Select Page

Uncle Sam on major Christmas spending spree

Uncle Sam on major Christmas spending spree

While the American people are on their annual holiday spending spree, Uncle same is doing the same – but not to stuff goodies into the stocking hung carefully on the mantel.  It is apart of an annual ritual of fiscal irresponsibility – known informally as “fourth quarter dumping.”

Normal folks are usually happy to find a little money left over after paying all the bills – something to put into the bank for a rainy day.  But if you are part of the vast government bureaucracy, leftover money is a very unhappy circumstance.  It means that all that taxpayer money you requested last year was more than you needed – which is almost always the case.

Even worse … if your department or agency has money left over the appropriators in Congress may get the idea that you do not need as much money next year – and certainly not the increase you requested in the future budget.

So, what do they do?  The go on a madcap spending spree – literally looking for places to spend the money by acquiring services, products and personnel that they do not need.  This is a season of harvesting for government contractors who are more than willing to play Santa Claus and fill Uncle Sam’s last-minute list of goodies.

There is a fellow named Adam Andrejewski who keeps an eye on these kinds of shenanigans.  Approximately ten years ago, he founded Open The Books to monitor and make public all government spending.  He promised to post “every dime in its time.” 

It was an ambitious idea and a Herculean task – and many did not think Andrejewski could get it done.   But he did.  Through Open The Books (OpenTheBooks.com), citizens can check out the spending of virtually every government in America – including school boards.  Well … except one major budget.

It should come as no surprise that the hold out is California.  They really do not want the voters and taxpayers to know how they spend their money.  Open the Books is currently suing the State to get access to the information.  They had to do that in a few other instances – and they always won in court.  That should make the folks in Sacramento very nervous.

In an interview with Real Clear Policy, Andrejewski revealed just one example of how irresponsible the “use-it-or-lose-it” year-end spending really is.

Andrejewski noted that the Department of Health and Human Services (H&HS) was given $2.8 trillion for fiscal 2021.  In the first 10 months, the Department spent $1.8 trillion.  That left a cool $1 trillion in the till – more than enough to close out the year and then some.

H&HS was spending and average of $180 billion per month.  At that rate, they would only need about one-third of the leftover money – or $360 billion.  But instead, H&HS will be spending the entire $1 trillion in the last two months – or $640 BILLION MORE THAN THEY NEED.

Now consider this.  H&HS is only one of myriads of departments and agencies playing this same game – literally wasting trillions of dollars of the taxpayers money every year.  And … this practice goes on at state and local governments.

This is such an outrageous waste of taxpayer money that you would think that the media would shine a bright light on this practice – deploying their investigative teams.  You might think that members of Congress would by running around with their hair on fire when seeing how the bureaucrats are abusing the appropriation process.  But no … just crickets.

Of course, maybe it is one of those situations that us just part of the process – cannot be fixed.  Not so.  Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst has proposed legislation that would limit the spending in the last two month to the average monthly spending in the first ten.  Pretty simple.  And if that were the law today, you and I would have saved $640 billion from the H&HS budget alone.  Potentially trillions from the entire federal government.

This is not a new problem.  I complained – and wrote – about the practice of “fourth quarter dumping” way back in my White House days almost a half century ago.  I wonder how much taxpayer money would have been saved if the Ernst proposal had been enacted back then?

No big news networks report about it.  No one seems to care about it – at least no one besides Andrejewski and Ernst.  If YOU care about it, check out OpenTheBook.com and send a letter-to-the editor of your local newspaper.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry HoristLarry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.

20 Comments

  1. Glen

    I thought the Federal Government ran their fiscal year from October 1, to September 30.

    That means the fiscal dumping occurs prior to September 30 of each calendar year, nor prior to December 31.

    • larry Horist

      That is after the appropriation process which begins now. This is the time the agencies ae working on the next Fiscal Year budget.

  2. AC

    Larry,
    Good piece of investigative writing apolitical and balanced. Thank you.
    Fourth quarter dumping, as you indicate, is a time honored traditional practice. Large and medium sized corporations, governments at every level, organizations with wide administrative structure, mega-churches with many programs each with a manager and an annual allocation practice the behavior.
    You understand how budgets are a summary of budget requests sent in for the next fiscal year from each department or program. Those responsible to a CFO, legislative committee, or finance committee chair for submitting requests complete with a budget arrive at a dollar amount in the usual way. They use the immediate past year’s spending, historical accounting numbers, projected cost calculation for any expansion or improvements or continuing without change; and finally the budget request is given a bump up by a percentage of the amount before addition.
    The mentality of those with extra $ in the fourth quarter, if not an entity within government , this often depends on corporate or organizational culture, size, and/or monetary policy practice. Use it or loose it dominates in large organizations with several divisions spread geographically distant and only bi-quarterly oversight. Intelligent money managers anticipate a possible surplus at year end and adjust their purchasing plan amortization evenly across all 12 months. A practice is this one almost unknown.
    Give backs or reverse spending allocated funds present a tough call for division, branch, or department VP’s and managers. Future allocations are based on allocation history and could be negatively impacted if actual expenditures are left an unused surplus. One, on the outside, observing expenditures in the fourth quarter would think company operations need tightening up.
    Tax payers are the outsiders looking at government’s spending habits and judge government’s budgeting and allocation mechanism is unwieldy and wasteful. Inefficiency seems apparent, government purchasing contracts are handed out to inside bidders and monied donors not open and fair.
    Far from me to think lawmakers elected by we the people could be less than honest and noble custodians receiving payment only from a legislator’s salary and allowances. However, it’s not surprising for a lawmaker to be accepting something of value or a monitory return for voting favorably on bills directly affecting one industry positively, while the same vote could well negatively impact that politician’s constituents back home. Conceivably, such a vote cast actually is contrary to the vote cast by every other of the legislator’s party’s membership.
    Whether that lone vote crossed over and joined forces with the opposing political party was done for reasons of conscience, the right thing for constituents and country, or purposed out of self interest, greed, a display of power, or self aggrandizement is this individual’s own understanding. When all is considered and information says this individual’s behavior behind the scenes is found not unique at all. Others in both political parties greatly profit financially from their close associations with lobbyists, PAC’s, wealthy donors, and corporations.
    Therefore, is there any mystery about finding surplus balances in department manager’s hands.
    These instances remind that this inefficiency is on going.if not systemic, within government? That this is widely known does not appear as a deterrent to the practice, nor produce mass protests demanding action by Congress with corrective legislation.
    Truth is, as you point out, minimal is the interest among legislators for a change in status quo relative to the process created over decades and decades in the past century and beyond through successive generations of lawmakers. Is this yet another informal institution set in marble and found beneficial to persons in elected office considering the dividends have become expected perks?
    Larry, you and I will not ever in our lifetime witness legislation passed regulating the process. Nor, will we witness this process actually working and transforming budget deficits into ones balanced.
    Have a great Christmas and New Year’s holiday.

  3. Ben

    Larry,

    Good thing we are saving all that money on unnecessary wars you advocate for. Now we can spend that wasted money on our people instead of blowing up third world Countries.

    • larry Horist

      Ben … Your isolationist “Fortress America” viewpoint is simplistic but unrealistic. America has national interests that extend beyond the border. The Afghan war was too expensive because we never fought to win. Now that we have surrendered, Afghanistan is a human tragedy of epic proportions — and America’s security and economic interests have taken a major hit. You seem to not understand that we still have enemies that want to crush the United States. Our future depends on both diplomacy and military power as a preventative — or in war ,if necessary. Are you of the opinion that there is no moral or national justifications for the use of American military?

      • Ben

        Larry, thanks for addressing my concerns. Now that you’ve tried to defend your pro war stance, how about tackling the hate and bigotry your readers display on a daily basis here? I know you’re a stickler for free speech, but condoning hate speech is a different animal all together.

        Now, your nicely branded “fortress America”, is the same platform the last Republican nominee ran on. He just wasn’t as good at branding as you. America First! That pales in comparison to “Fortress America “. Afghanistan was a human tragedy for the last 20 yrs.. actually prior to that. Don’t forget who taught that dog to squat… and supplied them with arms and training.

        Yes, we have national interests , but usually when we act on those National Interests, poor brown people pay the price. Be it Iran when the CIA overthrew the democratically elected government to keep them from privatizing oil, to South America. We are paying dearly for those National interests interventions now.

        Second, I agree that the way Bush handled the war was criminal. How many, like your grandson, died unnecessarily because Bush bungled the war effort, to keep feeding he military industrial complex?

        We have enemies that want to crush us because of our actions to protect our “national interests” we mess with nations so that people like you can live the gilded life, while punishing their citizens for things they have no control over. Of course they hate us. Stay out of their business.

        Your straw man argument that I would think there is no case for military intervention is disingenuous at best. Name a war or intervention after WW2 that was justifiable ? Afghanistan? No, the military should be a last resort. Remember , Afghanistan did NOT attack us. A group of citizens from Saudi Arabia did. Their leader was NOT in Afghanistan when we dropped million dollar bombs on $100 huts.

        Radical Republicans have started war after war in the name of our national interests, that years later have blown up in our face. The only interests it it fuels is the military industrial complex and investors like you. You paid the ultimate price to live in your ivory tower, I have a 12 yr old that I’d prefer not die so someone rich guy can make some extra money by sending him to war in the name of our “ national interests”.

    • Miles collins

      Blowing up third world countries is more fun. And needful sometimes. Have you noticed that the japs don’t mess with us anymore. But if we had the people back then that we have today, especially lawmakers, the rising sun flag or swastika would be flying over Washington today. But don’t think that we’ve heard the last of radical Islam. But that’s ok. Perhaps we can all get together and sing kumbaya.

      • Ben

        Miles,
        “Sometimes blowing up third world countries is more fun”… so much for all lives matter.

        We spend 2 billion on a plane to drop a bomb that costs 2 million on a tent that cost $100 with innocent children in it. And you wonder why they are “radicalized”.

        Get out of here with your “we’d be speaking another language “ bullshit. The military budget prior to WW2 was less than 1% of GDP, it’s not been below 3.6% since. It was as high as 4.6% fighting Larry’s chosen wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We account for 40% of the entire World’s spending on military. More than the next top 11 countries COMBINED!!!

        So don’t tell me there’s no money, we raised the military budget by 7% last year. At least you’re upfront about not caring for peoples well being, that you’d rather bring death and suffering than spend that money making the world a better place.

        • larry Horist

          Ben … as a left-winger, you either do not understand the federal system crafted by the Constitution or you are just opposed to what the Constitution is all about. To put it simply…. defending the nation (military and diplomacy) is the purview of Federal government. Welfare was traditionally the purview of states and local governments — but has been consumed by the federal government. Folks like you seem to believe that states and local governments have no rights, powers or responsibilities — other than to carry out the edits of Washington. You inexplicably want things done at the most expensive wasteful, corrupt and distant government. What is killing America is a ruling government that is far from the influence of the people and run by permanent calls arrogant and condescending elitists. That is where you and I fundamentally disagree. That is the difference between a conservative and a progressive.

          • Ben

            Larry, did you seriously call someone an elitist? Goddamn that’s rich ( pardon the pun).

            Yes, I fundamentally disagree with you. And that is the difference between the radical right and progressives. You want to waste money on killing people and destroying lives, I want to help make the lives of our citizens better. And I may note, that a majority of citizens ( even radicalized republicans) also want to improve the lives of our fellow citizens.

            I have no idea where you can up with the idea that I would think that state and local governments have no rights, responsibilities, or powers. As we speak, red states are telling local government they have no right to handle the pandemic they way they seem fit. I am very involved in my local government. We seek grants, tax funding and federal assistance in helping our citizens.

            I am proud to disagree with someone that advocates for mass murdering brown people while denying basic assistance for his own people.

          • Ben

            Larry the constitution says, plain as day,
            ,* promote the general welfare.

        • frank stetson

          I get some of my greatest profits from Defense spending; it’s a market mutual. Being only recently financially woke, I will be divesting soon, but it’s been a fine ride.

          Ben is correct, we spend more than we get for Defense. We spend more than then next ten countries COMBINED. And SEVEN of those are allies. We spend 3 TIMES China, we spend 12 TIMES Russia, we spend twice Russia and China, COMBINED.

          Based on those numbers, it really looks like we are stupid, wasteful, or both. We own the air, we own the sea, and we do pretty damned good on land. No one can handle police actions effortlessly. Afghanistan had become a police action, we had become the invaders.

          Practice makes perfect and helps perfect our weapons development, no doubt about the advantage of real world testing. But 20 year police actions are just a loss of American lives, our best and bravest should not be squandered, ever. But I can’t imagine we can’t scarf a 10% pruning or $70B a year from this budget without blinking and still be safer than anywhere else in the world, except from ourselves :>) ​

          Back on topic, 1T spending dump is incredible but I can find zero second source’s for Larry’s piece. I find many HHS budgets, but can’t see this since most are forward looking, not tracking actual spending. I find it tough to see any organization actually spending $1T in two months, for anything. I would love to learn more about this allegation, much less all the other incredible obligations listed. I looked on Larry’s source, but seems to be a commercial for profit .com site and I don’t plan to invest here :>)

          • Ben

            Frank,
            My after my son got out of the military he entered the world of defense contracting. With his security clearance, he can write his own check.
            That being said, and his wife being an Middle East immigrant, he feels unfulfilled knowing that his lone mission is to make it easier to kill brown people.
            That being said, I’m not sure how my investments are divided up. I should probably check. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

        • Miles collins

          That’s only if they bring death and destruction t us. But you bleeding heart pussies don’t understand that. By the way, who’s more innocent than unborn babies? So stfu asshole. You don’t have any cred.

          • Frank stetson

            And merry Christmas to you!

          • Ben

            Miles, why is it that when I see your name, I immediately know I’m going to be reading a hate filled rant that adds nothing to the conversation.

            As far as your assertion that only when they bring death and destruction to us first,, Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, and Iraq would like to speak with you. Not to mention the death and distraction we have brought to Iran, and South America in the name of our “national interests”

            I will not shut the fuck up. I will not be silenced by some bigoted keyboard warrior.

  4. frank stetson

    nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

    • frank stetson

      Sorry about that, was checking PBP moderation in all things, and this obviously is not one of them….

      Ben, yeah, I’m just starting and really not sure how much I want to participate after years of saying business should be business and as long as it’s legal…… But I have dropped the oil and that’s a start.

      RE: military, I am guessing your son still can’t make NSA….. One of the worse jobs out there has to be the drone and smart bomb guides. Those brave souls who live in front of screens in the bunker and direct munitions at people and places. To destroy from a distance like that has to reek a PTSD toll unimaginable before. Talked to one Dad while at Disney a few years back and while his son could not elaborate, he said: oh yeah, and it’s just a matter of time before he must quit. Hopefully he can console himself with the fact he is protecting us from our enemies and skin color is really not the issue. And thanks for his service, prayers for his safety.

      Mine is a Fidelity mutual that specializes in defense sector. I call it “letting the smart guys make the choices” and, in this case, they choose wisely, very wisely. Up 11% on this round, so far. Hard to let that kind of money go.

      Nonetheless, improper and wasteful government spending should be the bane of Congress given spending is one those elected officials top priorities We need more watchdogs like Larry mentioned, although I wonder about the “for profit” motivations. Rand Paul, as much as I dislike his policies and, worse yet, his actions, is one of the top dogs at this, although a few shots are seemingly misplaced. Warren and my new fave, Katie Porter, that humble financial shark Democrat from Orange County of all places, are pretty good too.

      https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/oct/01/katie-porter-whiteboard-congresswoman

      My goodness, I love this women, for what she does. Her interrogations are just brutal, in a tough but fair way.

      https://nationalinterest.org/blog/skeptics/rep-katie-porter-waste-and-accountability-us-nuclear-weapons-complex-185696

  5. AC

    OK, gentlemen letting out with left jabs and right hooks flying. What exactly is the punching bag Larry set forth this time? Was it military budget spending?
    Whatever,. Larry’s objective for a post is the purposed punching bag target. In reality, there are any number of subordinate punching bags hanging. Larry is targeted for punches in comments. Some with gloves laced and others weigh bare knuckles. Commenters voluntarily reply setting themselves at as another punching bag of choice.
    Larry’s boxing gym has no shortage of bags hanging from the rafters. All comers are welcomed. Some prefer a little distance in the fray and spectate. Every gym has its regular usual suspects and so does Larry’s. Larry, himself, introduces the bag of the day and begins punching away. When he land the final hit with his signature closing. A regular takes to Larry’s bag with one or two thrusts before turning focus on Larry prowess punching beginning a challenge.
    Others follow suit believing their punches trump what ever punches were thrown until then.
    Larry’s gym has its rules of fighting conduct. However, apparently a few are unappreciative and choose bar-room brawl bad form over civility with respect good form. Respect for Larry, Larry’s gym, and other fellow commentators’ inputs
    The national budget allocations and departmental spending of such received funding deserves closer scrutiny. Surplus balances at fiscal year’s end seems an encouragement of the frivolous spending habit. What if unspent funds, due to planned expenditure was lower than projected by reason of efficiency or departmental shifts. The flow of funds returning to Treasury os unheard of. Yet, if it became practice the savings would possibly lower the National Debt Republicans care about. The party not in majority at the time tend to blame the increase in the National Debt as the result of reckless budgeting policy within the majority party. Facts are that both parties share in the ultimate responsible for the present state the National Budget at any time.
    Understanding past behavior seen on both sides of the aisle. Finger pointing follows the facts proving culpability on the right and left.
    Endless talk, not meaningful debate, ensues as the chamber erupts and accusations are leveled. If level headed adults actually exist in
    government. Would the real adult please rise and restore order.
    Order is to much self discipline on the HR . Chaos in the main is no stirred into frenzy by certain mediots rivaling for the most ridiculous clownish act in FOXWORTHY fashion.
    Our Republic at a crossroads means all will have to make their own choice. The high road of true fact proven over and over as stable, democratic, constitutionally informed intelligent. The other way is the road to anarchy with conspiracy theories as rough paving laid lacking planning, vision. and direction beyond what the current unfounded theory dominates in the moment.
    Positive and long term potential had in future generations is the reasonable choice. The “reasonable person” test is often used in situations demanding the definition for “reasonable” . Which, it seems is a conundrum in logic for those following the alternate reality offered up as a logical positive choice.

    • Ben

      AC, Trump added 2 trillion dollars to the national debt.. no PBP articles on that.
      Caring about the national debt is a talking point the radical right likes to trot out when they don’t have any other arrows in their quivers

  1. Larry, Good luck with that. I am in the same situation. VAXXED to the MAX Moderna and in age category…