Friday, February 10, 2006

Budget Blues

What would you like the Federal government to spend your money on? And mine; and your Aunt Bessie’s? This is not a joke. And you can’t say “Nothing, just give me back my money.”

When most people think about the budget they easily come up with a host of things they don’t want it spent on. Michelle Malkin recently identified $1,401,104,263 of our hard-earned money that has gone to “subsidize the spring break-style trips and conferences of the federal government over the last five years.” She has a neat list of boondoggles including a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) jaunt by 236 employees to an AIDS conference in Barcelona, Spain. Price tag: $3.6 million.

Senator Jeff Flake is making noises about “earmarks,” the pork-barrel projects which members of Congress secure by covertly attaching them to huge spending bills. Last year there were 15,000 of these robberies totaling $27 Billion.

But when you are dealing with a $2.77 Trillion Federal budget (note that’s $2770 Billion or 100 times the earmarks) you don’t want to merely trim around the edges. For every billion you mark for the ax, there will be a million special- interests screaming bloody murder. I prefer to take the opposite approach.

What should the government spend our money on? A good place to start is with the Constitution. Article I states that we shall have a Senate and House of Representatives, and that they need to be paid. We also need to collect taxes, coin money and maintain the infrastructure so an IRS, Treasury and Interior are appropriate.

Of course the greatest responsibility of the federal government is to provide for the common defense, and that is funded by the legislative branch and directed by the executive branch (Article II). We also need to fund veteran’s services and the State Dept. to deal with foreign countries. And finally we need to provide a federal judiciary (Article III). It’s a fairly limited set of responsibilities since the Founders wanted most of the authority to reside with the states or the people.

So what’s it going to cost? For starters let’s just use the 2007 budget figures provided by the President: Defense $439B, Homeland Security $30.9B, Veterans $35.7B, Legislative branch $4.3B, Judicial branch $5.9B, Executive branch $0.3B, State $33.9B, Interior $10.1B, Justice $19.5B, for a grand total of $579.6B.

That’s a bit more than I’d like, and we all know there’s probably 30% fat in these programs. So I say cut the total by 10% including most aid to foreign countries, reduce legislative staffs, cut the frills at Federal prisons, eliminate more of the marginally useful military bases, etc. This brings the total down to $522B in round figures.

That’s all I’d like to spend on the discretionary stuff. Oh, I know that science, space, energy, agriculture … are good things but are they necessary expenditures of the Federal government? Since I’d hate to see the market flooded with government bureaucrats, I’ll be practical. For a start, I’d eliminate the Agriculture Dept. and all farm subsidies saving $19.7B; eliminate manned space flights saving about $10B from the NASA budget; eliminate the Dept. of Education and all direct funding of colleges, keeping only the tuition aid for low income kids, saving about $40B; and reduce HHS, HUD, etc by 20%, for a total expense of $172B added to the previous $522B. This brings the discretionary budget to $694B, down $177B from the President’s $871B proposal.

Great, but this still seems like small cheese compared to the $1.77 Trillion behemoth, because it is. The huge elephant on the table is the so called “mandatory” part of the budget. These “entitlements” add up to $1.494 Trillion including Social Security $581B, Medicare $387B, Medicaid $205B and “other” $320B.

What’s worse is that these expenses are growing at an accelerating rate, from 2.5% in 2007 to 8.6% in 2011. This growth is clearly unsustainable, yet Democrats either refuse to accept that we have a problem or think that raising taxes is the solution. Hopeless!!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I understand, Republicans own congress so why blame Democrats only? Maybe a "flat tax" would help rather than the regressive tax we have today. Why not end the war in Iraq saving, as I understand, millions of dollars a week and IS NOT included in the budget. "pork barrel" items are predominate in the "red" states. Hmmmm, is that consistent with your philosophy?

Vic, The Oracle

4:03 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

You have a good point about the Republican's blame. When it comes to the discretionary budget, I hold the Republicans more guilty than the Democrats. I'm ashamed of the pork barrel and earmarks.

But that is the smaller part ($871B/$2770B = 31%) of the budget. I was talking about the entitlement part (69%) that is growing so fast. The Dems stopped Social Security reform and are proud of it. That's just irresponsible.

I think a flat tax would be fine, but most people regard it to be "regressive." One question: Do you think every wage earner should pay some income tax? Right now approximately 40% pay none.

We will have to agree to disagree on the war.

4:05 PM  
Blogger SactoDan said...

It is easy to blame Republicans since they are in power. But the tradition of screwing the American people goes back many years and crosses party lines.

Our government is corrupt. Individuals spend millions to attain representative postions paying less than $200,000.00 a year. Why?

They get favors and contributions from lobbyists in exchange for favorable treatment on legislation that generate billions in profits for the special interests.

The one special interest frequently ignored however is the US Taxpayer. Somehow footing the bill isn't a significant enough contribution because we're only kicking in a couple of hundred grand per legislator, plus retirement.

These guys get gifts, trips, and contributions. They form PACS that pay consultant fees, a popular way to wash the money.

Once retired, the legislator goes on a speaking circuit droning on about something or another for rediculous fees. Then they write a boring book about nothing and all the copies are purchased by some unidentifed third source.

This is not to mention the generous pension plan they have voted for themselves.

All in all, if you go to congress middle class you will come out rich unless you are a complete moron.

Not every government program is bad however. Consider the state of labor before unions forced minimal labor laws in this country. Consider the state of the environment before people demanded the government insist on clean practices by chemical and other dirty processes. Consider the clearcutting of forests if loggers are left to their own devices.

Though I am conservative, I am not naive enough to believe some Corporations will put the public good ahead of profits when left entirely to their own devices.

But I digress.

Government is a neccessary evil, ours is corrupt, and we have and will continue to get ripped off.

The US taxpayer is still the boss, but only when we speak loudly with a unified voice.

You think the partisanship in Washington and the divisivness in the country is an accident?

Divide and conquer. We are divided, and we have been conquered, by our own government no less.

7:13 AM  

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