The Myth Of Actually Cutting Spending

As long as we have the current leadership in Congress, the federal government will continue to grow. That is true despite what you are hearing about coming drastic cuts by the super committee or drastic cuts if the super committee fails.

This is where we are:

George Will posted an article at the Washington Post yesterday explaining that the current discussions are all smoke and mirrors.

The article reports:

But suppose the sequester occurs. Ignore loose talk about “draconian” spending cuts. Veronique de Rugy of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center has a graph you should see.

It shows two lines. The top one charts spending, 2013-2021, without the sequester; the other shows spending with the sequester. Both lines are ascending. Both show annual spending rising from less than $4 trillion to more than $5 trillion. The space between them is so narrow that it is difficult to see that there are two lines. Without the sequester, spending will increase $1.7 trillion; with the sequester, spending will increase $1.6 trillion. Here are categories of spending:

Ten-year spending increases:

                                                     Without                         With

Defense                                   20 percent                    18 percent

Nondefense discretionary     14 percent                   12 percent

Medicare                                   62 percent                    62 percent

Other mandatory                      51 percent                     51 percent

Net interest                            152 percent                   136 percent

This whole super committee thing seems to be much ado about nothing.

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Would It Help To Require The Super Committee To Be Transparent ?

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One of the complaints of the voters in the last election was that Washington operates behind closed doors. There has been a lot a legislation passed by Congress in recent years that was not easily understood by the American people or that the American people were not given a chance to voice their opinion on. As Nancy Pelosi famously stated about the healthcare bill, “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it.” I wonder if even Congress had any idea what they were voting on.

Now we are faced with the same sort of situation with the super committee. Yesterday’s Washington Examiner posted an editorial suggesting that the negotiations be made public and the final product could be amended in the House and Senate rather than just voted on. Obviously these conditions are not in accordance with the original agreement, which I believe was the result of a lack of courage on the part of Congress. The editorial points out that Speaker of the House Boehner agreed to the secrecy despite having promised “the days of quickly ramming massive bills through Congress — such as the ‘stimulus’ that didn’t work and the job-killing national energy tax — are over. Under the new rules, the House will post all bills online at least three calendar days before a vote, giving lawmakers, the public and the media a chance to read each proposal and understand its impact.” 

The editorial concludes:

As the Sunlight Foundation said in a recent memo on the issue, “it doesn’t have to be this way. Super Committee members still have the opportunity to redeem some measure of integrity by letting the public in on their legislation by posting their final recommendations online 72 hours before their vote. There is even a bill — the Deficit Committee Transparency Act (HR 2860) — that would require that. But, as of yet, members of Congress have shown little appetite for mandating Super Committee transparency.”

There is always the temptation to appoint a select group of “experts,” give them extraordinary powers, and shield them from public pressure in the hope they will objectively produce a reasonable solution to a vexing problem. That temptation should always be resisted, particularly in a democratic republic. There is still time for Congress to do the right thing on the supercommittee’s transparency.

I am not sure that the super committee will actually produce a bill. Generally speaking, the members of the committee are not acting independently–they are under the control of their respective political parties. It is Washington–politics is king–party politics is more important than the well being of America. There is also the issue of the philosophical divide between the two parties–the Democrats believe that the deficit is the result of taxes that are too low and the Republicans believe that the deficit is the result of spending that is too high. Until that issue is resolved, we will have gridlock.

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Are The Republicans About To Get Rolled In Washington Again ?

We had an election in 2010. The Republicans made historic gains. The message from the American voters was ‘we want smaller government.’ ‘get the government out of our lives and our pockets,’ and ‘get rid of professional politicians.’ That may not be exactly right, but it’s close. The Democrats have ignored that message and governed as if it never happened. If the Republicans don’t hear the message and differentiate themselves from the Democrats, the Republican Party as we know it will cease to exist.

Now we are at a point in history in Washington that will determine the survival of the Republican party. Because the Republicans did not have the intestinal fortitude to stand their ground on the budget deficit discussions, they formed a ‘super committee.’ The super committee has no guts either, and they are supposed to come up with debt solutions by November 23. That deadline is fast approaching and it doesn’t look good.

On Thursday, CNS News reported that the Democrats on the super committee have offered a deal–Democrats are proposing to match any spending cuts with new tax increases, attempting to find $1 trillion in savings to match $1 trillion in new taxes. This offer comes after Democrats turned down an offer by Republicans for $1 trillion in projected spending cuts over the next 10 years and raise taxes by $1 trillion over 10 years. Either one of these deals would be a mistake for Republicans. Spending cuts over the next ten years never happen–this present Congress does not have the power to control the actions (and spending) of any future Congress. Also, under baseline budgeting–if the $1 million budget for my department does not increase at the going rate (whatever that is), and stays the same for the coming year, that is considered a spending cut. You will note that there was no savings involved, but it was still considered a spending cut.

It’s time to put the government on a starvation diet. Unfortunately, the powers that be that are currently in Washington have no desire to do that. The election of 2010 brought many small government Tea Party types to Washington, but it did not change the leadership of the Republican Party. Until we change the leadership of both the Republican and Democrat Parties, there will be no change in how business is done in Washington.

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