It’s no secret that Washington is addicted to spending. Though, it’s true that the budget deficit is expected to decline this year, after four consecutive years of $1+ trillion deficits, the decline is spending isn’t because of any actual spending restraint, it’s a result of gridlock in government.
But declining budget deficits don’t reflect the desires of many members of Congress. According to a new report from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF), the net-cost of legislation introduced in 112th Congress (proposed increases less proposed cuts) would have increased the federal budget by $1.3 trillion.
Despite the large increase in federal spending proposed last year, the “BillTally” report has some encouraging findings. Demian Brady, director of research at NTUF, noted that there was a increase in legislation to cut spending.
“The 112th Congress saw a sharp rise in the number of bills to reduce federal spending, with 221 introduced in the House and 127 in the Senate,” wrote Brady. “This is the highest number of spending-cut bills NTUF has recorded since the 105th Congress (1997-1998) when there were 265.” The report also found that legislation to increase federal spending is “being introduced at a much slower pace than in the previous Congress.”
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:
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:
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.
Last night during a joint session of Congress, President Barack Obama gave his fifth the State of the Union address where he laid out his agenda for the next year. As was anticipated, the speech carried over the Leftist themes of last month’s inaugural address and was more aggressive in tone.
Despite recent GDP numbers showing that the economy contracted in the last quarter of 2012, President Obama started off the hour long speech by repeat a familiar line, explaining that “[t]ogether, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.”
After a couple of shots at Congress, President Obama spent a few minutes discussing the sequester, claiming that “both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion – mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.” Obama claimed, “we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.”
If only that were true. In Cato Institute’s response to the State of the Union address, Michael Tanner explained, “Let’s be absolutely clear — there have been no spending cuts under this President.”
In 2010, the first year that this President was responsible for the budget, the federal government spent $3.4 trillion,” noted Tanner. “Last year, the federal government spent $3.5 trillion, and for the first four of last year, we’re spending at a fast pace than the first four months of last year.”
On March 1st, the so-called sequester which is a series of automatic spending “cuts” that were agreed to in 2011 are supposed to take effect. The “cuts” are supposed to be around $1.2 trillion over 10 years spread equally among defense and non-defense spending. Democrats are complaining how women, children, and old people will be (insert one or more of the following here) starved, made homeless, and/or impoverished by the “cuts” in social welfare programs. Republican defense hawks are claiming that sequester will destroy the US military. Both groups also claim the sequester will put the economy back into recession and/or maybe even a depression. Indeed, both groups say that the sequester should be avoided at all costs and that we should “raise revenues” which is Washington speak for raising taxes to cover the amount that was supposed to be “cut”. However, if we are ever going to get our nation’s fiscal house in order, we have to allow the sequester to take effect.
Why I Hate The Sequester
Although I do believe that the sequester must be allowed to take effect, I don’t like it. For starters, $1.2 trillion in “cuts” (which are not actual budget cuts but instead are merely reductions in the rate of spending growth) is a very small amount when you look at how grave the nation’s financial condition is.
Secondly, the sequester does nothing to address entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare which are the two long-term drivers of future financial problems.
Third, the Democrats do have a point when they say the cuts fall disproportionately on non-defense spending. The Department of Defense is the largest single item of discretionary spending and all other agencies combined do not equal it. But the DoD is only taking 50% of the cuts.
During an interview on Sunday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) suggested that if Bill Clinton were president that the fiscal issues facing the United States could be worked out.
Ryan, who has served in Congress since 1999 and was the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 2012, told David Gregory on Meet the Press that “if we had a Clinton presidency, if we had Erskine Bowles chief-of-staff at the White House, or President of the United States, I think we would have fixed this fiscal mess by now.” Ryan added, “That’s not the kind of presidency we’re dealing with right now.”
Noel Sheppard, who covered the story at Newsbusters, snarked, “one wonders if Ryan meant a Bill Clinton presidency or a Hillary Clinton presidency.” That aside, Ryan has a point that’s worth expounding upon.
Despite friction between then-President Clinton during the 1990s, Republicans in Congress were able to pass a balanced budget and enact welfare reform and pass capital gains tax cuts. While not all was perfect during these years as Republicans began their slide toward big government, a Democratic president and Republican-controlled legislature were able to reach a compromises that led to a largely prosperous era.
Written by Daniel J. Mitchell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Much to the horror of various interest groups, it appears that there will be a “sequester” on March 1.
This means an automatic reduction in spending authority for selected programs (interest payments are exempt, as are most entitlement outlays).
Just about everybody in Washington is frantic about the sequester, which supposedly will mean “savage” and “draconian” budget cuts.
If only. That would be like porn for libertarians.
In reality, the sequester merely means a reduction in the growth of federal spending. Even if we have the sequester, the burden of government spending will still be about $2 trillion higher in 10 years.
The other common argument against the sequester is that it represents an unthinking “meat-ax” approach to the federal budget.
But a former congressional staffer and White House appointee says this is much better than doing nothing.
Here’s some of what Professor Jeff Bergner wrote for today’s Wall Street Journal: