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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press The Washington Post Is Busy Trying to Save Us 0.00005 Percent of Federal Spending

The Washington Post Is Busy Trying to Save Us 0.00005 Percent of Federal Spending

Friday, 27 September 2013 05:33

We all should be thankful for the vigilance of the Washington Post, otherwise we might not know about an agency in Alaska that could be wasting around $1.8 million a year in federal spending. The Post decided to do a major story on the inspector general of a small development agency in Alaska who wrote a letter to Congress saying that the agency was a waste of money and should be closed.

According to the piece, the agency, the Denali Commission, was the creation of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. At one time more than $150 million was flowing through it to finance various projects in Alaska. This flow has been reduced to $10.6 million following Senator Steven's defeat and subsequent death. 

The immediate issue according to the inspector general is not the $10.6 million in projects, many or all of which may be worthwhile, but rather the agency itself. The inspector general complained that it was an unnecessary intermediary for these funds and therefore a waste of taxpayer dollars.

The article indicates that the agency has 12 employees. If we assume that total compensation for each, plus the indirect costs associated with running the office, come to $150,000 a year, then the implied waste would be $1.8 million a year, assuming that no equivalent supervisory structure would need to be established elsewhere in Alaska's government.

If we go to CEPR's incredibly spiffy budget calculator, we see that this spending qualifies as less than 0.0001 percent of the budget. Clearly this article was a good use of a Post's reporter's time and way to consume a large chunk of space in the newspaper.

Comments (4)Add Comment
How much of the Post's Time was Spent on this?
written by tzimiskes, September 27, 2013 8:00
I love the blog, and completely agree that budget figures should be reported as a percentage of the Federal budget rather than big, scary sounding numbers.

However, to make a truly fair judgement of whether or not reporting on 0.0001% of the Federal budget is a good use of a Post reporter's time and page space shouldn't the proper comparison be the Post's total word count and total reporter compensation rather than a vague reference to the individual reporter's time? In this comparison the time spent covering the topic relative to the total output of the newspaper may not appear so large.
It was a huge front page story
written by Dean, September 27, 2013 9:22
I can't answer for the time involved
"FIRE ME" says the headline next to David Fahrenthold's byline
written by WaPo subscriber, September 27, 2013 3:16
This is the second really, really bad front page article by DF which has (very properly) received Dean's ire in the last month or two.

Fahrenthold seems to be getting the "echo the conservative line, no matter how ridiculous" assignment nowadays. Perhaps he is being groomed to take Lori Montgomery's place?
Great news story for a Juneau paper
written by JW, September 30, 2013 8:56
This story could be of use to residents of Alaska who want to know how best to utilize their federal funds. It would be a great story for a Juneau newspaper, were there still local newspapers who did original reporting.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.