52 seconds

That's how long it takes the feds to spend its ACORN funding during the course of a year's spending.

Published September 17, 2009 10:59PM (EDT)

Less than a minute, just 52 seconds.

That's how long it would take for the federal government to spend all its monies annually on ACORN, if monies were spent at a consistent and continuous level from midnight on the start of the fiscal year until midnight at its end.

Here's my math:

  • According to this report, between 1994 and 2008, a period of 15 years, there have been $53.6 million in documented federal outlays. That comes out to roughly $3.6 million a year. To be conservative, so to speak, I'll assume some outlays have been missed somehow and just round this figure up to an even $5 million annually.
  • To also be conservative, let's also use a smaller divisor than the current proposed budget. Let's use George W. Bush's final proposed budget, which was a bit more than $3 trillion--the first president ever to propose a $3 trillion budget, a moment in American history you cannot possibly forget because the streets of Washington in February 2008 were so flooded with angry teapartiers waving copies of the Constitution that we had to shut down the city. In any case, I'll also round down Bush's final budget to an even $3 trillion.
  • That means ACORN's average annual outlay of (a rounded up) $5 million as a share of Bush's final (rounded down) $3 trillion budget comes out to 1/600,000th of federal spending.
  • There are 31,536,000 seconds in a year (60secs  x 60mins x 24hours x 365days). When you divide that figure by 600,000, you get 52 seconds.

Which means if you started spending just ACORN's federal dollars on midnight, October 1, before you reached 12:01 am the monies would be exhausted--about 52 seconds into the fiscal year.

Look, I really don't care about ACORN's federal funding situation one way or the other. And the pimp scandal was an embarrassment to the organization. Perhaps the organization fully deserved to have its funding yanked, as Congress did today.

Has there ever been so much fuss--from Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and all their hyperventilating followers--dedicated to such small sums? There are, after all, 31,535,948 seconds left in the federal spending year. I realize that to conservatives it's about the principle, not the sums. They wouldn't want a cent being spent on this organization.

But geez: Never has so much energy been spent by so many ranting so often about so little. Heck, I'm betting the administrative, paperwork and staffing costs the Federal Communication Commission and IRS expend each year merely to process the regulatory paperwork and tax forms filed by FOX News, if calculated in the same way I have above, probably takes at least a minute.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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