The Constitution authorizes a government of limited powers. Congress’s main legislative powers are enumerated in Article I, Section 8—there are only 18. But since the New Deal those powers have been read as authorizing Congress to do far more than was ever imagined for our first 150 years under the Constitution. This has led to effectively unlimited government.
How much money do federal taxpayers lose to food stamp fraud each year? Nobody really knows. The government claims that trafficking in food stamps decreased to a steady 1 percent of expenditures in the past decade. But with record numbers of Americans utilizing a program that has exploded in cost, it’s hard to take that claim seriously.
Almost half of America’s farmland is operated by someone other than the owner. Critics of farm subsidies often point to examples of famous wealthy landowners receiving handouts as a reason to end the federal government’s agriculture gravy train. Notable recipients have included Ted Turner, Larry Flynt, Charles Schwab, and numerous members of Congress.
Gross federal debt just hit $14 trillion and will soon reach the legal limit of $14.3 trillion. House Republicans are wondering what spending reforms they can extract from the Democrats for their support of a debt-limit increase.
A common rationale for federal policies to expand homeownership is the desire to reduce observed racial differences in homeownership. Receiving the most attention has been the gap in homeownership rates between white households and African-American. The current homeownership rate for whites is 76.5 percent (2007), while that for African-Americans is 54 percent, leaving a gap of 22.5 percent.
In a recent post on earmarks and federal grants, I cited the crazy example of HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program funding facade renovations for a wine bar in Connecticut. Now a Michigan newspaper reports that Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo is looking for $220,000 in CDBG money to expand its facilities.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) has introduced the Cut Unsustainable and Top-heavy Spending Act, which would cut spending by $44 billion annually. Brady’s effort moves in the right direction but it is a very modest fiscal reform effort.
The Washington Times says that the upcoming farm bill re-write could “sow division in the GOP.” While House Republican leaders John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Kevin McCarthy voted against the 2008 farm bill, the new chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), is a dedicated supporter of farm subsidies.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is poised to axe or significantly restructure a number of high-profile weapons platforms, and otherwise rein in the Pentagon’s budget. The reports present these initiatives as intended to preempt greater scrutiny of the military’s budget by Congress.