In his State of the Union address, President Obama laid out an array of new spending proposals, including a $50 billion plan for highways, bridges and other projects. He wants to attract “private capital” for the plan, but the problem is that federal planners would remain in control of the allocations.
Grover Cleveland says “yes.” Calvin Coolidge says “yes.”
Economic research has only a tenuous relationship to economic policymaking in Washington. President Obama’s new proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 is a case in point. It would bad for workers and the economy, but the administration seems to be ignoring the large body of theory and evidence on the issue.
In my recent study on infrastructure, I noted that federal spending is often designed to aid private interests, not the general public interest. As one example, I pointed to the Army Corps’ “MRGO” canal in Louisiana that was aimed at helping the shipping industry, but ended up being a wasteful boondoggle and harming the public interest.
A new article by Ivan Eland describes how wars have stimulated growth in the American welfare state. I was interested in his discussion regarding the overexpansion of pensions following the Civil War:
The federal government’s budget deficits are pushing the nation toward a fiscal meltdown, yet our leaders can’t seem to curb their zeal for infrastructure spending. President Obama has been pushing a $50 billion package for infrastructure and will likely include a similar plan in his upcoming budget. For their part, most Republicans eagerly pursue all the spending they can get for road, rail, airport, and dam projects in their districts.
Some good samaritans wanted to clean up some trash in a neighborhood near me in Northern Virginia, and they ran into a brick wall of bureaucracy. I happened to notice this write-up on a neighborhood blog.
When liberals make reference to U.S. economic history, they typically: 1) downplay the role of entrepreneurs, 2) suggest that bold government action has driven growth, and 3) fail to mention the scandals and screw-ups caused by federal interventions.
Cato has released a new study on infrastructure spending. The study discusses how federal involvement in infrastructure has many serious disadvantages, and few, if any, advantages.
Despite four years of annual budget deficits of over US$1 trillion and the most sluggish economic recovery since World War II, voters have rewarded President Barack Obama with a second term. The president has supported a huge growth in federal spending and deficits, believing it to be an economic stimulus. But while there is little evidence that such Keynesian policies actually work, electoral ratification of the president’s approach has further engrained the idea in Washington that higher spending is beneficial.