The new Republican Party majority in the House of Representatives has identified something like $2.5 trillion in spending cuts to take effect over the next ten years . . . and that's just a start. I note that they haven't touched entitlement programs yet - and they've got to touch those programs, because there's simply no money available to pay for their ever-burgeoning expenditures. I hope they have the political courage to do so, because if they don't, we're screwed.
What stuns me is the list of expenditures the GOP wants to cut. Just who the hell approved some of these things? Here are a few examples from the list, with my comments following in italics.
- National Endowment for the Arts. $167.5 million annual savings. (Patrons of the arts can fund them out of their own pockets, thank you very much.)
- National Endowment for the Humanities. $167.5 million annual savings. (Ditto.)
- Amtrak Subsidies. $1.565 billion annual savings. (If a non-strategic, non-essential business can't pay its own way, why the hell are you using my taxes to subsidize it?)
- Eliminate duplicative education programs. H.R. 2274 (in last Congress), authored by Rep. McKeon, eliminates 68 at a savings of $1.3 billion annually. (And just who allowed 68 'duplicative' education programs to come into existence in the first place? If the electorate hasn't already done so, please fire them!)
- Cut in half funding for congressional printing and binding. $47 million annual savings. (Buy e-book readers for everybody, and issue e-publications only.)
- Cut Federal Travel Budget in Half. $7.5 billion annual savings. (And please make Nancy Pelosi refund the exorbitant costs of her Air Force travel during her tenure as Speaker . . . not to mention President Obama's vacation flight expenses!)
- Department of Energy Grants to States for Weatherization. $530 million annual savings. (If the States want it, let the States find the money to pay for it themselves.)
- Beach Replenishment. $95 million annual savings. (And just how the hell is beach replenishment a Federal Government responsibility? Last I heard, every single beach in the USA was on the territory of a particular State!)
- Exchange Programs for Alaska, Natives Native Hawaiians, and Their Historical Trading Partners in Massachusetts. $9 million annual savings. (What's the Constitutional justification for a Federal Government subsidy for this program, please?)
- Economic Development Administration. $293 million annual savings. (Yeah, they've done a great job of development during the past few years of recession and depression, haven't they?)
- No funding for federal office space acquisition. $864 million annual savings. (Hell, yes! FEMA has all those trailers they bought for victims of natural disasters. Deploy them around Washington and use them instead! Federal bureaucrats as 'trailer park trash' . . . there's a certain ironic resonance to that, isn't there?)
There are many more at the link. Makes you sick, doesn't it?
These figures make George Will seem like a prophet.
No amount of resources can prevent government from performing poorly when it tries to perform too many tasks, or particular tasks for which it is inherently unsuited.
Actually, government is not sufficiently demoralized. The hubris that is the occupational hazard and defining trait of the political class continues to cause government to overpromise and underperform. This class blithely considers itself exempt from the tyranny of the bell-shaped curve - the fact that in most occupations a few people are excellent, a few are awful, and most are average.
In fact, the bell curve is particularly pertinent to government. Surgeons achieve eminence by what they do "in office" - in operating rooms, performing surgery. Politicians achieve eminence simply by securing office - by winning elections, a skill often related loosely, if at all, to their performance in office.
James Q. Wilson, America's preeminent social scientist, has noted that until relatively recently, "politics was about only a few things; today, it is about nearly everything." Until the 1930s, or perhaps the 1960s, there was a "legitimacy barrier" to federal government activism: When new policies were proposed, the first debate was about whether the federal government could properly act at all on the subject. Today, there is no barrier to the promiscuous multiplication of programs, because no program is really new. Rather, it is an extension, modification or enlargement of something government is already doing.
The vicious cycle ... is government squandering its limited resources, including the resource of competence, in reckless expansions of its scope.
"There has been," Wilson writes, "a transformation of public expectations about the scope of federal action, one that has put virtually everything on Washington's agenda and left nothing off." Try, Wilson suggests, to think "of a human want or difficulty that is not now defined as a 'public policy problem.'"
. . .
Congress has been so busy passing gargantuan legislation to expand government's responsibilities that it has not had enough time, energy or sense of responsibility to pass a budget.
. . .
The public sector's involuntary tendency to become, regarding productivity, a concentration of stagnation is a reason for government to become more circumspect than it has been about the voluntary acquisition of vast new responsibilities, such as micromanagement of health care's 17 percent of the economy.
Again, there's more at the link. Wise words - ones that politicians on both sides of the aisle would do well to read and ponder. Even though the GOP is now making noises about cutting spending, I'm not forgetting - or forgiving - the fact that they spent as wildly and irresponsibly as Democrats during their years in control of Congress. I'm waiting for their actions to speak more loudly than their newly responsible words, thank you very much.