Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has decided to throw his support behind, or at least drop his opposition to, ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion. His formal announcement is receiving much attention. Scott was an early opponent of ObamaCare. He parlayed that opposition into a bid for governor in 2010, and rode the anti-ObamaCare wave into office. Shortly after becoming governor, he announced he would not lift a finger to help the federal government implement the law. I followed all this pretty closely. I served on Scott’s gubernatorial transition team, at his invitation.
The scheduled implementation of the sequestration spending cuts is a little more than a week away, which has Republicans, Democrats, bureaucrats, special interests, and the media warning that the apocalypse is nigh. Sequestration isn’t the ideal way to cut spending, but it would be a start. And despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the areas of federal spending targeted by sequestration should be cut.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama laid out an array of new spending proposals, including a $50 billion plan for highways, bridges and other projects. He wants to attract “private capital” for the plan, but the problem is that federal planners would remain in control of the allocations.
Grover Cleveland says “yes.” Calvin Coolidge says “yes.”
The media’s harboring of a pro-government spending bias isn’t exactly news. But an article in Politico is notable because it illustrates the tendency for local newsrooms to push human interest stories that emphasize the pain of spending cuts.
Of course he believes that we have a spending problem, President Obama assured us, immediately before a State of the Union address in which he called for — you guessed it — more spending. Like Saint Augustine praying “Lord grant me chastity and continence … but not yet,” President Obama paid lip service to the idea of debt reduction but ruled out any real effort to reduce it.
Economic research has only a tenuous relationship to economic policymaking in Washington. President Obama’s new proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 is a case in point. It would bad for workers and the economy, but the administration seems to be ignoring the large body of theory and evidence on the issue.
The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold recently took a look at the $38 billion in spending cuts that Republicans and Democrats agreed to in 2011 in order to avoid a government shutdown. Fahrenthold estimates that $17 billion of those “cuts” were little more than budgetary gimmicks. For instance, $6 billion in authorized spending for the previous year’s decennial census were merely wiped off the books and counted as a “cut.”
In my recent study on infrastructure, I noted that federal spending is often designed to aid private interests, not the general public interest. As one example, I pointed to the Army Corps’ “MRGO” canal in Louisiana that was aimed at helping the shipping industry, but ended up being a wasteful boondoggle and harming the public interest.
Beltway politicians like to pretend that smaller spending increases amount to spending “cuts.” As Dan Mitchell has pointed out numerous times (see here for one example), that’s baseline budgeting baloney. Now that the 2011 Budget Control Act’s spending caps are in place, politicians are making an even more ridiculous claim: the so-called “cuts” have already occurred.