U.S. Army fudged its accounts by trillions of dollars, auditor finds - "The Defense Department's Inspector General, in a [July 26 (pdf)] report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year. Yet the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up... The report affirms a 2013 Reuters series revealing how the Defense Department falsified accounting on a large scale as it scrambled to close its books. As a result, there has been no way to know how the Defense Department – far and away the biggest chunk of Congress' annual budget – spends the public's money."
As authorized by law, the director of the Missouri State Public Defender office just used his authority to appoint the state's governor, Jay Nixon, as public defender counsel to an indigent. The director is authorized to appoint *any* member of the state bar to represent indigent defendants as a public defender; Jay Nixon is a member of the Missouri bar. This move is the latest in a battle over the governor's big cuts to the public defender department: $3.5 million cut from a $4.5 million budget, leaving the public defender system unable to provide anything other than brief, cursory counsel, which may not meet the requirements of the law.
On the 40th anniversary of the 1976 Montreal Olympics, the Montreal Gazette is running an extensive retrospective series on the preparations for, legacy of, and notable moments at the games. [more inside]
The state of Louisiana is facing a massive budget shortfall. Former governor Bobby Jindal positioned himself for a presidential run by slashing taxes and cutting spending, pinning his fiscal policy on the hopes that oil revenues from the Gulf of Mexico would continue to grow. Those revenues have failed to materialize, leaving the state with a deficit. Since higher education funding is one of the largest components of the state’s discretionary spending, it was one of the hardest areas hit. Louisiana has made deeper cuts to education than any other state, and colleges in Louisiana are receiving 55% less state funding than they did before the recession. The state now finds itself with a gap of $850 million for this year, and more than $2 billion next year. The result has been steeply rising tuition and decreased enrollment. It’s about to get much, much worse. [more inside]
US transit projects are way more expensive than those in similar countries. Addressing the reasons why could help us build more transit.
Lamar Smith continues waging his three-year war on the National Science Foundation. If Congress has its way, the next round of grants by the National Science Foundation, a hallmark of government funding for graduate students and scientists, will no longer be based on scientific merit. Proposals would not be reviewed by panels of preeminent scholars across the United States as they have been for more than a half-century; instead, they would all be “in the national interest,” with strict new rules adopted earlier this month by a Republican House committee. Previously. This is not the first time Smith has tried to impose Congressional control on the NSF's budget.
"Say you want to fundraise to make a thing, and the thing you want to make is My New Album — hooray! So first you make a budget, then you set that as our Kickstarter goal, right? Easy! No." Musician Marian Call provides advice on crowdfunding planning and pitfalls. Also, spreadsheets. [more inside]
In 1998, Vice President Al Gore had a vision for "Triana," an imaging satellite that would continuously transmit a live "big blue marble" Earthview for the nascent World Wide Web. Designed, built, and scheduled for launch in 2001, the $150 million "GoreSat" became a victim of politics during the W. Bush administration, and was relegated to a closet at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Friendlier heads revived the satellite in 2009 as the NOAA's DISCOVR - the Deep Space Climate Observatory - and launched her on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket last year. Today, NASA published her first "epic" view of Earth.
BBC: "Thirteen million UK families will lose an average of £260 a year due to the freeze in working-age benefits, says the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)." BBC: Benefit Changes, who will be affected? "Hundreds of thousands of UK families will be affected by cuts of £12bn in the UK's welfare budget announced by the chancellor." BBC: Budget Calculator.
BBC: "A clampdown on "taxpayer-funded subsidies" for "higher earners" living in social housing is to be announced by the chancellor in Wednesday's Budget. Local authority and housing association tenants in England who earn more than £30,000 - or £40,000 in London - will have to pay up to the market rent, George Osborne will say. The move is expected to raise up to £250m a year by 2018-19. It is thought that this could affect 340,000 households." George Osborne said: "the Budget would "reward work over welfare" and allow people to keep more of the money they earned."
"Big Indie" Kickstarters Are Killing Actual Indies. "The notion that 'consumers don't actually understand the real cost of game development' isn't a new one, but the true price tag is actually kind of scary, and the illusions put up by large Kickstarters are having a measurable negative effect on Kickstarter as a whole."
Some breakdowns and analyses of earnings and costs from Kickstarter: Oh Joy Sex Toy (This particular page might be SFW, but most of the site isn't), Fate Core, Video Game High School Season 1 and Season 2, Corporate America. The overall sentiment seems to be that Kickstarters cost more money than assumed, though some disagree on the usefulness of budget breakdowns.
March in August: thousands rally against Tony Abbott by taking to streets:
Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets for the latest wave of protests against the federal government.[more inside]
Demonstrations were held in cities across the country, including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, to protest against a range of of social and economic policies being implemented by the Abbott government.
About 3,000 protesters marched through Sydney, voicing their concerns on a range of issues, from Australia's asylum seeker policies, to education cuts and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Australia's 2014-2015 budget was just released. Amongst the casualties: television, young people (and the organisations that help them) and old people, tech startups, postgraduate students, people with disabilities and anyone seeking medical care, foreign aid, Indigenous people, the arts, renewable energy, and the environment. However, if you are in defence, mining, or Indonesian immigration, you should be fine.
NASA's 2015 budget request has been released (PDF, OMB Summary), with an interesting mission study : $15 million to look at a unmanned mission to Jupiter's moon Europa. Why Europa? It may have more water than Earth, sloshing around under a thick ice, which makes it a major contender for harboring life. Don't get too excited just yet though. The mission would't launch until around 2025 and would arrive in Jupiter's orbit in the early 2030s. That's a long way off, but a particular US Congressman really wants this mission to happen.
Nonprofits With Balls. Sometimes you just need to laugh to make it through. Nonprofit agencies, whatever their missions, face common problems such as outcomes, sustainability, budgets, and even the physical plant. Oh, and unicorns.
Happy Political Clusterf*ck Day (U.S.)! In one corner: the first federal government shutdown since 1996, born of the House GOP/Tea Party faction's crusade to delay, defund, and destroy Obamacare (and the Democratic Senate and President's resolve to not do that). "Continuing resolutions" have ping-ponged between the two houses, fighting over language to cancel healthcare reform (plus a few other items, such as the implementation of Mitt Romney's entire economic agenda). National parks are closed, contractors are hamstrung, and 800,000 federal workers furloughed until Speaker Boehner drops the "Hastert Rule" and passes a bill the other branches can agree to. In the other corner, heedless of the chaos (though not without glitches of its own): the official rollout of the Affordable Care Act and its state insurance exchanges. The portal at Healthcare.gov is your one-stop shop for browsing, comparing, and purchasing standardized, regulated insurance coverage with premium rebates, guaranteed coverage, and expanded Medicaid for the poor (in some states). A crazy day, overall -- but peanuts compared to what might happen if the debt ceiling is breached in 16 days. [more inside]
How we prioritize federal spending in America... National Priorities Project is a national non-profit, non-partisan research organization dedicated to making complex federal budget information transparent and accessible so people can prioritize and influence how their tax dollars are spent.
Using documents obtained from whistleblower Edward Snowden, the Washington Post reports on the United States' $52.6 billion "black budget" for 2013.
The Coming Dark Age For Science In America (single link HuffPo)
This Atlantic article about the EPI Family Budget Calculator tries to calculate the required income to live a comfortable yet modest lifestyle in various parts of the US.
Bioshock Infinite (previously) has been hailed as brilliant by many but others, even while enjoying it, have questioned the way the game deploys violence and whether this limits the audience that may otherwise have enjoyed the fascinating narrative put forth by the game. While not directly implicating the game's violence others have suggested that Bioshock Infinite might be the last of a dying breed (the Triple A, big budget, narrative game) due to the lack luster returns of such fare in the face of cheap, accessible indie and mobile games.
From the mid 40s to the mid 50s Coronet Instructional Films were always ready to provide social guidance for teenagers on subjects as diverse as dating, popularity, preparing for being drafted, and shyness, as well as to children on following the law, the value of quietness in school, and appreciating our parents. They also provided education on topics such as the connection between attitudes and health, what kind of people live in America, how to keep a job, supervising women workers, the nature of capitalism, and the plantation System in Southern life. Inside is an annotated collection of all 86 of the complete Coronet films in the Prelinger Archives as well as a few more. Its not like you had work to do or anything right? [more inside]
Paul Ryan. Seven-term congressman for Wisconsin's 1st District. Chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee. Architect of the controversial Ryan Budget -- a "Path to Prosperity" [PDF - video - CBO] that would slash trillions from the federal budget, sharply curtail taxes on the wealthy, and transform Medicare into a private voucher system. Proponent (vid) -- and renouncer -- of Ayn Rand 's Objectivism. Social Security beneficiary. Hunter. Weinermobile driver. And as of this morning, the 2012 Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States of America. [more inside]
Due to budget cuts, CBC's Radio Canada International has ceased broadcasting on shortwave; it is now Internet-only and therefore blocked by authoritarian regimes around the world. Mark Montgomery is somewhat emotional about being the last voice on the air
“So if we continue voting like this in the (House of Commons), there’ll be no b-day for me this year?” tweeted NDP MP Hoang Mai.
It is still June 13 for the Parliament of Canada, where voting has continued overnight on the "omnibus budget bill" (previously), due to 159 separate amendment votes that have been forced by the opposition. None are likely to pass, but the arduous process is meant to function as a protest against legislation which many critics have argued goes far beyond the scope of a traditional budget. [more inside]
"The wide-ranging Forum Poll for the National Post sought the opinions of a sample of Canadians of voting age... The voting intentions, if actual ballots, would translate into a minority government for the NDP." The Canadian public is on a distinct tilt to the left, says a new national public opinion poll. Criticism of the Conservatives' spring budget, Bill C-38, continues: it is "anti-labour" (repeals The Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act; reforms Employment Insurance) and "guts the Fisheries Act"; a website protest against the bill is planned for June 4. [more inside]
Emotions ran high (video) as city and state leaders met to work out a deal to address Detroit's looming budget crisis. The threat of state imposition of an emergency financial manager has some residents fearful of the ulterior motives of state officials: [more inside]
The GOP has released their sunnily-named Path to Prosperity Budget (PDF), offering it as a stark choice in the upcoming 2012 elections. Paul Ryan makes their case in their new video "The Path to Prosperity Budget: Your Country. Your Future. Your Choice." Conservatives argue for it. Liberals argue this is the death-knell for the middle class. Has the end-game arrived?
"As I made clear in Australia, we'll be strengthening our presence in the Asia-Pacific, and budget reductions will not come at the expense of this critical region," President Obama and Sustaining US Global Leadership (pdf) [more inside]
How the Austerity Class Rules Washington. Tracing the origin of a political meme. (Via Paul Krugman.)
Cruel America: It appears that no one is so unfortunate that he or she is exempt from spending cuts, while at the same time no one is so fortunate as to be ineligible for a tax cut.
With the conclusion of the debt ceiling debate ending in another defeat for liberals, the emerging narrative is that Obama is weak, a poor negotiator who was out-maneuvered by Republicans and forced into the agreement because of strategic errors. But Glenn Greenwald tells a different story: [more inside]
Jeff Stone, a politician from Riverside County, wants 13 conservative Southern California counties to secede and become the country's 51st state.
Last fall, Minnesotans elected a Democratic governor who pledged to tax the rich and a majority Republican legislature who swore by no new taxes, period. Their first major task? Craft a budget for the next biennium that addressed a projected $5 billion shortfall. Months passed, no agreement was reached, and this morning at midnight, the Minnesota government shut down. Citizens on both sides are not pleased. [more inside]
Last month, California decided to shutter 70 of its 278 state parks. "70in70 is an attempt to create memories before history outpaces us: 70 state parks are slated for closure this year, and we intend to visit each one within the next 70 days."
The US government is hoping to save millions by deleting half of its websites, including this one for the endangered desert tortoise that costs about $125/year plus eight hours of staff time. If the internet can raise money to build a statue of robocop in Detroit, surely we can save this website? Is it worth it? Do enough people use it? What other websites are going down that we should save?
The top 10 federal contractors related in a sociogram displaying the network of overlapping lobbyist hires.
In the wake of ever deeper budget cuts, public schools have begun charging students for basics, such as registering for honors or elective classes.
Mahalo! What A Week: US President Barack Obama at the recent White House Correspondence Dinner (SLYTP - 19 Min)
John Mueller and Mark Stewart may have found the one part of government we can afford to cut in their paper "Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland Security" From the abstract "The cumulative increase in expenditures on US domestic homeland security over the decade since 9/11 exceeds one trillion dollars. It is clearly time to examine these massive expenditures applying risk assessment and cost-benefit approaches that have been standard for decades."
The Program for Public Consultation carried out a different kind of budget poll -- they asked each of their respondents to generate a package of tax increases and spending cuts sufficient for substantial deficit reduction, then averaged the results. The outcome was not what you might expect. The mean package included twice as much tax increase as spending cut: big deficit-reducing moves included substantial income tax increases for the highest brackets and deep cuts in defense spending. Republicans cut less spending than Democrats, as did people who identified as "very sympathetic to the Tea Party." Hardly anybody likes the reduction of the estate tax. Why is the public consensus so different from the Washington consensus? Read the full report (.pdf) Or try the interactive budget exercise.
"Meanwhile, Important Politician stretches out in his business class seat and listens to his wife talk about the pearls! And the silk scarves! And the amazing food! And IP thinks back to that Foreign Service Officer he just met. And he thinks: what a great life that guy has! He goes to parties at the President's mansion. He drinks fancy wine. He drives around in air conditioned motorcades, with people saluting him as he walks into government buildings. He goes hiking - in the middle of a work day, even! - on the Great Wall. What a cushy life he leads, thinks Important Politician." A proposed pay cut is not going down well with some Foreign Service Officers.
To Madison, WI, to the Wisconsin State Assembly, where the Republican majority attempted to move newly-elected Republican Governor Scott Walker's controversial budget repair bill towards final passage, before the Democrat minority had even entered the assembly. The minority leader then proceeds to rip the majority a new one. The cheering of tens of thousands of protesters, composed of public-sector employees and their supporters, can be heard permeating the walls of the assembly chamber. A minority assemblyman responds to the tactic. [more inside]