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« Pushback: Hey, This Is How Budget Cuts Work | Main | CAC's Bacon Review: Denny's Maple Bacon Sundae »
April 14, 2011

Tom Coburn: Just Saying, We Have $700 Billion In "Unobligated Funds" Just Sitting Around Ripe For Immediate Cutting

Since I'm ignorant, I will refrain from making a big statement about this. It doesn't sound right to me, but then, little does lately, and Coburn is a smart guy.

Still this sounds too easy and too good to be true.

But-- let's go for it, whatever this is.

Senator Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) holds the treasure map. He and his team cite an Office of Management and Budget document with the riveting title “Balances of Budget Authority — Budget of the U.S. Government — Fiscal Year 2011.”

On page 8, Table 1 indicates in black and white that this fiscal year’s federal budget contains $703,128,000,000 in “unobligated balances.” Thus, more than $703 billion languishes on department, agency, and program ledgers. This includes $12.2 billion unspent at the Agriculture Department, $16.4 billion at Labor, $25.2 billion at Housing and Urban Development, $71.4 billion at Defense, and $309.1 billion at Treasury.

While unspent obligated money must be stewarded for specific purposes for up to five years, these unobligated funds “have not yet been committed by contract or other legally binding action by the government,” OMB explains.


In fact, Senator Coburn’s office estimates that $82.4 billion of these funds are between six and 20 years old! You read correctly: At this very second, the federal budget contains $82.4 billion that has hibernated in numerous accounts between FY 1991 and FY 2005. While agency chiefs and lobbyists might scream that these funds are sacred, such arguments become hilarious when applied to taxpayer dollars that have remained untouched for at least half a dozen years.

Team Coburn reckons that at least $100 billion of these unobligated funds safely could be applied to budget reduction.

$71 billion of such funds are at Defense, and given all the wars we're fighting, that is probably best left alone; but as to the rest, I'm not sure why on earth Coburn (and the writer Deroy Murdock) would set the figure that could be "safely" cut at $100 billion or $140 billion.

This article is actually from February 11th -- did no one read it? Did Coburn not press for it?

This is why I think it's not right. This seems so easy. Too easy. If it could be done, why is it not being done?

I can only think that Coburn is missing some nuance to what "unobligated funds" mean.

If it's true, why didn't we just cut $300 billion right away?

Certainly I want to push on this, and I want answers. I'm just skeptical this could be true, given that it seems to me this would be just about the easiest way to trim a half-trillion imaginable. Hell, I don't even think Democrats could put up a huge fight about it.

What I really think is that "unobligated funds" means "money we actually lost or wasted so we're putting it in this special category called 'unobligated funds' so that it appears like we still have it but in fact it was spent on bumper pool and hookers." (David Letterman joke, from back when he was funny -- actually I think it was his head writer's joke, back when his head writer was funny.)

Thanks to Warden.

digg this
posted by Ace at 01:50 PM

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