Looking at the federal budget, out of a total of close to $3.5 trillion, the legislative branch spends $4.47 billion on itself. A tiny slice of the budget pie, Senate and House spending is still interesting for the insight it provides. So let’s take a look.
The Barbershop and More
We can start with a controversial allocation, the barbershop.
But first, a quiz. Can you identify each of the following senators? (Answers follow at the end of this post.)
Called Senate Hair Care Services in the Secretary of the Senate’s budget report, the institution dates back to the 19th century when its services were free (to the Senate–not the taxpayer) until the late 1970s. Now, while the barbershop/salon charges $20 for a trim and $75 for a perm, with “sequestration,” the manicures were eliminated. Between October 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014, the $177,488.29 that the Senate Hair Care Services lost, the federal budget absorbed.
There for Senators, staffers and interns, barbershop appointments are available for you and me too. But the scheduling hierarchy dictates that the most powerful Senators have priority. When they want their hair done, they get the slot, even if someone else has it. The priority list moves downward, with interns at the bottom and then those who are not affiliated with the Senate.
We also have an Architect of the Capitol (AOC). I just learned that the capitol dome needed restoration because of 1300 cracks in its 8.9 million pounds of cast iron. Begun in 2013, the repair was managed by the AOC. In addition, as you might imagine, with multiple 19th and 20th century buildings to refurbish and more to maintain, they have to prioritize because of budgetary restraints.
You can see below that we have not even mentioned the largest slices of the legislative branch’s spending pie–our legislators’ salaries–and the smaller pieces like the Government Printing Office, a photographic studio, a recording studio, mileage reimbursement, childcare, and mailing expenses.
Although three years old, the totals in the following graph are pretty close to today’s–enough to give us a realistic picture of what the legislative branch costs us in dollars and sacrificed alternatives.
Our Bottom Line: Fiscal Policy Decisions
Faced with a deficit that annually adds to a potentially unmanageable debt, we need a dose of reality to see where the spending goes and the relative size of its slice. Should we be concerned about the barbershop?
Answers: John C. Calhoun, Andrew Burnsides, Joe Biden, Kay Bailey Hutchison, John F. Kennedy, John Edwards, Rand Paul, Strom Thurmond