Thursday, March 16, 2017

President Trump's budget: A good start


I'm pleased with a lot of the elements in President Trump's proposed budget.  I agree that defense spending needs to be revamped - not just increased, but spent more appropriately, with due attention paid to maintenance and stockpiling of essential munitions and equipment, and also the elimination of wasteful and unnecessary expenditure.  I also agree entirely with zeroing out appropriations for the arts and cultural programs.  The constitution contains no mandate for such expenditures.  If they're the province of government, they're surely the province of state governments, not federal.  I see no reason for any federal tax dollars to be spent on them.  The cries of horror and alarm from those seeking to maintain federal spending on the arts and culture are largely political posturing.  Let's get real.  If an expenditure isn't mandated in the constitution, why is the federal government funding it?

Mr. Trump also needs to address the 73% of federal expenditure (yes, nearly three-quarters of every tax dollar) that's committed to Social Security, Medicare, interest on the national debt, and other mandated entitlement programs and their inflation-linked increases.  This is simply unsustainable.  It's not a question of whether or not it's a good idea, or whether or not it's right, or whether or not people are entitled to it.  It's a question of whether or not it's possible.  The answer is simple . . . it isn't possible.  We don't have enough money to pay for such levels of expenditure, and as long as we try to do so, our national debt will continue to increase, because that's the only way to pay for them.  That's how the Obama administration doubled our national debt - by paying for such programs, and others.  If we want to pay down our currently crippling levels of debt, the programs that have necessitated those levels will have to be cut.  Pure, plain and simple.  There's no avoiding that reality.

Of course, many believe this will be political suicide for the party that does it.  However, it's even more certain that if we don't do it, it'll be economic suicide for the nation as a whole.  Mathematics isn't partisan, isn't political.  It's factual, plain and simple.  We cut the deficit that requires us to incur increased national debt, or we go bankrupt.  There's no other way.  The people may want to vote themselves bread and circuses, but those still have to be paid for . . . and right now, the cupboard is bare.  Mr. Trump is quite right to want to cut our outrageous tax burden.  The USA is one of the most heavily taxed economies in the world, in order to pay for such expenditure.  If we want our economy to be more competitive, and have the money to pay for more jobs and more employment, we have to reduce that burden.  Q.E.D.  Cut expenditure.  We can't do it any other way.

As for faith leaders' reservations:

Insisting it is their moral responsibility, more than 100 American Christian leaders are urging Congress to reject proposed steep budget cuts to foreign aid.

“795 million people still go to bed hungry every night. Matthew 25 tells us when we serve the least of these, we are serving the Lord," the religious leaders said in a new letter to congressional leadership. "We are grateful for America’s global development and diplomacy programs that have been instrumental in saving lives, safeguarding religious liberties, and keeping America safe and secure.”

There's more at the link.

The federal government is not a church.  Its leaders are not in the business of saving souls.  It exists to administer the United States for the benefit of its citizens.  It was not elected, or constitutionally charged with the responsibility, to do that for other nations or peoples.  If faith leaders want to serve those other nations and peoples, let them collect funds from their own followers to do so.  That's their right, and no-one will dispute it.  Those who share their concerns are free to donate to such programs.  Those who don't share them, may refrain, or support other programs that are more to their taste.  However, to force every US taxpayer to support such causes is without constitutional warrant . . . and breathtakingly arrogant besides.

Get the federal government out of every area of activity where it has no constitutional mandate to be involved.  Where it claims such a mandate under a vague justification such as the commerce clause, reinterpret that clause rigorously, according to the manifest intentions of the founding fathers.  Where modern practice doesn't square with that intention, shut down every one of those programs.  Do that, and we'll balance our national budget and deal with our national deficit without difficulty.

Peter

13 comments:

Old NFO said...

Funny how it's all separation of church and state until the funding comes up... Agree with all!

TheOtherSean said...

@OldNFO: That's because they feel being a hypocrite is fine. After all, "Thou shalt not be a hypocrite" was on that third tablet, which Moses dropped way back when.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXeTsWGPT0w

JK Brown said...

We have a dubious centennial this year

"Not until 1917 did the income tax yield as much money to the federal government as customs duties did. But by 1920 it was contributing ten times as much money as the customs; and that was only the beginning of the rise of the graduated income tax to a predominant place in the financing of a hugely expanded government, and to an important place among the instruments for the redistribution of wealth in America. "
--'The Big Change: America Transforms Itself 1900-1950' (1952), Frederick Allen Lewis


And those faith leaders might wish to reflect on the true nature of Christianity rather than continue the pietist bent for using state compulsion and coercion.

"Christianity, as a late writer has pointed out in words well chosen,* is the only system of socialism which commends it self as having a rational basis, and its founder the most practical teacher of it that the world has ever seen. " The aim of all socialism is the securing of equality in the social condition of mankind, and if equality is to be secured at all it will be secured only by changing the hearts of men, and never by setting to work, in the first instance, upon the conditions." But the present impulse of socialism is not Christian, but rather one willing to put an end to Christianity. And it is a system of machinery, like the kingdom of a tyrant, not of souls, like that of Christ. Now the Christian system did not rest on force at all. It was communistic, but not socialistic, as the word is properly used; for its very essence was the freedom of the individual will. "

* Socialism and Legislation, Westminster Review, January, 1886."


"Most pietists took the following view: Since we can't gauge an individual's morality by his following rituals or even by his professed adherence to creed, we must watch his actions and see if he is really moral.

From there the pietists concluded that it was everyone's moral duty to his own salvation to see to it that his fellow men as well as himself are kept out of temptation's path. That is, it was supposed to be the State's business to enforce compulsory morality, to create the proper moral climate for maximizing salvation. In short, instead of an individualist, the pietist now tended to become a pest, a busybody, a moral watchdog for his fellow man, and a compulsory moralist using the State to outlaw "vice" as well as crime."
--Murray Rothbard, Mises.org, 'Lysander Spooner: Libertarian Pietist'

Clinton J said...

Hey, if the gov't stops sending foreign aid and I get less taken away as a result, I'll have more money to give my church and they can... anyone? Maybe they can better fulfill their Biblical mandate to take care of the poor!

Or am I missing something?

I know, the gov't cutting my taxes is crazy talk...

Uncle Lar said...

It saddens me when I observe so very many of our fellow citizens seemingly unable to understand the difference between deficit and debt. Our last president was wont to brag on how his policies were reducing the deficit, confident that the common folk would think that meant we were paying off the debt when in fact every penny of that deficit was added to the national debt and onto the backs of future generations. Debt is money owed, deficit is how much additional debt you've accrued over the accounting period under discussion.
The US national debt, money we owe to folks holding bonds, markers, other paper, or instruments of finance is at or nearly so 20 trillion dollars. Even at a one percent interest rate, servicing that debt is $200 billion a year. At an honest five percent that debt would cost us a trillion a year. If our country was a family or a corporation we would have long since been forced into bankruptcy, but that isn't an option open to us.

Jonathan H said...

As a federal worker, I see the need for some programs and not for others.
I've heard alot about the large cuts expected in the discretionary budget, and those that have already been made in the military - but ALL military spending and discretionary spending are less than 20% of the budget; until changes are made to mandatory spending everything is just trimming around the edges and makes no real difference.

Gorges Smythe said...

I pretty-much agree with everything you say except lumping Social Security in with the rest. That was citizens' PERSONAL money stolen by LBJ with the theft tolerated by every democrat and republican since. Unless the government intends to pay all that money back WITH INTEREST, it has no right to complain about the cost of Social Security.

Peter said...

@Gorges Smythe: You're right in theory, but in practice, it's unachievable. That money was 'borrowed' by the federal government, and a series of IOU's (i.e. Treasury bonds) issued in its place. Those bonds now form part of the national debt. If we pay them off, we can only do so by issuing more Treasury bonds. There's no money anywhere else! We'd be replacing one bond issue with another, and effectively be back where we started.

I'm afraid Social Security's reserves no longer exist. The program is already using current contributions to pay older beneficiaries, and 'claiming back' some of its bonds every year to pay the rest of what it owes. Because it's paying out more than it brings in, it's effectively bankrupt already. There's no point saying that it shouldn't be that way. It IS that way. We have to deal with that reality, whether we like it or not.

Post Alley Crackpot said...

"... more than 100 American Christian leaders are urging Congress ..."

And if any of them have claimed tax-exempt status, the IRS should make instant determinations that such status is invalid because they are lobbying Congress as a political group.

C. S. P. Schofield said...

Assuming that a miracle happens and we DO cut the Federal Government back to its enumerated powers and responsibilities, I can see another major benefit;

Liberal Progressive heads will explode from coast to coast!

Quartermaster said...

@Post Alley Crackpot.

You chose your handle well.

Will said...

Quartermaster:

it is a violation of the tax laws for their category of tax exemption to be involved in any type of political engagement. The penalty is loss of that exemption, among others.

David Lang said...

Perfect is the enemy of better.

If Trump proposed a budget that made all the cuts that would be needed to balance the budget in one fell swoop, that budget would just be ignored and make no difference.

It takes time to turn things around, habits don't change instantly, and there can be a need to taper things off so that other solutions can be found.

But rejecting a budget that improves the situation because it doesn't solve it doesn't result in a budget that solves it, it just means that the situation doesn't improve.

People need to realize that the measures that Trump is pushing (both for the budget and for obamacare replacement) aren't his final goals, but merely the first step in the process.

If the economy improves, people will be fare more receptive to cutting back or limiting 'safety net' type programs than they are now when things are still pretty bad.