Another Obligatory Bill Whittle Post

You get a much better result when you inculcate virtue on a private and individual basis than when you attempt to impose it from above. That’s why we conservatives are so concerned about the breakdown of the American family. It is within the context of a family that we are meant to learn to difference between right and wrong. In the absence of stable, socially supported family units, many people lose their way morally — and government dependence increases.

Americans Say Federal Gov’t Wastes Over Half of Every Dollar —

— according to a recent poll conducted by Gallup.

Americans Say Federal Gov’t Wastes Over Half of Every Dollar

Interestingly enough, even those who identify as Democrats believe the federal government wastes almost half of every dollar it gets. And people like Elizabeth Warren are demanding that we give the government more money? Ridiculous! Say you hire a contractor to fix up your kitchen. If you start to suspect that said contractor is ripping you off, should you keep paying him?

Every time the tax intake increases, government spending climbs to meet – and then exceed – the new revenues. The extra money is not used to pay down the debt; instead, it’s used to hire more bunny inspectors. Rather than feeding into this vicious cycle, we need to starve the beast.

More Details on the Deal

From the Wall Street Journal:

The immediate spending cuts are real, if smaller than we’d prefer, and the longer-term cuts could be real if Republicans hold Congress and continue to enforce the deal’s spending caps.

The framework (we haven’t seen all the details) calls for an initial step of some $900 billion in domestic discretionary cuts over 10 years from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) baseline puffed up by recent spending. If the cuts hold, this would go some way to erasing the fiscal damage from the Obama-Nancy Pelosi stimulus. This is no small achievement considering that Republicans control neither the Senate nor the White House, and it underscores how much the GOP victory in November has reshaped the U.S. fiscal debate.

The second phase of the deal is less clear cut, though it also could turn out to shrink Leviathan. Party leaders in both houses of Congress will each appoint three Members to a special committee that will recommend another round of deficit reduction of between $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion, also over 10 years. Their mandate is broad, and we’re told very little is off the table, but at least seven of the 12 Members would have to agree on a package to force an up-or-down vote in Congress.

If the committee can’t agree on enough deficit reduction, then automatic spending cuts would ensue to make up the difference to reach the $1.2 trillion minimum deficit-reduction target. One key point is that the committee’s failure to agree would not automatically “trigger” (in Beltway parlance) revenue increases, as the White House was insisting on as recently as this weekend. That would have guaranteed that Democrats would never agree to enough cuts, and Republicans were right to resist.

Instead the automatic cuts would be divided equally between defense and nondefense. So, for example, if the committee agrees to deficit reduction of only $600 billion, then another $300 billion would be cut automatically from defense and domestic accounts (excluding Medicare beneficiaries) to reach at least $1.2 trillion.

This trigger is intended to be an incentive for committee Members of both parties to agree on more cuts, but defense cuts of this magnitude would do far more harm to national security than they would to domestic accounts that have been fattened by stimulus. This is the worst part of the deal, and Mr. Obama’s political goal will be to press Republicans to choose between tax increases and destructive defense cuts. The GOP will have to fight back and make the choice between domestic cuts and harm to our troops fighting multiple wars.

The disproportionate effect the “trigger” will have on defense spending is definitely worrying. The GOP should hit the talk circuit right away and point out all the waste and redundancy in the federal government that should be rooted out before we start talking about trimming the military. Which is not to say that defense spending must remain entirely sacrosanct – I’m sure there’s waste there as well – but given that providing for our common defense is one of the constitutional functions of the federal government (unlike, say, providing funding for bunny inspectors and cowboy poets), it certainly shouldn’t be first on the chopping block.

Leaders Agree on Debt Deal

Leaders Agree on Debt Deal
@ the Wall Street Journal

The deal would raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion in two stages, and provide initially for $917 billion in spending cuts over 10 years. A special committee of lawmakers would be charged with finding another $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, which could come through a tax overhaul and changes to safety-net programs.

If the committee doesn’t find at least $1.2 trillion in savings, or Congress doesn’t adopt its proposals, a pre-set array of spending cuts would kick in, including cuts in military spending and Medicare payments to health-care providers.

For all the down-to-the wire drama, the deal leaves the hardest questions unanswered and sets in motion years of fiscal pain. It imposes spending caps for the next 10 years, but leaves the details of what programs would be cut to congressional committees.

And it launches a ferocious, months-long argument over how to rewrite the tax code and what changes to make in popular programs like Social Security and Medicare—issues that were ultimately shelved in this debate.

So while one uncertainty would be lifted from the economy with the increase in the debt ceiling, others would be prolonged.

In other words, the fight’s not over yet.

More from Fr. Sirico

“The Circle of Protection, led by Jim Wallis and his George Soros-funded Sojourners group, is advancing a false narrative based on vague threats to the “most vulnerable” if we finally take the first tentative steps to fix our grave budget and debt problems. For example, Wallis frequently cites cuts to federal food programs as portending dire consequences to ‘hungry and poor people.’

Which programs? He must have missed the General Accountability Office study on government waste released this spring, which looked at, among others, 18 federal food programs. These programs accounted for $62.5 billion in spending in 2008 for food and nutrition assistance. But only seven of the programs have actually been evaluated for effectiveness. Apparently it is enough to simply launch a government program, and the bureaucracy to sustain it, to get the Circle of Protection activists to sanctify it without end. Never mind that it might not be a good use of taxpayer dollars.” — Fr. Sirico, The Church as the Bride of Caesar

It’s the Orphans, Puppies, and Kittens Effect rearing its ugly head again — and it’s completely ridiculous. Not only does it make good financial sense to “watch where the money goes,” but it makes moral sense as well. Christ will certainly not be impressed if all we do to fulfill our obligation to help the poor is throw billions in tax dollars at government programs that “sound good” — especially if those programs are ineffective.

Pass the Boehner Plan

Boehner’s Plan Will Do
by Thomas Sowell

Now that the Republicans seem to have gotten the Democrats off their higher-taxes kick, the question is whether a minority of the House Republicans will refuse to pass the Boehner legislation. Boehner’s plan could lead to a deal that will spare the country a major economic disruption and spare the Republicans from losing the 2012 elections by being blamed — rightly or wrongly — for the disruptions.

Is the Boehner legislation the best legislation possible? Of course not! You don’t get your heart’s desire when you control only one house of Congress and face a presidential veto.

The most basic fact of life is that we can make our choices only among the alternatives actually available. It is not idealism to ignore the limits of one’s power. Nor is it selling out one’s principles to recognize those limits at a given time and place, and get the best deal possible under those conditions.

That still leaves the option of working toward getting a better deal later, when the odds are more in your favor.

There would not be a United States of America today if George Washington’s army had not retreated and retreated and retreated, in the face of an overwhelmingly more powerful British military force bent on annihilating Washington’s troops.

Later, when the conditions were right for attack, General Washington attacked. But he would have had nothing to attack with if he had wasted his troops in battles that would have wiped them out.

Precisely.

Boehner’s plan is certainly not an ideal plan – not by a long shot – but the House can’t pass anything better on its own.

My fellow Tea Partiers: We have successfully made our statement. Now we must wait until we turn the Senate and kick Obama out on his rear.

We Are Out of Money

What Both Parties Must Understand About the Budget
by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch

What part of “we are out of money” don’t they understand?

Since 1950, total federal revenue from all sources has averaged right around 18 percent of GDP. In some years, government receipts have been bigger — even reaching a bit over 20 percent of GDP once under President Clinton — and many years they’ve been a bit lower. But the variance hasn’t been all that great; it’s pretty much 18 to 19 percent.

If history is any guide and if the federal government wants to balance its books, it’s got to spend no more than around 19 percent of GDP. So what would it take for the federal government to restrain spending to just 19 percent of GDP in 2020?

According to the Congressional Budget Offices’ alternative-scenario projections, it would mean coming up with a budget equal to $3.7 trillion in today’s dollars, rather than an anticipated $5 trillion if spending stays on autopilot. How do you trim $1.3 trillion over a decade or so?

Cut $130 billion out of projected spending (including projected increases) every year for the next decade. It’s the only way to actually keep the federal government solvent until we get around to fully revising outdated entitlement programs that are set to beggar us more than any stock market collapse ever did.

19% of GDP. That’s the magic number. If you want to spend more, your best option is to grow the GDP. And that means getting out of the way and allowing the American economy to work as it should. Stop playing favorites and stop the unnecessary regulations.

The Tragic View Returns?

The Tragic View Returns
by Victor Davis Hanson @ NRO

A classical Greek would suggest that the more one supplies generous pensions, unemployment insurance, food stamps, and direct government subsidies, the more entirely human responses assert themselves: the incentive to be self-reliant disappearing in direct proportion to the spread of self-righteousness about deserving such entitlements as a birthright.

Indeed. I doubt, however, that the “therapeutic” viewpoint will ever disappear. We’re already facing a brutal reality, and there are still people out there screaming, “We deserve free stuff!”

People DID Complain About Spending Under Bush

I hear the following complaint a lot from Obama’s defenders:

“Where were all these Tea Partiers when Bush was increasing the debt? They’re only whining now because they don’t like Obama.”

There are several answers to this. Number one, as many people have already pointed out, while Bush’s spending habits were certainly unwise, Obama’s are worse. Number two, during the Bush presidency, the economy did not suck hose water, so the American public in general was less concerned about government waste.

But perhaps more importantly, people did complain about government spending under Bush. You didn’t hear it from the establishment in DC because the fumes of the Potomac River tend to warp the brains of even the staunchest Republicans, but within the conservative/libertarian movement (i.e., in the think-tanks and non-profit organizations), criticism of government waste has been consistent theme for decades. The Porkbusters movement began in 2006, but we also have Citizens Against Government Waste, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, etc., and all of them were arguing for limited government and responsible spending long before President Obama took office. But again, back then, times were good, so that message didn’t really resonate with the average American voter — and consequently, the Republicans then in Congress didn’t take notice.

In sum: quit trying to evade your messiah’s profligacy, lefties. It makes you look petty.