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:
It looks like the cost of Arlington County’s gold-plated bus stop will be even higher than a $1 million. According to the Washington Post, taxpayers will also have to pay for an “independent contractor to review the cost and design” of the Transit Taj Mahal in Northern Virginia.
It’s a good thing that the farm bill failed to pass the House, but it is disturbing that about three-quarters of Republicans voted in favor of this massive spending bill. The House bill would have spent 47 percent more over 10 years than the 2008 farm bill ($940 billion vs. $640 billion). Most of the spending is for food stamps, so GOP farm bill supporters would have essentially ratified the recent huge spending increases on this welfare program.
Congress is gearing up to pass a major farm bill for the first time since 2008, and this year’s bill threatens to be much larger than the last one.