published Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

‘Somebody else’s problem’

Why can’t our federal government get its spending under control?

There are lots of reasons, but one of the biggest is that we seem to think excessive federal spending “for us” is OK, while excessive federal spending “for somebody else” is the only exorbitant spending that needs to be cut.

But it just doesn’t work that way.

Sure, some federal spending for us (and for everyone else) is appropriate. We all benefit when Washington carries out its constitutional duty to “provide for the common defense” by funding our military for our national security. And the federal government appropriately handles treaties, certain disputes among the states and some other limited and specified duties listed in the Constitution.

But there are many things that are not the federal government’s proper business.

Consider, among many items, federal government funding of Amtrak and a proposal for high-speed rail, for which President Barack Obama is seeking $53 billion. Those are expensive items that constitutionally are not responsibilities of the federal government.

And while we highly value public education, that is not federal government business, either, but constitutionally is a responsibility of state and local governments. (Moreover, federal control of local education policies has hardly proved successful.)

Another example: We surely don’t want federal control of medical services through ObamaCare and that law’s constitutionally impermissible rule that everyone buy Washington-approved health insurance.

There are countless other expensive and improper federal activities, too. Some such things need to be cut to get us onto a sound financial footing.

A recent headline declared, “Georgians warn of agriculture cuts.” A Democrat member of Congress argued that there would be a “pretty devastating effect” from Republicans’ proposed $5 billion cut in federal agriculture spending.

But there should not have been such spending in the first place!

And say we take the Democrat’s advice and don’t cut that $5 billion from unconstitutional farm spending. It would need to be cut elsewhere from the budget — or taxes would need to be raised, or $5 billion would have to be added to the national debt.

But there are some members of Congress and many lobbyists promoting not only that spending, but also insisting on countless other spending items that are unconstitutional, inappropriate, too expensive, not needed or just plain unwise.

They will warn of “devastating effects,” too, if we cut the funding they like. “Cut somewhere else,” they will insist. But then — surprise! — somebody will insist that we keep that “other” spending intact, too, and will warn of “devastating effects” if we cut it.

In short, we will find that virtually all federal spending has a host of defenders declaring that it simply cannot be cut without horrible consequences.

The only consequence they don’t consider is the economic disaster that is rapidly approaching from our continued deficit spending of about $1.5 trillion a year, added to our $14 trillion-plus national debt.

When will that kind of red ink eventually require alarming cuts in Medicare and Social Security benefits, or confiscatory tax increases that would slow economic growth and invite further recession?

If we don’t cut spending now for many unnecessary things — such as ethanol subsidies, Amtrak and Planned Parenthood — won’t we create economic calamity, and then wonder why, when it’s too late?

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Leaf said...

Yeah, that's what some people said in the '50s when the national highway system was getting started. Our highway system is the envy of the world and one of the biggest engines for economic development we've had for the last six decades.
But now countries who may have worse highways than ours are leapfrogging us with faster, cheaper rail systems. The future is self evident. In order to support population and economic growth we need to upgrade our infrastructure which will include highway projects, rail, data, and air travel.

If we rest on our laurels and just try to get by on what we have, we will be less competetive in the world market. Governments are the only entities in today's world that are able to LOAN (not GIVE, as this article suggests) sums large enough to build these expensive but rewarding projects.

March 8, 2011 at 11 a.m.
acerigger said...

Why no cuts in the bloated defense budget? Why not make corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share?

March 8, 2011 at 11:25 a.m.
nucanuck said...

Rail will seem more attractive as individual auto travel becomes less and less afordable. The question is should we prepare now or wait until...?

March 8, 2011 at 12:09 p.m.
LibDem said...

nucanuck: Someday we will have jobs in the European and Asian train assembly plants. We will drive to work in our European and Asian cars. All is well that ends well.

March 8, 2011 at 12:38 p.m.

i still want to know what Libertarians4Freedom does for a living. it's an easy question to answer.

March 8, 2011 at 3:48 p.m.
charivara said...

Libertarians4Freedom needs to educate himself. He obviously has no idea of what “government” is or how it functions. We already have a limited government, limited to the interests of the rich and the corporations. The people who are “government” respond to pressure, money, whatever an interest group can use to get “government” to make laws to its interest. The national highway system was in response to pressure and money from the trucking industry, the automobile industry, the road building industry etc. There is a good reason there are very few beautiful toll roads, they are too expensive for private interests to build and profit from. We don’t have a single payer health care system because there is too much money to be made in the system we have. The minute providing health care becomes unprofitable, all of the cries of “socialized medicine” and other scare tactics will end.

As long as the people who make government policies and laws need to raise money to get elected we are at the mercy of the wealthy and the corporations.

March 8, 2011 at 6:01 p.m.
hambone said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again.

Nothing will change until something is done about the all consuming, overpowering craving to get re-elected!

March 8, 2011 at 6:58 p.m.
librul said...

Ace you hit the nail squarely on the head. That must be why nobody wants to address your comment. After the Chinese take over, I'm sure we'll have all kinds of high speed rail - probably carrying the name "Hummer".

March 8, 2011 at 7:56 p.m.
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