Sunday, February 11, 2007

Walking-around money

A wonderfully astute observation, whose source I can no longer track down, captures the difference between financial irregularities, Democratic Style and Republican Style:
Democrats steal; Republicans defraud. Republicans don’t need walking-around money.
For most of the 1990s, the 1970s dealings of Bill and Hillary Clinton in the failed Whitewater real estate development deal were investigated by the SEC and three special prosecutors (and, of course, the US House of Representatives). The amounts involved in the allegations were generally in the hundreds of thousands of dollars; the investigations, which finally concluded there was insufficient evidence of criminal wrongdoing on the part of the Clintons, came at a cost of something like $80 million of your money.

Of course, part of the reason for that price tag was that the office of Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel directing the investigation for most of that time, kept drawing power like the Krell nuclear furnaces, expanding its mission (and budget) inexorably to include investigating the death of Vince Foster, the White House Travel Office brouhaha, and finally--oh yes--the president's sex life.

So while I don't want to minimize the significance of allegations that a governor might have exerted improper influence over banking deals in his state, I do want to put that six-figure white whale in some perspective.

This item was in last week's news--but just barely (emphasis added):
The Federal Reserve sent record payouts of more than $4 billion in cash to Baghdad on giant pallets aboard military planes shortly before the United States gave control back to Iraqis, lawmakers said Tuesday.

The money, which had been held by the United States, came from Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the U.N.-run oil-for-food program and frozen assets belonging to the ousted Saddam Hussein regime.

Bills weighing a total of 363 tons were loaded onto military aircraft in the largest cash shipments ever made by the Federal Reserve, said Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.[…]

"Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone? But that's exactly what our government did," the California Democrat said during a hearing reviewing possible waste, fraud and abuse of funds in Iraq.
If four billion (of anything) is too big a figure to wrap your mind around, let's try the somewhat more manageable figure: 363 tons of cash (or of anything). Imagine an enormous balance scale (perhaps like those at the right--coincidentally, the scales of justice), with 363 tons of cash shrinkwrapped onto pallets on one side, and on the other side:
  • 2.2 single level, three-bedroom homes (with garage), or

  • 145 GMC Suburbans, or

  • 2.9 million McDonald's Quarter Pounders (no fries; those things'll kill you), or

  • 329.3 million grams of cocaine (street price $32.9 billion, at $100/gram).
Remember, that's just the weight of all that cash. Obviously, with the purchasing power (including cash discounts) of that actual $4 billion you could buy a lot more than 2.2 houses in the suburbs. (It would be something closer to 1200 homes at current median prices in the Portland market.)

But to the Republicans, this is just money found under the sofa cushions. They're insulted that anyone would try and make a big deal out of it:
Republicans argued that Bremer and the CPA staff did the best they could under the circumstances and accused Democrats of trying to score political points over the increasingly unpopular Iraq war.

"We are in a war against terrorists, to have a blame meeting isn't, in my opinion, constructive," said Rep. Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican.
Why get so bent out of shape about accountability? It's just walking-around money to them.

1 comment:

Russ said...

Yeah, this is just sickening! Although 363 tons of ca$h is 12 billion...
I've been paying off $2700 worth of back taxes to the IRS for - get this - not paying taxes while unemployed! So, I'm pretty sick about working my tail off to catch up while they've just unloaded this dumptruck of $100 bills in Iraq.