 per person.
  • Division B is “emergency supplemental” spending for relief and recovery from hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters. Cost: $230 per family/$75 per person.
  • Division C is spending for the full 2009 fiscal year on the operations of the Department of Defense. Cost: $5,000 per family/$1,600 per person.
  • Division D is spending on the Department of Homeland Security for the full 2009 fiscal year. Cost: $410 per family/$131 per person.
  • Division E is full fiscal year 2009 spending on military construction and veterans affairs. Cost: about $750 per family/a little under $240 per person.

Congress had essentially been planning to abandon the regular schedule for several months before the beginning of the fiscal year October 1st. The investment banking crisis made the problem worse by drawing everyone’s attention from the really big spending moving through Congress at the same time.

Oh well! Better luck next year, right? Or maybe people will start to insist that Congress use a more careful process when deciding how to spend literally thousands of American families’ dollars.

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