If you don’t feel cranky yet today, this will help | NevadaAppeal.com

If you don’t feel cranky yet today, this will help

Barry Smith

I didn’t plan to be cranky this week. I can’t help it, though, because in my line of work I have to read the news.And the news makes me grouchy. So instead of being my usual, cheerful self, I’m going to get a few things off my chest. I just hope I feel better.

Here’s what made me angry this week, in no particular order:

n The federal government is $337 billion in the hole.

This is inconceivable to ordinary folks like me, so the Wall Street Journal broke it down into terms I could attempt to understand. It’s the equivalent of spending about $10,000 a second, $36 million an hour or $870 million a day.

In 2005, according to the Journal, the federal government spent $20,000 for each household in America.

I’m sitting here trying to figure out what my $20,000 got me. Highways. The FBI. A war against terrorism. Safe food and drugs.

OK, so the federal government does a lot, and it’s a pretty expensive operation.

There are, however, a few things I can do without.

You probably know about the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska that went into the federal transportation bill for $315 million. It would be almost as long as the Golden Gate Bridge and serve an island with a population of 50.

Thankfully, Alaska’s Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young removed the requirement that the money be used for this particular bridge. Unfortunately, they left the money in the bill. Thanks, guys.

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, the cost of the bridge works out to $23,639 per resident of the county where the bridge is located. Another way to look at it is $43 for every time a vehicle crosses it.

But the bridge is an easy target. How about a couple of examples you may not know about, courtesy of the Heritage Foundation.

– A U.S. Treasury audit in 2003 turned up $24.5 billion in “unreconciled transactions.” In other words, somebody spent $24.5 billion on something, but nobody knows who or for what.

Ever been a cashier and had to reconcile your register at the end of a shift? What do you think would happen if you came up $24.5 billion short?

– Between 1997 and 2003, the Defense Department spent $100 million on 270,000 commercial airline tickets – that it never used. And never bothered to ask for its money back, even though they were refundable tickets.

Now, I know the federal government massively subsidizes the airline industry, but I wasn’t aware of this particular giveaway.

If that doesn’t make you angry, try this: In just two years, the department paid twice for 27,000 airline tickets. How? It bought the ticket, then reimbursed the employee for the cost of the ticket.

According to the Heritage Foundation, one employee made seven false claims for reimbursement. When confronted, the employee claimed not to have noticed the extra $9,700 in his bank account.

n Exxon Mobil made a profit of $36.1 billion last year, a record for a U.S. company (topping its own record of $25.4 billion the year before).

This is peanuts, of course, compared to what the federal government rakes in every year. And as a red-blooded capitalist, I have to say that Exxon Mobil’s reason for being is to make money. It’s doing a very, very good job.

Here’s what galls me, though. As soon as the politicians heard about Exxon’s record profits (echoed by similar gains by ConocoPhillips and Chevron), what did they do? Called for a windfall profits tax.

That sure made me feel better. No matter how much profit the oil companies make, the federal government would take an increasingly bigger chunk of it.

And do you think they would then give the money back to us? Ha ha ha ha. I’ve got a bridge in Alaska I’d like to sell you.

Oh, yeah. That money to build bridges comes from the tax you pay on a gallon of gasoline. And the three big oil companies paid $44.3 billion in corporate taxes last year. I wonder if they think they got their money’s worth.

n And now for the real burner: The bidding at StubHub.com earlier this week when I checked was at $2,387 – each – for two tickets to the Super Bowl.

I wasn’t planning to go anyway, because I’m a fan of neither the Seahawks nor Steelers. Also, I’ve been to Detroit in the winter. I was about 9 years old. I haven’t seen the need to go back.

But imagine if you did want to see the big game in person. At approximately $4,700 for a pair of tickets to a football game, you might have to consider going without health care this year.

Whatever the price, I’m sure Ford Field will be filled.

That’s the point here. Charge whatever you can get. As long as people keep paying the price at the pump, withdrawing their savings to see a football game and electing representatives who think taxpayers are golden geese, the costs will keep going up.

Sorry. All this probably just made you cranky. But I do feel better.

n Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at editor@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1221.