With seemingly every day bringing more bad news from Europe, many are beginning to ask how much longer the United States has before our welfare state follows the European model into bankruptcy. The bad news is: It may already have.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing last week on the Department of Energy’s budget request for fiscal 2013. Chris Edwards tipped me off to a particularly galling exchange between Energy secretary Steven Chu and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN). Sen. Franken uses his allotted time to badger Chu about a federal loan that Energy conditionally committed to a Minnesota company in 2010 that apparently has yet to be approved.
The U.S. Postal Service has released a new five-year plan for congressional consideration that it says would get the beleaguered government mail monopoly on sounder financial footing and thus avoid a taxpayer bailout. The plan repeats previous suggestions (i.e., workforce reductions, postal network consolidations, elimination of Saturday delivery, elimination of the retiree healthcare benefit funding requirement) and proposes an increase in the price of a first-class stamp from forty-five to fifty cents.
As part of the payroll tax bill on Friday, Congress voted to tweak federal worker benefits. New federal hires will be required to make an additional contribution to their pension plans. While just a small change, federal worker unions railed against the bill as if were armageddon.
After catching flack from both fiscal conservatives and the transit lobby, House Speaker John Boehner has postponed consideration of a transportation bill. Fiscal conservatives (including my fellow Cato scholar Michael Tanner) objected to the bill’s deficit spending; transit interests (including Republicans from New York and Chicago), objected to the bill’s lack of dedicated funds to public transit.
The president’s fiscal 2013 budget includes a 213 page document that contains 210 proposed cuts, consolidations, and other savings. That sounds like a lot until one finds out that the alleged savings would only amount to $24 billion in a $3.8 trillion budget. Not only would the cuts do little to reduce the size of government, they would do nothing to reign in the scope of government.
The Washington Post did a great job last week comparing spending earmarks by members of Congress with the locations of property they own in their states. Some members are apparently using our tax dollars to expand infrastructure near their homes and businesses, thus gaining a personal benefit from federal spending.
In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama said that he wanted an American economy that is “built to last.” Today’s release of his fiscal 2013 budget proposal shows that the president still thinks he can build economic prosperity with more spending, taxes, and debt. Those are the building materials for an economic time-bomb that will explode on future generations.
The new federal budget includes a range of accounting maneuvers to cast the administration’s 10-year projections in the best possible light. Senate Republicans point out some of President Obama’s funky accounting here. But note that the George W. Bush administration also used tricks to make deficit forecasts look more optimistic.
President Obama is releasing his FY2013 budget today, and it’s more of the same—trillion-dollar deficits, huge spending, and tax hikes on high-earners. The president wants to raise taxes substantially on households earning more than $250,000. It’s all about fairness he claims, even though effective tax rates on high-earners are already double the rates on middle-earners.