Mammoth tome makes budget details public

WASHINGTON — It has more pages than “War and Peace,” more tables than a Martha Stewart guide to entertaining and a price tag larger than anything you’ll find at the mega bookstore down the street.

It’s unlikely that you have a copy of President Clinton’s Year 2000 budget on your bookshelf, but if you did, oh, the wonders you’d find.

For only $164.25, you’d have access to where each penny of the $1.8 trillion the federal government plans to spend might land. How much would Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl receive to fight forest fires and protect habitats? See the appendix, page 180. Interested in learning more about the $10 million in grant money earmarked for the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Transit Project? Check out page 781.

The fiscal 2000 budget, which was delivered to Congress on Monday, also went on sale to the general public through the Government Printing Office. The five-volume document includes not just the budget plan, but a 1,291-page appendix, a litany of historical tables, an analysis and, perhaps most important, the 40-page “Citizen’s Guide to the Federal Budget” — a kind of Dr. Seuss version of the mammoth document. Inside the guide, the reader will find the government admitting that “hardly anybody knows everything that’s in the thousands of pages and several books that make up the budget.”

The price for a copy of the 2000 budget is up $8.75 from last year, and all told, it weighs in at 11.7 pounds and 2,632 pages. That’s only 117 pages more than the 1999 budget, but don’t tell
that to the bicycle messengers in Washington.

According to a printing office spokesman, the bikers “last year could put it in their backpacks; this year, a lot of them are having to use boxes on top of the handlebars.”

Washington Express couriers, which serves nine of the city’s 10 largest law firms and has delivered this year’s black-and-white covered budget to many of the best-known legal minds in the district, insists the document’s heft wasn’t a problem for them.

“The bikers carry waterproof, oversized backpacks, real state-of-the-art stuff,” said Mike Miller, vice president of marketing for the national delivery company. “These people are professionals. They’re in shape for the budget, even if it sometimes isn’t.”

Miller’s couriers don’t mess around. To circumvent the long lines that formed at the printing office’s entrance Monday morning, which numbered anywhere from 30 to 40 budget-seekers at a time, Washington Express kept five of its messengers rotating through the line. The “planted delivery personnel” paid for copies of the budget with customer account numbers and passed the cellophane-wrapped goods off to one of the 170 other couriers on alert. They in turn wheeled their way to lobbying firms and other places where, for instance, the exact revenue from the U.S. Postal Service’s Duck Stamp program (page 565) was of concern.

Even the Office of Management and Budget — the executive agency responsible for putting together Clinton’s funding proposals — recommends an alternative to getting your hands, and straining your back, on the federal budget.

“It’s all on the Internet,” said an OMB spokeswoman. “And it’s much cheaper.”

The federal budget can be found online at Or call (202) 512-1800 to order a paper copy.

Herald-Sun, The (Durham, NC) Date: February 3, 1999 Page: C5 Copyright, 1999, The Durham Herald Company