Last fiscal year Uncle Sam had some budget good news. After running $1 trillion-plus deficits four years in a row, Washington had to borrow “just” $680 billion in 2013. True, that was the fifth highest deficit in history, 50 percent greater than the pre-financial crash record. But it’s only the taxpayers’ money, so what’s the big deal?
In the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan calls the Ryan-Murray budget deal a “step in the right direction,” which echoes a claim by Rep. Paul Ryan. She says the deal “goes in the right general direction, not the wrong one.” But how could a deal composed of spending and revenue increases possibly be the right direction when the government is already far too large?
The Ryan-Murray budget deal is remarkably bad when you look at the details. If the Republican Party is supposed to be the fiscally conservative party, there is virtually nothing Republican in the agreement. The Democrats could have written the whole thing themselves. It raises spending and taxes, and reduces the deficit only in a jury-rigged scorekeeping kind of a way that won’t actually be realized.
The Washington Post has great reporters, but there may be room for improvement in sharing research and reviewing past stories by colleagues.An article on Sunday discussed how candy factories “had laid off thousands of workers” in a Chicago neighborhood where a new Wal-Mart has located:
Republicans in Congress have put in a dismal fiscal performance in 2013. The party could not come together to defund the disastrous Obamacare law. No progress was made tackling entitlements or eliminating programs. Republicans joined with Democrats to move ahead the wasteful farm bill. And the year began with a large income tax increase.
I was surprised to read this assertion about the minimum wage by labor analyst Harry Holzer in the Washington Post today:
For more than 40 years, Amtrak has relied on $1 billion or more a year in taxpayer handouts to run slow, and often late, passenger trains. Indeed, the man considered to be the “father” of Amtrak, Anthony Haswell, recently said that he is “personally embarrassed over what I helped to create.”
Republican negotiators are poised to win the prestigious Charlie Brown Award for Fiscal Policy sponsored by my colleague Dan Mitchell. With their 2011 Budget Control Act bearing fruit and providing some spending control the last two years, Republicans are gearing up to throw it away in return for fee increases and paltry spending trims.
Reporters who cover state and local government should heed the example of the Topeka-Capital Journal’s Andy Marso. It’s my opinion that reporters often insufficiently examine how state and local politicians spend federal tax dollars. Heck, I’m even surprised when a reporter mentions that the money originated from Uncle Sam to begin with.
New international student test results called PISA have been released. See here and here. Once again, U.S. high-school kids did poorly. American kids ranked 36th in math, 24th in reading, and 28th in science among 65 countries and jurisdictions. The U.S. scores were below the average of other countries in all three subject areas.