Earlier this week, Harvard economist Robert Barro and Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center published a short paper assessing the economic effects of defense spending. Their findings are consistent with those of other studies, including one that Cato published last year by Benjamin Zycher. To wit, from Barro and de Rugy’s abstract:
Last week I discussed the tendency for policymakers to treat the Pentagon like a giant jobs program. It was prompted by an article from the Associated Press on members of Congress shoving unwanted upgraded Abrams tanks down taxpayers’ throats because retooling tanks sustains jobs back in the district. As it turns out, former Reagan budget director David Stockman touches on the Abrams tank situation in his new book, The Great Deformation.
Paul Krugman has never been shy about proclaiming that he is right and everyone else is wrong — and not just wrong, but “knaves and fools.” Lately, however, one begins to worry that he might actually hurt himself, so vigorously has he been patting himself on the back for his opposition to “austerity” (defined as any cut in government spending, anytime, anywhere).
Conservative and libertarian scholars are clashing over the findings and political implications of the new Heritage Foundation immigration study. The study spans 92 pages and is jam-packed full of statistics and detailed calculations.
One reason why Washington keeps getting bigger is that so many business people are willing to throw their competitors under the government bus. The Washington Post today describes how a major lobby group representing small banks cut a secret deal with Rep. Barney Frank to not oppose his big-government financial bill if it excluded small banks from regulations and shifted $1.5 billion in annual fees from them to the big banks.
Today, the nation’s top health economists released a study that throws a huge “STOP” sign in front of ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion.
Shortly after President Obama finally released his proposed budget a couple weeks ago, Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, the chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, launched a stinging attack on the president not over the president’s call for more taxes and spending or because the president’s budget never balances and adds trillions to the national debt, but because the president actually proposed modestly slower growth in Social Security benefits. A “shocking attack on seniors,” Representative Walden called it, accusing the president of “trying to balance this budget on the backs of seniors.”
It drives a lot of us at Cato nuts to read news stories almost every day which simply assume that government spending is good for the economy. Any defense or nondefense spending restraint will hurt economic growth, it is assumed. Even a recent AEI study seemed to accept this Keynesian concept.
One of the realizations that helped me to dispense of the neoconish foreign policy views of my youth is that for federal policymakers, the Pentagon is like a giant jobs program. Regardless of need, a military installation or armament factory can generally count on the unwavering support of the member of Congress who represents the district or state where the facility is located.
The federal budget sequester is interfering with the air traffic control (ATC) system and snarling up air traffic. As usual, politicians are pointing fingers of blame at everybody but themselves. But politicians are the ones who have strapped the ATC system to the chaotic federal budget. And they’re the ones who have insisted on running ATC as a bureaucracy, rather than freeing it to become the high-tech private business that it should be.