Self-anointed elites have been relentless in prodding government planners to apply their enlightened solutions for the purported benefit of the ignorant masses. As a result, the federal government has become a Super Nanny monitoring and guiding the intimate activities of the nation’s 300 million inhabitants. However, the government is not altruistic and does not have the solutions for how people should live their lives.
While the Department of Housing and Urban Development is the federal agency responsible for most housing subsidies, the departments of Veterans Affairs and Agriculture also subsidize homeownership. In fact, despite the problems caused by federal policies to put people in homes with little skin in the game, the VA and USDA continue to facilitate zero-downpayment mortgages.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the agricultural sector is recovering nicely while the rest of the private sector continues to struggle. The counter-cyclical nature of some farm subsidy programs means that the taxpayer bill for the year could be cut in half to only about $12 billion.
The Government Accountability Office released congressional testimony this week looking at Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. TANF, which replaced unrestricted welfare in 1996, has reduced welfare rolls and encouraged recipients to obtain work. Unfortunately, TANF’s goals have been undermined.
On May 27th the USDA awarded $168 million in stimulus money to 145 local infrastructure projects across the country. A third of the money is going to the Mohegan Indian tribe in Connecticut for a new community center. The $54 million loan has attracted national scrutiny because the tribe operates one of the biggest casinos in the country, which grossed $1.3 billion in 2009.
We are being bombarded with sensationalist stories in the press about state and local governments having to “slash” programs because of a lack of revenues. These stories typically revolve around the question of whether the federal government will continue supplementing “essential services” provided by state and local government.
As a fiscal wonk, I spend a lot of time digging through the federal budget looking at the spending trends in the biggest programs such as Medicare. But I’m often struck by the large amounts spent on the tiniest and most obscure activities. Eliminating any one of these tiny activities wouldn’t save much, but they are illustrative of a spending culture in Washington oblivious to the ongoing trillion-dollar deficits.