Now, bear with me because I read this a few years ago and it was shortly before we suddenly had a budget surplus, but it not only made a lot of sense to me, but made my jaw drop in surprise at government stupidity.
It seems the government keeps two sets of books on expenditures. The example that was given in the article was about a reinforced military building being constructed. The original estimate was, lets say, 26 million. Well, the first contractor runs out of bucks halfway through the construction and looses the job. So, the building sits while others bid to finish it. Another contractor decides that the building can be finished for 10 million and gets the bid. The previous subcontractor got 20 million done on it before quitting.
Now, in one set of books the building shows being worth 26 million. In the second set it shows that the building cost 30 million. To make things even more confusing, they show a completion cost of 56 million! Budget over run!
See how they did it? 26 and 10? Instead of just the actual 30 million, they combined costs to get 56 million. Clinton supposedly stopped the double booking, which after the dust settled, showed a budget surplus in comparison to previously inflated figures.
Now, another cute and nasty little trick they have is the budget penalty. I guess, over the years, wastrels in congress who constantly squandered their budgets got mad at those who not only handled them well, but actually had money left over at the end of the year!
Now, we all know showing a residual in a money hungry congress is not a good idea. Heavens! Other congressmen might have to stop financing homes, vacations, investments, friends and kickbacks if their budget handling gets too closely investigated to find out why they are not saving any cash. So, sometime in the 70s, congress quietly passed legislation stating that if you fail to use up your allotted budget, then next year not only will you be docked the surplus, but you might not get the budget amount you need.
So, places like the military, which require huge budgets, not only over-apply, but squander money in order to keep from being cut back beyond safe operating finances.
All of that because some congressmen got mad at the few who saved money and made them look bad. Now, budgets must be used up to the last penny because saving it will cause you to be penalized.
That contributes also to the national deficit.
The double set of books though, just was absolutely astounding.