Big Bucks

Senator Everett Dirksen, probably incorrectly, is credited with saying, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”  Regardless how the phrase actually originated, it tends to be applied to government spending, often with tongue in cheek as an oblique reference to wasteful outlays.  Yet there is substantial reason to consider the quip relevant to today given that our federal government is projected to spend $3,900 billion in fiscal 2015 which starts October 1st, less than three months from now.  in this context, one billion dollars represents a mere .00025% of the total, seemingly almost inconsequential.  Nevertheless, I’ll argue a billion bucks is still a ton of money.  What could you do with that much?

President Obama has a suggestion.  He recently asked Congress for $1 billion to finance troop rotation, training, and joint exercises in Europe.  Called the European Reassurance Initiative, this is seen as an effort to show Poland and the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia that we (and all of NATO) will stand firmly by them should Russia try to intrude on their sovereignty, although not all European governments seem to be 100% behind this move.  Of course this is his response to the Ukrainian loss of Crimea and ongoing turmoil in that region.  In the words of a Warsaw based foreign policy analyst quoted recently in the Economist, “Something very dramatic has happened: for the first time since the war (WW II) a European border has been changed by force….” This is obviously very serious stuff and Obama feels the money needs to be spent, even though this means we will have to borrow it from somewhere.

In other news, Steve Ballmer of Microsoft fame has just agreed to pay $2 billion dollars for the Los Angeles Clippers, a franchise that employs men who play basketball.        (by J R)