Vol. 2, Issue 6, February 10, 2004
President's Budget Hits NY Times Bestseller List
For the first time in its history, the New York Times Bestseller list has featured a government document.
Like virtually all federal documents and legislation, Budget of the United States Government: 2005 can be purchased from the Government Printing Office (GPO). However, sales are traditionally rather limited. This year, an enterprising young intern, Gerald Hastings, in the GPO wondered if the government couldn't more effectively disseminate documents by making them available in a more commercial format.
"We are really kind of surprised," said Superintendent of Documents Judy Russell. "When Gerald asked if we should start distributing through more conventional retail outlets such as Barnes and Noble, we had no idea what this would really lead to."
"In addition, I am not at all comfortable with the New York Times' decision to include the budget in the Hardcover Fiction list," said Russell.
The unexpectedly strong sales have clearly caught the administration unawares.
"The budget is of course a document for all Americans," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan nervously. "But, of course, the President summed up all the important parts in his address to the nation. Anyone who's heard the President's summary really doesn't need to go deeper into the budget. I'd recommend that people listen to that speech again rather than read through the whole boring document. You don't want to read a boring document, do you?"
The four-volume Budget is not lightweight reading. However, those who do persist in examining every section have been finding interesting surprises.
"On the surface, for example, it appears that the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) budget request is at its full $900 million level," said Paul Markowitz, senior economic analyst for RAND. "But a closer look at the budget shows a complex "shell game" in which unrelated programs are crowded under the LWCF umbrella. Consequently, money available to actually perform LWCF functions is nearly $600 million below the level that would represent full funding."
Other plot twists include many references to the cryptically abbreviated "SS Fund," which is used to pay for a substantial portion of the budget; and Section 6, which is apparently taken from a Tom Clancy novel.
Since its release on February 2, Budget has risen to the #4 spot on the Hardcover Fiction list, and sales are on track to push it even higher next week, possibly to the #2 or #1 spot, according to analysts.
"I really love the part where the president talks about reducing the deficit without raising taxes," said Markowitz. "It made placing the book on the "Fiction" list a no-brainer."
Speculation about the release date of the sequel, Emergency Budget Request to Pay for Military Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,, is already widespread, though a post-election date is virtually certain.
"Well, I'll tell you one thing," said a visibly ruffled Russell. "The GPO will be having nothing to do with that one. We're in enough trouble as it is."