Behind closed doors, congressional leaders and the White House are discussing budget savings to tie to the upcoming vote on the federal debt limit. Republicans have promised that spending cuts must be at least as large as the debt-increase amount. Thus, if the debt limit is increased by $2 trillion to get the government through the end of 2012, policymakers need to agree on $2 trillion in cuts, probably measured over 10 years.
With trillion dollar deficits and mounting federal debt, will Congress finally get serious about cutting farm subsidies? We’ve been disappointed before, but there are a few hopeful signs—like the front-page story in this morning’s Washington Post—that this Congress may be serious about cutting billions in payments to farmers. As the Post reports:
Last week, the House passed a homeland security appropriations bill slashing funding for grants to states and localities. The New York Times has now noticed and unleashed an indignant editorial:
In a speech he delivered on Tuesday at the University of Chicago, presidential aspirant and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty said he would apply a “Google test” to the federal government:
The House's overwhelming rejection of a clean debt-limit increase means that the two parties must now find major spending cuts. House Republicans say that they will not support a debt increase unless the Democrats agree to equal-sized spending cuts. If Congress raises the debt limit by $1 trillion, then it must also find budget savings of at least $1 trillion, over either five or ten years.
Last week, the House passed a $40.6 billion Homeland Security appropriations bill for fiscal 2012. The Constitutional Authority Statement for the bill cited Congress’s authority to appropriate money and the General Welfare Clause. Citing the General Welfare Clause might be appropriate for activities associated with the common defense of the nation. However, it is not an appropriate justification for something like the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program, which distributes federal taxpayer money to local fire departments.
The Senate is set to take up legislation reauthorizing the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. A relic of the Great Society, the EDA was created to help economically depressed areas of the country. Today it’s just another example of an unnecessary, unconstitutional program that lingers around because politicians like to demonstrate to the public that they’re “doing something.”
On Tuesday, Case-Shiller released their monthly housing price index. Surprise, it fell by 4.2% in the first quarter of 2011. I’ve been predicting a decline of about 6% over the course of 2011 (might need to adjust that). Of course, this should come as no surprise. We’ve spent the last couple of years trying to re-create the bubble, with little success.