Downsizing Government has a new tool allowing readers to chart spending for more than 500 federal agencies with the click of a mouse. It’s pretty cool. Hopefully it will help citizens, reporters, and policymakers understand how the budget has grown to a colossal $3.5 trillion a year.
With Congress reconvening, members will soon be battling over discretionary-spending levels for fiscal year 2014, which begins October 1. They will decide whether to abide by current federal budget caps, which are designed to keep discretionary spending roughly flat over the next few years. The problem is that many lawmakers have become so used to rising budgets that a spending freeze seems impossibly tight-fisted to them.
A new essay at Downsizing Government focuses on infrastructure investment. The essay discusses problems with federal infrastructure spending and the advantages of privatizing infrastructure to the full extent possible.
Unfortunately, the current administration’s infrastructure policy has been mainly focused on increasing spending on misguided activities such as high-speed rail. But here are some of the problems with such a federal-led approach to infrastructure:
As federal policymakers gear up to battle over federal spending and the budget sequester this Fall, it is interesting to consider past efforts at restraint. President Calvin Coolidge, for example, held the federal budget down to about $3 billion seven years in a row, while cutting taxes and bringing the federal debt down from $22 billion to $17 billion.
Rivers of red ink continue to flow from the federal budget, and we still face an entitlement spending crisis. But you wouldn’t know it from the priorities of the two political parties: President Obama has been busy pushing for more “investment” spending, and the Republicans have been consumed by the administration’s scandals.
Federal tax policies are a powerful factor in encouraging or impeding business investment, job creation, and international competitiveness. For small businesses and growth companies, capital gains taxation plays a particularly important role.
Why have so many individuals and businesses left Detroit? Presumably, for all kinds of reasons, including crime and political corruption.
The importance of infrastructure investment for U.S. economic growth is widely appreciated. But policy discussions often get sidetracked by a debate regarding the level of federal spending. To spur growth, it is more important to ensure that investment is as efficient as possible and that investment responsibilities are optimally allocated between the federal government, the states, and the private sector.
On a drive back from a visit to Monticello yesterday, I listened to Jon Meacham’s biography of Thomas Jefferson. In 1784 Jefferson was interested in a project to improve trade routes to the West from the Potomac River. In a March 15 letter to George Washington, he wondered whether it might be a (state) government-supported project, but admitted one problem with that idea:
The folly of monopoly unionism (“collective bargaining”) in government is most evident when labor unions strike. Hundreds of thousands of San Francisco area residents are currently having their lives disrupted by union actions against the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system. BART’s unions want higher wages: