Whenever people call for cutting the military budget, the usual response goes something like ”How can you keep the Army from getting the equipment it needs to fight wars?” Well, the problem with that response is highlighted today by this story from ABC:
Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams.
But senior Army officials have said repeatedly, “No thanks.”
It’s the inverse of the federal budget world these days, in which automatic spending cuts are leaving sought-after pet programs struggling or unpaid altogether. Republicans and Democrats for years have fought so bitterly that lawmaking in Washington ground to a near-halt.
Yet in the case of the Abrams tank, there’s a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.
“If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, told The Associated Press this past week.
Why are the tank dollars still flowing? Politics.
Keeping the Abrams production line rolling protects businesses and good paying jobs in congressional districts where the tank’s many suppliers are located.
If there’s a home of the Abrams, it’s politically important Ohio. The nation’s only tank plant is in Lima. So it’s no coincidence that the champions for more tanks are Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Rob Portman, two of Capitol’s Hill most prominent deficit hawks, as well as Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. They said their support is rooted in protecting national security, not in pork-barrel politics.
“Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property.” — John Locke, Second Treatise of Government (1690)
What is “spending through the tax code?” This is an important question in light of the Obama FY 2014 budget proposal finally unveiled last week. We already know it raises taxes by more than $1 trillion. Much of this is done by eliminating so-called “tax expenditures.”
Here is how the Joint Committee on Taxation defines a tax expenditure:
Tax expenditures are defined under the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (the “Budget Act”) as “revenue losses attributable to provisions of the Federal tax laws which allow a special exclusion, exemption, or deduction from gross income or which provide a special credit, a preferential rate of tax, or a deferral of tax liability.”
One thousand, four hundred and twenty four…that’s the number of days that have passed since the Democrat-controlled Senate performed their constitutional duty to pass a budget, more than a year before the ubiquitous iPad was invented. Judging by the contents of that budget, we can see why Democrats were scared to reveal their plans before Obama was safely re-elected and no longer accountable to the voters. It is unbridled recklessness that passes for the Democrat budgeting process.
Such sheer irresponsibility reminds me of P.J. O’Rourke, the civil libertarian who once said “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” Admittedly, it is not fair to compare elected Democrats to drunken teenage boys who, even with a fleet of cars and a swimming pool filled with whiskey could not hope to achieve as much damage as is being done by Democrats right now.
The Senate budget demands nearly one trillion dollars in new tax increases, on top of the nearly $700 billion already conceded by Republicans just a few months ago in the “Fiscal Cliff” deal. An almost equal amount would supposedly be cut from spending, but considering the bait-and-switch tactics that have become the modus operandi for Democrats, it is hard to believe that those cuts would ever come to fruition.
Written by Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Sheldon Richman and I spent a lot of time last week running through numbers from the Congressional Budget Office in order to gauge sequestration’s effect on federal spending. In the resulting column, Richman lays out the numbers and asks a pertinent question: How the $#!?% is the average voter supposed to have a clue about this stuff?
From Richman’s column:
I subjected myself to this pain because I’m a professional masochist. I’m paid to do it. How many people who are not so rewarded are likely to search for, locate, and download CBO spreadsheets to see the numbers for themselves? Very few, I’ll bet. And who can blame those who won’t? They have families, friends, communities, and jobs to attend to — matters they actually affect through their actions. But if most people don’t have time or incentive to learn the facts about this one issue (never mind all the others) — and if the news media can’t be counted on to tell the plain story — how can Americans fill the role of “informed voters” that democracy in theory requires?
Next year there will be congressional elections. If a voter doesn’t know the facts about the budget, she won’t be able to judge the sequestration issue. And if she can’t do that, how can she intelligently decide which congressional candidate to vote for?
In two days, the sequestration axe will either drop, or it won’t. Personally, I am about as close as you can get to the situation, and I have no idea how it will turn out. While the “national security” argument against sequestration was gradually left behind, the arguments against the cuts have become increasingly economic in nature. These arguments are problematic at best and disingenuous at worst.
A while back, I proposed a couple of ways to gradually cut more than sequestration does, therefore creating less pain in the current fiscal year; but as dieting often fails, cutting swiftly might be the only surefire method to actually cut spending. Putting the cuts into perspective, as George Will did in his article this weekend, $85 billion from a $3.6 trillion budget, or 2.3%, is miniscule. The “draconian” cuts merely return us to 2006 levels.
I have been advocating deeper cuts for some time now, and as a defense contractor, am prepared to lose my job as a result (although I don’t expect to). I will try to be as objective as possible herein as I offer a couple of personal thoughts as we draw closer to the actuality of sequestration:
There is some more bad news for ObamaCare. According to a recently released report from the Government Accounting Office (GAO), the Patient Protect and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) — President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement — could cost taxpayers dearly in the long-term if cost-savings measures don’t work as intended.
The report, which was requested by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, explains that the “effect of PPACA on the long-term fiscal outlook depends largely on whether elements designed to control cost growth are sustained.”
“Overall, there was notable improvement in the longer-term outlook after the enactment of PPACA under our Fall 2010 Baseline Extended simulation, which, consistent with federal law at the time the simulation was run, assumed the full implementation and effectiveness of the costcontainment provisions over the entire 75-year simulation period,” noted the GAO. “In contrast, the long-term outlook in the Fall 2010 Alternative simulation worsened slightly compared to our January 2010 simulation. This is largely due to the fact that cost-containment mechanisms specified in PPACA are assumed to phase out over time while the additional costs associated with expanding federal health care coverage remain.”
The baseline scenario is used by the government budget officials to determine the the cost effects of current law. However, the alternative scenario gauges budget implications based on past behavior of Congress, such as its proclivity for bypassing scheduled Medicare payments to doctors (also known as the “doc fix”).
It was a mere tweet, but it summed up the entirety of the modern conservative movement:
Sequestration Cuts the DHS Off at the Knees herit.ag/WUTzw8
— Heritage Foundation (@Heritage) February 21, 2013
It has everything: the source is the preeminent conservative “think tank” in DC, soon to be headed by Tea Party conservative and former senator Jim DeMint; lamenting about spending cuts; the laments are all about a government department that by all rights should not exist; and for good measure, it has a photograph. It shows precisely how the sequester had torpedoed conservative credibility.
We have heard relentlessly these past five years, ever since Obama was elected, that we need to cut spending. (Indeed, another Heritage article is a dorky little bit that specifically notes a “thrifty” House which demands that they have a balanced budget and avoid deficits.) Yet now that there is something which will cut—no, sorry, I can’t type that with a straight face; it will not cut spending, but merely slightly decrease the rate of spending—Heritage is up in arms about it.
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Military Contractors) wrote the following in an op-ed:
“Congress should be cutting spending, reducing the regulatory burdens that are crushing the economy — freedom works, and it is time we put it back to work.” — Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA)
Just a couple of days after President Barack Obama laid out his agenda for the next year in his State of the Union address, I sat down with Rep. Tom McClintock, a Republican who represents California’s Fourth Congressional District, to get his thoughts on the proposals being pushed by the White House, the Senate’s refusal to pass a budget, ObamaCare, and a few other issues.
On the State of the Union, Rep. McClintock, who has been among the staunchest defenders of economic freedom and the Constitution in Congress, was dismissive of President Obama’s agenda. “[W]e heard this song before,” he noted. “I think that his words have to be measured against the last four years of his deeds.”
He rhetorically asked, “What have been his policies? Higher taxes, much higher spending, out of control deficits, crushing business regulations. And what have those policies produced? Family take home pay has declined over these past four years, the unemployment rate is higher than when we started — it would be much higher except for the millions of Americans who have given up even looking for work.”
“What did he propose? More of the same,” Rep. McClintock stated. “Taking bad policy and doubling down on it doesn’t make it good policy.”
President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was filled with promises and various other costly legislative items at a time when budget deficits are still running high. According to the National Taxpayers Union, President Obama’s agenda would cost taxpayers $83.4 billion per year:
In President Obama’s most expensive and widest ranging State of the Union Address yet, his proposals weighed in at $83.4 billion worth of quantifiable agenda items, according to National Taxpayers Union Foundation’s (NTUF’s) annual line-by-line analysis of the speech. This figure could grow much higher depending on what the President aims to do to avoid the sequester. In either case, if the President intends to follow through on his promise that his speech would not “add a dime to the deficit,” individuals and businesses may be facing another round of tax increases.
“The speech gave the President the opportunity to preview his forthcoming budget,” said NTUF Director of Research Demian Brady. “And although he said his agenda items would not increase the deficit, he spent far more time detailing new spending initiatives than how they would be ‘paid for.’”
If the sequester plan that the White House has put forward were passed, it would raise the cost of the spending proposals to $100.4 billion. The most costly program that President Obama wants enacted is his cap-and-trade plan, which would cost $56.5 billion each year. NTU also notes that more than half of the proposals mentioned by President Obama in the State of the Union address “could not be quantified.”
You can see the costs of each proposal here.
President Obama’s State of the Union address was nothing new. The President continued the same leftist rhetoric he used during his inaugural address, calling for even more spending and government. As Jason wrote, he absurdly claimed that he has CUT spending, attacked the sequestration plan that he himself proposed, and called for an increase in the minimum wage would would prove disastrous to job creation. In short, it was more of the same - big government, high taxes, and spending money we don’t have.
The official Republican response was fairly lackluster. Marco Rubio is a gifted speaker, but his speech was big on platitudes and slogans and small on substance. The real response came from Senator Rand Paul. It’s no secret that Senator Paul is a favorite of mine and of many libertarian-leaning folks, so there was much anticipation that he would offer a clear vision apart from both Obama and Rubio. For the most part, he did just that.
To begin, Paul went strongly after the President and laid out a clear idea of what he believes America is really all about:
Tonight, the President told the nation he disagrees. President Obama believes government is the solution: More government, more taxes, more debt.
What the President fails to grasp is that the American system that rewards hard work is what made America so prosperous.
What America needs is not Robin Hood but Adam Smith. In the year we won our independence, Adam Smith described what creates the Wealth of Nations.