The federal government’s real estate portfolio is massive: 1.2 million buildings and other structures with a total annual operating and maintenance budget of $19 billion. That’s quite a carbon footprint.
The 1990s were a decade of rapid private sector expansion and federal government restraint. The 2000s are a decade of government expansion at all levels and private sector retrenchment.
When the 2008 economic stimulus bill created an $8,000 homebuyer tax credit to prop up the ailing housing market, the outcome was predictable: fraud and economic distortions.
During a recent CNBC debate on federal spending, I argued that government policies are creating uncertainty in the business community. Businesses are reluctant to invest or hire because they’re concerned that the president’s big government agenda will mean higher taxes and more onerous regulations.
A report from the Department of Transportation’s inspector general expresses more concerns about the Federal Aviation Administration’s ability to implement its Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). NextGen is a $40 billion overhaul of the nation’s air traffic control system that would replace old-fashioned radar technology with modern satellite-based GPS navigation.
On May 27th the USDA awarded $168 million in stimulus money to 145 local infrastructure projects across the country. A third of the money is going to the Mohegan Indian tribe in Connecticut for a new community center. The $54 million loan has attracted national scrutiny because the tribe operates one of the biggest casinos in the country, which grossed $1.3 billion in 2009.
The House recently passed legislation to reform the Federal Housing Administration, which is facing a potential taxpayer bailout thanks to all the bad mortgages that it has backed. When the housing bubble burst, the FHA rushed in to prop up the market and now insures approximately 30 percent of new mortgages. In 2006, the figure was just 3 percent.
In a recent speech to real estate interests, former Clinton HUD secretary Henry Cisneros preposterously claimed that the recent housing meltdown “occurred not out of a governmental push, but out of a hijacking of the homeownership process by some unscrupulous interests.”
The Declaration of Independence cites as an example of King George’s tyranny: “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.” To prevent a similar situation in the new United States of America, the Founders assigned the federal government limited powers.