Politicians talk about tax cuts, usually, a symptom of supply-side economics which says that no one wants to hear about spending or program cuts, so don’t mention those. It’s only been in the past year or so that politicians–spurred on by the Tea Party movement–have finally started talking about spending cuts, but when they were pressed for specifics, they never really gave an answer. Boehner–who I call “Boner” because I feel we’re boned with him as speaker–infamously said “not off the top of my head” when asked what programs to cut.
Fortunately, all does not appear to be lost. Senator Rand Paul, son of Ron, named after Ayn Rand (who I really don’t think is that good of an author, but whatever) has put forward a plan that would save us $500 billion in a year–namely by cutting the Departments of Energy and Housing and Urban Development, as well as much of Education. This is actually not far from what Reason magazine was talking about, and it’s a good start particularly because none of these departments give us any bang for our money. Look at education costs; they’ve been spiraling upwards for years, mostly because of overly generous union contracts, but our grades have only gone into the gutter; Energy hasn’t done a damned thing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil nor improve our general energy efficiency; and HUD, well, yeah, it’s pretty much a failure in every respect.
And then the Republican Study Committee has unveiled a plan that it touts will generate “$2.5 trillion in spending cuts.” Now, here I must actually talk about writing and “politi-speak,” for once on a blog that’s actually allegedly about writing. (Terrible, terrible. I will certainly get to it this weekend.) It is not, actually, anywhere near that amount, although it does have some actual spending cuts. No, what the politicians are calling spending cuts are simply reductions in future spending levels. They expect to spend X amount of money in the year 2020 under Obama’s current plan, and under this one they will spend X-Y amount of money in 2020, and call that a spending cut. So it’s not a cut at all; yes, spending growth will be restricted, but it will still be higher in 2020 than it is in 2010, unless we enact some really serious and possibly draconian cuts, the likes of which nobody (other than the Pauls) are ready to talk about.
But it does cut a few hundred billion; Mish Shedlock, an awesome economics blogger, says it will probably cut “only” $250 billion. But that’s still a good start, and there are many good things in here. The most important is scrapping Davis-Bacon, an act that was originally made on racist premises and continued in order to prop up exceedingly high wages for government construction projects when there is no need, thus putting extra stress on taxpayers and sending us straight towards insolvency (among numerous other things.)
However, there is a serious problem with the RSC’s plan, and that is the plan completely ignores defense, homeland security, and veterans programs. For now, I will leave the last one aside, since I do believe that those who serve in our conflicts–particularly those who are wounded–should be compensated for their service. But for the others, come on. You cannot ignore defense spending when it comes to our fiscal solvency; even though it is still dwarfed by entitlement spending, it is still more massive than the defense spending of all other countries combined, and it actually makes us less safe, not more. And homeland security? Gone. Just gone. That entire department should be abolished and its agencies–other than the Coast Guard–abolished as well. Homeland security my behind.
Call me cautiously optimistic, but for once, it appears we have real, substantial government cuts on the way. Provided the Senate and the President go along with this, which I doubt, but it will just set things in motion for 2012.