Elder Patriot – | The Washington Examiner today explained the federal spending spree that takes place this time of year when government agencies “use it or lose” in next years appropriations:
Jason Fichtner, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, said agencies are encouraged to burn through their appropriations by the fact that they run the risk of having their budgets cut if they leave money unspent.
A September 2014 study by Fichtner and Robert Greene of the Mercatus Center discovered spending surges at the end of recent fiscal years among a number of federal agencies.
According to the Washington Examiner, these expenditures are often made on unnecessary extravagances like workout equipment, North Face parkas, leather furniture, and Christmas gifts.
More often, the expenditures go to “extraordinary year-end efforts to approve grants and avoid large balances of unobligated funds,” raising questions as to whether the commission had too few projects to justify its budget.
Two weeks ago, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration was looking to “specific pots of money” to fund the bollard fencing that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been constructing in San Diego, California, Calexico, California, El Paso, Texas, and in Santa Teresa, New Mexico.
One of those “pots of money” could be more than $500 million the Defense Department’s has been appropriated for counternarcotics programs. The additional second route is tapping into the Defense Department’s “MILCON” funding, where about $50 million can be used to construct barriers at the border without congressional approval.
USA Today acknowledged that this is only a small fraction of the money available to President Trump if he decides to exercise his executive power.
Whether his political opponents like it or not sources of revenue are available to the president to use as he sees fit, without congressional approval.
The Department of Agriculture has about $200 billion in outstanding loans for rural development projects such as community buildings, bridges, roads, fire stations, police stations, water projects and barriers such as fencing and walls. These federal loans to local communities have low default rates that are attractive to private-sector investors because they represent large, reliable cash flows — the kind of investments that big money funds desperately desire.
About $50-100 billion worth currently held by USDA are very marketable and attractive commercial paper investments. The rights to collect the remainder of the debt on these loans could be sold to private parties who would pay a premium for such a steady stream of cash payments. The sales would give a profit cushion to the government and alleviate taxpayers from any future risk of nonpayment while retaining certain borrower guarantees.
For example, Trump could authorize the sale of $10 billion of USDA rural water loans on the secondary market, which could bring in a lump sum payment of $12 billion or more. Revenue from these proceeds could be directed to build the border wall.
The USDA is only one of many avenues open to the president that Congress is powerless to prevent:
- Obama stimulus loans (approximately $2-$5 billion) could be separated out and used because they involved “no year” money, meaning the funds don’t expire if not spent in a certain time frame. The president could tap into USDA’s Community Facilities Programs money if recouped funds from the sale were used for new loans to cooperating communities on the border, such as in Texas.
- Another option would be to utilize funds in the same way USDA undertakes in-kind swaps with private parties to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of commodities and services. This would entail swapping the proceeds of the commercial paper sales for the wall, with construction companies being the counterparties.
Contrary to the narrative of the mercenary propaganda media, President Trump holds all of the cards in these negotiations.
His congressional opponents have a vested interest in killing these threats to their control over spending that previous presidents had been able to exploit.
For example, President Obama spent billions on health care without congressional authorization.
This provides the president with significant leverage in his negotiations with congress as the pressure to end the shutdown will weigh more heavily on Pelosi, Schumer and the Democrats with time.