Beer taste on a champagne budget

Today’s SJ-R article about whether the government will give Memorial Medical Center permission to spend its own money to expand the hospital cited an interesting statistic.  Although government staff recommended allowing MMC to spend its own money, it did caution that some of the construction would cost $429 per square foot, which “ ‘appears high’ when compared with the board’s current standard of $400 per square foot.”  That’s 7.25% over their standard.

Contrast this concern over organizations spending their own money with last week’s story, where the government spent other people’s money.  Grab your calculator if you’d like to follow along.

Various and sundry state and local agencies and other interested parties proudly announced the opening of the Hope Springs Apartments for the benefit of people dealing with mental illness.  There are 23 one-bedroom apartments at 550 square feet each; 13 efficiency apartments with 330 square feet; and a 2,275 square-foot “resource center.”  If your calculator is working, you should come up with a total of 19,215 square feet.

A bit of time spent researching on the interweb finds per square foot estimates for apartment construction ranging from $100 to about $135 per square foot in this area.

How did our public servants do with our money?  They spent $5.4 million dollars — or $281 per square foot.  Well over twice a high estimate, for the purpose of providing what they term, without any apparent sense of irony, “affordable housing.”  To which one can only ask – for whom??


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One Response to Beer taste on a champagne budget

  1. Bret says:

    “Public servants” is putting it kindly. The fact that this kind of stuff is even possible in the first place makes me irate. The government seems to have no concept of money, except when it comes to interfering in others’ budgets or confiscating enormous portions of wealthy citizens’ income.

    When I lived in Texas, I consulted a landscaper about getting a lawn started in my backyard of dirt. He talked me out of planting seeds and instead convinced me to lay sod, because the approaching winter season would kill any recently budded plants. He said he had recently been called by an official in charge of a nearby government housing project looking to do the same thing. Except that instead of accepting the landscaper’s sound advice like I did, the official insisted on the seeds in the fall. When the landscaper told him he would just be wasting his money, the housing official quipped, “Well that’s okay; this is government money.” Boy, was that a bad idea. That comment did not inspire one shred of humor in this 60-year-old Texas cowboy of a landscaper, who angrily retorted that he was DEFINITELY not going to provide the seeds for government money, because “all government knows how to do is spend my money and spend my grandkids’ money.” At that point the housing official became confused and slightly irritated, not seeming to understand why the landscaper didn’t find his joke amusing.

    What irritates me even more than silly, unscrupulous government housing supervisors is the very essence of the budgeting system for government agencies. Take the military, for instance. I have been on active duty for over six years, and the annual recurrence of wasteful spending is nothing short of an exercise in coping with chronic nausea. You see, if a military unit fails to spend $200,000 of a $1.5 million budget (these are hypothetical numbers), what do you suppose happens? I imagine the average Joe would guess that the unit’s commander gets a pat on the head for his fiscal conservatism and that the $200,000 is combined with similar surpluses from other units to help balance the federal budget. What a logical idea. But wrong. No, some goon from the Pentagon or Congress (it’s not clear to me which) sees an unspent portion of a budget and concludes, “You didn’t need all that money, so you’re getting less next year.” So your superiors reward your thrift by shrinking your next year’s budget to $1.3 million. So what happens in the grand scheme? Every unit in the ENTIRE military (I kid you not) spends every dollar of its huge budget every single year, so that it will not be penalized in this way (“What if we need that money in future years?”). Imagine how many units there are in the entire military. And surely this nonsense is not confined to only the military; I’m quite certain it’s all across the federal government and most state governments too.

    There’s no way to prove this because the unit/office leaders would never admit that they participate in this kind of waste, but I believe that if we reversed this system to provide career kudos to frugal office leaders instead of illogical penalties, the resultant savings would eliminate the deficit. Seriously, the entire deficit.

    But I see little reason to hope any of our spineless Congressional leaders will make something like this happen, so I’ll prepare instead to watch a bunch of fireworks over unpleasant cuts to the extremely generous government spending benefits we have spoiled ourselves with over the last few decades.

    And when even that doesn’t happen because our prodigies on Capitol Hill can’t muster the cojones to say no to all their greedy constituents, I’ll get ready to hunt my own food and cut down my own trees for lumber after we eventually default on our national debt. Oh, and provide my own armed protection in the absence of police.

    And thus it ever shall be.

    Hopefully, you’ve already got a decent start on the hunt your own food equipment. If you wait until everyone realizes it’s “game over” time, it’s too late to get ready.


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