Tag: national endowment for the arts

Budget Cuts Look Familiar

What do these federal agencies and programs have in common?

Agricultural Research Service, Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, Rural Development programs, Women, Infants & Children, Foreign Agricultural Service, National Institute of Standards & Technology, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, Economic Development Administration, National Telecommunications & Information Administration, Small Business Administration, State Department foreign aid, Fund for African Development, International Development assistance, Economic Support Fund, Peacekeeping Operations, Trade Development Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation, National Forest System, Appalachian Regional Commission, Department of Energy administration, Fossil Energy Research & Development, energy conservation programs, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, Community Service Employment for Older Americans, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control, Low Income Home Energy Assistance, Administration on Aging, Youthbuild, Adult Education, programs for K-12 and higher education, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Highway Administration, rail subsidies, Federal Transit Administration, Financial Management Service, Veterans Affairs construction projects, Housing Counseling Assistance, public housing programs, Community Development Financial Institutions Funds, Corporation for National & Community Service, Legal Services Corporation, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics & Space Administration, and the National Science Foundation.

They were all cut in 1995 under a rescissions package engineered by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich and cut last week in the budget agreement reached by Republican and Democratic leaders.

The lesson here is that there’s a big difference between spending cuts and terminating entire agencies and their programs. Like the mythological Hydra, the stump has to be burned after the head is cut off or else it’ll grow back.

Just as they did back in 1995, Republicans are doing a lot of talking about cutting the size of the federal government. However, they aren’t doing much talking about reducing the scope of the federal government’s activities. The Gingrich Republicans failed to reduce the scope of federal activities, and the result was a bipartisan spending orgy that has left the country’s finances in shambles. We literally can’t afford for history to repeat itself.

Federal Subsidy Programs Top 2,000!

January 22, 2010 is a day that should live in infamy, at least among believers in limited government. On that day, the federal government added its 2,000th subsidy program for individuals, businesses, or state and local governments.

The number of federal subsidy programs soared 21 percent during the 1990s and 40 percent during the 2000s. The entire nation is jumping aboard Washington’s gravy train. My assistant, Amy Mandler, noticed the recent addition of two new Department of Justice programs, and that pushed us over the threshold to reach 2,001.

There is a federal subsidy program for every year that has passed since Emperor Augustus held sway in Rome. We’ve gone from bread and circuses to food stamps, the National Endowment for the Arts, and 1,999 other hand-out programs from the imperial city on the Potomac.

Figure 1 shows that the number of federal subsidy programs has almost doubled since the mid-1980s after some modest cutbacks under President Ronald Reagan.

Most people are aware that federal spending is soaring, but the federal government is also increasing the scope of its activities, intervening in many areas that used to be left to state governments, businesses, charities, and individuals. To measure the widening scope, Figure 1 uses the program count from current and past editions of the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance. The CFDA is an official compilation of all federal aid programs, including grants, loans, insurance, scholarships, and other types of benefits.

Figure 2 shows the number of subsidy programs listed in the CFDA by federal department. It is a rough guide to the areas in society in which the government is most in violation of federalism—the constitutional principle that the federal government ought not to encroach on activities that are properly state, local, and private.

As the federal octopus extends its tentacles ever further, state governments are becoming no more than regional subdivisions of the national government, businesses and nonprofit groups are becoming tools of the state, and individualism is giving way to a more European desire for cradle-to-grave dependency.

Yet recent election results indicate that Americans may be starting to wake up and fight back. Whether we are more successful than Cicero and Cato the Younger in battling to retain our limited-government republic remains to be seen.

Washington’s Government-Centric View of the World

Too many people in Washington look out upon the beauty and bounty of America and see a vast wasteland, enlivened only by government programs. If government isn’t doing it, they think, then it isn’t being done. When the Republicans threatened to nick the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton wailed that the proposal “not only threatens irrevocable damage to our cultural institutions but also to our sense of ourselves and what we stand for as a people.” Seriously, she thought that if the then-$167 million of the NEA were eliminated, the $37 billion that Americans spent on the arts that year would somehow disappear in a puff of smoke?

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was even more sweeping when he said  in 1992, “The ballot box is the place where all change begins in America” – conveniently forgetting the market process that has brought us such changes as the train, the skyscraper, the automobile, the personal computer, and charitable or self-help endeavors from settlement houses to Alcoholics Anonymous to Comic Relief.

And today the Washington Post weighs in with the chart below. It’s titled “Percent of GDP spent on social/family expenditures,” and it shows the United States at a shockingly low 0.7 percent, while Obama-esque countries like Sweden and France are above 3 percent. But could it really be true that America spends less than 1 percent of its wealth on families and children? Of course not. The proper title for the chart would be “Percent of GDP spent by government on social/family expenditures.” (Indeed, given the federal nature of the United States, it’s possible that the proper title would be “Percent of GDP spent by the central government on social/family expenditures.”) Every American family spends a large portion of its income on children’s needs, and a larger portion on the needs of children and parents.

The point of the article, as the caption above the chart indicates, is to argue that the Japanese government needs to spend more on programs that would encourage women to join the paid workforce. (If the government hired all the mothers in Japan and paid them to care for their neighbors’ children, would that be a better world? It certainly would raise Japan’s position on the Post’s chart!) If that’s what Post reporters believe, they’re certainly free to advocate that position. But they shouldn’t assume or imply that the government is the entire society. Families in Japan and the United States spend most of their income – or at least most of their after-tax income – on child and family needs. The chart ignores that reality and seeks to make Japanese and Americans embarrassed that government taxes and spends less in their countries than in the European welfare states.