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.
How much does the United States spend on the military relative to our allies? A lot.
The American Sugar Alliance, the main lobby group for American sugar growers, released a report last week alleging that the subsidies given to Brazilian sugar growers are depressing the world price of sugar perhaps by 25 to 30 percent. But instead of thanking the Brazilian taxpayers for their gift of cheap sugar, apparently the ASA are suggesting that U.S. trade negotiators “add it to their agenda”, implying that they should challenge the subsidies using the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement mechanism.
According to The Hill, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told Rush Limbaugh that the Republican Party is “primarily” to blame for the growth in government dependency:
The federal food stamp program—now called SNAP—is attracting a lot of media coverage. One reason for thus is that the program’s costs have exploded—spending more than quadrupled during the Bush-Obama years to $82 billion in 2013 (see here and here p. 16). The Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations all took steps to loosen the purse strings on food stamp eligibility, and those changes have led to the ballooning costs of recent years during the stagnant economy.
If this is how reauthorization of the Higher Education Act is going to go, Congress shouldn’t even bother.
An article in Politico reports that some policymakers are already using the tragedy in Boston to criticize the sequestration spending cuts that went into effect in March. With the nation’s nerves frayed, policymakers should choose their words more carefully.