For much of the nation’s history, policymakers recognized that the federal government’s powers were “few and defined,” as James Madison noted. Issues like education and community development were largely left to the states. Unfortunately, the separation of responsibilities between the federal government and states has been eroded to the point that federal funds now account for approximately a third of total state spending. A consequence is that federal aid to the states has fostered bigger government at all levels.
The Wall Street Journal provides a page of charts today illustrating the remarkable weakness of the current U.S. economic recovery. A twin story in the paper provides comments on the recovery from two of the nation’s top macroeconomists:
Despite ongoing federal deficits of more than $1 trillion a year, many liberals are calling for more government spending to “create jobs.” At the same time, liberals are opposing budget cuts because that would supposedly hurt the economic recovery. And then there is the perennial problem of Democrats and Republicans defending spending on their particular favored programs.
Almost 600 pages into the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is a provision directing the Government Accountability Office to assess the feasibility of the federal government certifying organizations that provide financial literacy. The GAO released its report this week and concluded that “While a federal process for certifying financial literacy providers appears to be feasible, doing so would pose challenges.”
Congressional Republicans have said that spending cuts must be at least as large as an increase in the debt ceiling. Negotiations over lifting the debt ceiling are ongoing, but the “magic number,” so-to-speak, would be around $2 trillion in spending cuts.
As we close in on congressional votes to increase the federal debt limit, negotiators are coming up with all kinds of ideas to hike taxes. (Suspiciously, they haven’t revealed very many spending cut ideas so far).
In the Washington Post Friday, Ezra Klein partly confirmed what I fear the Republican strategy is for the debt-limit bill—get to the $2 trillion in cuts promised through accounting gimmicks. As I have also noted, Klein says that there is about $1 trillion in budget “savings” ($1.4 trillion with interest) to be found simply in the inflated Congressional Budget Office baseline for Iraq and Afghanistan. Klein says, “I’m told that a big chunk of these savings were included in the debt-ceiling deal” that Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Sen. Jon Kyl (D-AZ) are negotiating with the Democrats.
With the nation's unemployment rate still above 9 percent and a steady stream of worrisome labor news (the latest statistic: 429,000 new unemployment claims last week), federal policymakers are facing pressure to do something about joblessness. The giant 2009 stimulus bill was supposed to cut unemployment to less than 7 percent by now — but that clearly hasn't worked as planned.
I recently testified before the Senate Small Business Committee on the topic of the Small Business Administration. GovExec.com mentioned that there was a “bit of drama as the hearing ended” when Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) “upbraided” me for comments I had made in an exchange with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Having watched a recording of the hearing, I think I should comment.
New projections from the Congressional Budget Office show that without reforms rising federal spending will fundamental reshape America’s economy, and not in a good way. Under the CBO’s “alternative fiscal scenario,” the federal government will consume an 86 percent greater share of the economy in 2035 than it did a decade ago (33.9 percent of GDP compared to 18.2 percent).