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U.S. Taxes and the United Nations Money Pit

In remarks Thursday to the UN General Assembly's budget oversight committee (known at the UN as the "Fifth Committee" or ACABQ) Torsella spelled out some of the profligacies of a UN budget which for a decade now "has grown dramatically, relentlessly, and exponentially," more than doubling to $5.4 billion for 2010-2011, from $2.6 billion for 2001-2002. (He was talking about the "core" budget, which is actually just a fraction of an overall UN system budget that has soared to somewhere north of $25 billion, and to which the U.S. in 2010 contributed almost $7.7 billion.)

Torsella noted that the largest UN cost is for personnel, and the total dollar amount for the UN payroll (that would be the secretariat's core payroll, not the far larger UN system) has grown over the past decade by 70%. More concretely, he said that the average UN staffer now collects compensation totaling $238,000 biannually. That works out to $119,000 on average per year, for more than 10,000 UN staffers covered by the regular budget.

To illustrate what that actually means, Torsella noted that while $100,000 is a mere rounding error to a UN proposing a $5 billion-plus regular budget, for Americans it represents the average federal taxes collected from 16 hard-working American families over the course of a full year. Credit Torsella again, that's a vivid way of explaining just what's going on with those soaring UN budgets. In other words, it takes the aggregate federal taxes of thousands of American families, working year-round, to sustain the tax-free six-figure incomes of all those UN bureaucrats on the sky-rocketing UN payroll -- for which the U.S. pays the biggest share.

UN profligacy, coupled with such outrages as last week's three-ring anti-Semitic circus at the General Assembly, is reaching the point at which American voters may seriously take notice. Washington pols would be wise to view this not as a partisan issue, but as an American issue. If the Obama administration doesn't like the idea of Democrats signing on to a UN reform bill from the Republican Ros-Lehtinen, then it's time for some competing proposals for reducing the gusher of U.S. tax dollars into the UN, and conditioning U.S. money on genuine UN reform. What we're seeing right now from the administration -- or at least from its new envoy for UN management and reform -- is a long-overdue and much-needed expose of at least a few aspects of UN extravagance and abuse, but no real plan to stop it.

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