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).
The Congressional Budget Office released the latest edition of its annual forecast of where the federal government’s budget is headed. The numbers are new but the message is the same: the budget is on an unsustainable path. According to the CBO’s more politically-realistic “alternative scenario,” federal debt as a share of GDP will hit 109 percent in 2021 and would approach 190 percent in 2035.
When Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN) lost his bid for reelection in November, it brought to an end a congressional career that spanned nearly a half century. As a former chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Oberstar’s faith in the ability of the federal government to turn taxpayer water into wine was typical for a politician ensconced in the Washington Beltway bubble.
The National Labor Relations Board is in the news for meddling in Boeing’s decision to build some aircraft in South Carolina rather than in Washington state. To most economists, the idea that a small regulatory board in D.C. should try to centrally plan $1 billion of private business investment is crackers.
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: