Pretty soon you’re talking real money

Does the President really need a yacht?

Ev Dirksen is often misquoted to the effect that, even the the Federal budget, if you wind up spending “a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.” In fact and in truth, Dirksen said “million,” not “billion.”

But the principle is a sound one: even waste that’s a small part of a big total is still waste. And millions are easier for ordinary folks to understand than billions. The problem is to find the right synecdoche: the small misspending that stands in for the larger ones, like the Pentagon’s $435 hammer standing in for the tens of billions wasted on useless weapons systems.

Or, to take a more recent example, the $2 million for a Presidential yacht that stands in for $15 billion in pork in the latest omnibus appropriation bill.

Democrats should be merciless about this. The President, who is mortgaging our children’s future with his reckless deficit spending, decided to buy himself a yacht with your money. Outrageous!

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: