Tag: budget

The Budget Impasse: Who’s to Blame?

Today POLITICO Arena asks:

Will there be a budget deal? And has Obama shown himself to be a capable leader throughout this budget impasse?

My response:

Will there be a budget agreement? Who knows. Has Obama shown himself to be a capable leader in this budget battle? Please. One thing is clear, though: It’s beyond rich for Democrats to blame Republicans for this budget impasse.

Let’s  remember that we’re talking about the budget for the fiscal year that began last October, which should have been passed well before then — when Democrats held the White House and both chambers of Congress by wide margins. In all that time, however, they couldn’t pass even one appropriations bill. Why? Because they were trying to game the November elections.

Well they lost those elections — big time. Yet even in the lame-duck session, when they still held all the cards, they couldn’t pass a budget. Now they blame the Republicans? For listening to the voters? What do they think those elections were about? Chopped liver?

Paul Ryan and Political Discipline

Today POLITICO Arena asks:

Paul Ryan’s budget – hard-headed fiscal sanity or inhumane?

My response:

Either we discipline ourselves, painfully, or soon enough the Chinese and other lenders will do it for us, more painfully still, by refusing to loan to us any longer at currently low interest rates. And in that event, the debt service will be all consuming. Neither individuals nor nations can go down the road we’re on without paying the price.

Margaret Thatcher put it plainly: “The trouble with socialism” – let’s be honest, we’re socializing the costs of our appetites by imposing them on our children and grandchildren – ”is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

Inhumane? The inhumanity is among those demagogues who put us on this path, promising something for nothing year in and year out. Paul Ryan deserves our gratitude for biting the bullet at last. The ball is now in the court of the demagogues.

Largest Spending Cut Ever?

The Washington Post said today that a plan to “cut $33 billion from the federal budget” would be “the largest one-time reduction in U.S. history.”


The $33 billion in Democratic-proposed cuts are less than 1 percent of this year’s total spending, so we are considering very small cuts here. However, it is also true that Congress has been far more interested in growing spending than in cutting in recent decades. Still, the Washington Post said “in U.S. history,” which is a long time.

This federal budget table shows total federal spending since 1901. Total spending fell in 22 years out of the last 110 years. In 19 of those 22 years, spending was cut by more than 1 percent, or more than this year’s proposed Democratic cuts of $33 billion.

Indeed, even with $33 billion in cuts, total federal spending will still rise by more than $200 billion this year due to rising “entitlement” costs. And even in raw nominal dollars, the Washington Post isn’t correct because total federal spending fell $37 billion in 1946 and $61 billion in 2010.

We can also consider the $33 billion in proposed cuts within the applicable budget category–nondefense discretionary (NDD) spending. And we can adjust for inflation in order to fairly compare cuts in different time periods.

A $33 billion cut would reduce NDD this year by about 7 percent in constant dollars. This budget table shows that President Reagan and Congress cut NDD by 13 percent in 1982 in constant dollars.

So here is what we have discovered: Congress has reduced overall spending numerous times in the past; total spending will rise substantially this year even with proposed cuts; and Reagan cut nondefense discretionary spending more than the current $33 billion proposal would.

One year of small budget cuts won’t solve our fiscal problems. The budget-cutting drives of the early 1980s and mid-1990s made a bit of progress because they were sustained over a number of years while the economy boomed. Thus, the real challenge for Republicans will be whether they can follow up this year’s small cuts with much bigger cuts next year and beyond.

Monday Links

Thoughts on the F-35’s Extra Engine

I’m a bit late to the party in commenting on the passage of the Rooney Amendment, a successful effort on the part of 2nd-term Republican Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) to strip funding for the F-136, an engine that the Pentagon doesn’t want for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

A few additional thoughts: unlike nearly all other amendments to the CR, Rooney’s passed, and fairly easily. Part of the reason is strong administration support for the effort, key especially to securing votes from Democrats – those who don’t have F-136 plants in their districts, that is. But Gates had signaled his displeasure many times previously, so that alone doesn’t explain this rare victory for budget hawks.

I would guess that an additional factor is the slew of new Republicans elected on a platform of fiscal prudence. Having Rooney as a champion for the cause certainly helped, with 110 Republicans voting for the amendment (vote tally here). A majority within the GOP still treat weapons contractors with kid gloves, but claiming that every single weapon system is essential to the nation’s survival can get pretty laughable, especially when the Secretary of Defense and all the relevant uniformed officers disagree. 

(Speaking of laughable, wouldn’t it be absurd for the Obama administration to threaten to veto the CR because it now has too little money for the Pentagon? Wait. That happened.)

Much as I would like to dwell on the defeat of the F-136 in the House, however, I am sobered by the reality of budgeting for the military. This is hardly the final blow in this battle. Opponents and supporters of the extra engine in the Senate have already lined up their forces. The engine might yet re-emerge. And we must not lose sight of the fact that the total amount saved – $450 million – is tiny relative to the Pentagon’s budget of around $540 billion in this fiscal year. Perhaps rather than debating the need for a second engine, we should be debating the need for a plane that is grossly over budget, badly behind schedule, and riddled with performance problems?

So kudos to Congressman Rooney for leading this fight, but there is still much, much more to do to bring military spending down to reasonable levels. (For example, removing U.S. troops from Europe, a policy that already enjoys considerable support.)

The Tea Party and Foreign Policy

There has been an on-going discussion recently about the Tea Party’s foreign policy views and how this might influence the upcoming election and new members of Congress.  In an essay at the Daily Caller last week, the Heritage Foundation’s Jim Carafano addressed this question and the claim that the new “Defending Defense” initiative— led by Heritiage, AEI, and the Foreign Policy Initiative—is aimed at co-opting the Tea Party movement (for more on the substance, or lack thereof, of “Defending Defense,” see Justin Logan’s response here).

Over at The Skeptics blog, I take issue with Carafano’s assessment of the Tea Party’s foreign policy views:

With respect to Carafano’s assessment of the Tea Partiers’s views on foreign policy and military spending, most of what he puts forward is pure speculation. Little is actually known about the foreign policy views of a movement that is organized primarily around the idea of getting the government off the people’s backs. It seems unlikely, however, that a majority within the movement like the idea of our government building other people’s countries, and our troops fighting other people’s wars.

Equally dubious is Carafano’s claim that the Tea Party ranks include “many libertarians who don’t think much of the Reagan mantra ‘peace through strength’ ” but an equal or larger number who are enamored of the idea that the military should get as much money as it wants, and then some. Carafano avoids a discussion of what this military has actually been asked to do, much less what it should do. By default, he endorses the tired status quo, which holds that the purpose of the U.S. military is to defend other countries so that their governments can spend money on social welfare programs and six-week vacations.

Tea Partiers are many things, but defenders of the status quo isn’t one of them. This movement is populated by individuals who are incensed by politicians reaching into their pockets and funneling money for goo-goo projects to Washington. It beggars the imagination that they’d be anxious to send money for similar schemes to Brussels, Paris, Berlin and Tokyo, and yet that is precisely what our foreign policies have done – and will do – so long as the United States maintains a military geared more for defending others than for defending us.

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