An article yesterday incorrectly reported that the cost of producing a penny is 1.48 cents. That cost is per 1,000 units. According to the Treasury Department, the full cost of a one-cent piece, including metal blanks, is .651 cents. (Published 2/20/88)
A trillion-dollar budget it may be, but deep in the fine print of President Reagan's eighth and final budget appendix is evidence that this is still a penny-ante economy.
The United States Mint expects to put out 11.9 billion pennies in fiscal 1989, a couple of billion more than it will produce in fiscal 1988. Each one-cent piece is expected to cost 1.48 cents -- in itself a microcosmic lesson in deficit spending.
But there is plenty more to ponder in the appendix, the weighty tome that supports the charts, graphs and summaries of federal spending proposals.
"Truth in federal spending" is the catch phrase this year, but what is to be made of the provision that wipes out every dime for administrative, clerical and legislative assistance to senators?
Not to worry, Senate aides. The cash comes back a page later, under the heading "Senators' Official Personnel and Office Expense Account" -- and with a generous increase, from $109 million to $154 million.
At least there is retroactive truth at the Department of Transportation, which seeks to close out a $7.9 million project intended to "demonstrate methods of reducing motor vehicle congestion and increasing employment." Lest there be any doubt, DOT says, it was a highway construction project to finish an expressway between Davis and Woodland, Calif.
Consistency has never been the forte of government budgeting, but that may change if the Office of Management and Budget gets its way. OMB wants $3.4 million for an information system and "networked support facilities," the better to "support a more integrated approach" to budget-crunching.
The new system might ferret out some of the niftier hobgoblins in the fine-print netherworld where the press release meets reality.
Consider: The seers in the Council of Economic Advisers are projecting continued growth in the economy next year, but the word apparently didn't make it to the Justice Department, which is expecting 658,850 new bankruptcy petitions, up from 645,601 in 1987.
Trade balances are looking better, but the Commerce Department is taking no chances. It wants $425,000, up from $190,000 in fiscal 1988, to "improve the availability of Japanese science and engineering literature in the United States."
The Environmental Protection Agency would get $45.8 million to research, among other things, a global warming trend. The Coast Guard obviously is betting the trend will not show up for a while. It wants to increase the hours it spends clearing ice from domestic waterways by more than 40 percent.
The Bicentennial may be winding down, but there's always a party brewing in the federal budget. This year's proposal includes $10,000 to help plan a celebration for the centennial of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's birth, which is right around the corner in 1990.
It will obviously take more than 11.9 billion pennies to pay for all of these activities, but never mind. The appendix says that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which supplies "most of the major evidences of a financial character in the United States," is gearing up for the task. It will crank out 6.3 billion bills of various denominations in fiscal 1989, 300 million more than in fiscal 1988.
And that's long green.