Each passing day reveals John Boehner's "largest spending cuts in history" to be a gigantic fraud. The Wall Street Journal reports:
After separating out the accounting gimmicks and one-year savings, the actual cuts look to be closer to $20 billion than to the $38 billion that both sides advertised... The whopper is declaring $6.2 billion in savings by not spending money left from the 2010 Census. Congress also cuts $4.9 billion from the Justice Department's Crime Victims Fund, but much of that money was tucked away in a reserve fund that wouldn't have been spent this year in any event.
So we didn't even get the less-than-1% cuts we thought we did. And these were the cuts that were met with angry cries of "Feed the rich, starve the poor, till there is no poor no more"?
The left loves to claim that we could always just tax the rich and spend their earnings on whatever we like. In reality, there aren't nearly enough rich people for that to work. Obama's speech yesterday argued that higher taxes are the way to go - though, typically, he told the truth in the form of a lie:
The fourth step in our approach is to reduce spending in the tax code.
So higher taxes are a reduction in government spending? Only if you view all the money as belonging to the government in the first place.
Obama is far from alone in his desire to extract more dollars from the hides of those who rightfully earned them, and not just on the left. Everyone from the Economist to the liberal frothers on HuffPo agrees - though of course HuffPo writers need not worry about paying taxes since they don't receive pay to be taxed on.
What are we missing here? There's an assumption which anchors this debate, and that is that there are "necessary services" which the government must provide. Candidate Obama said as much, bemoaning the fact that the Constitution doesn't guarantee them:
...Generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties: [It] says what the states can't do to you, says what the federal government can't do to you, but it doesn't say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf. [emphasis added]
Indeed it doesn't, but it doesn't need to - our politicians on both sides of the aisle appear to agree on the overall list. It is assumed to be the proper duty of government to prevent poverty; to ensure a minimum of health care; to provide a degree of education for all; to tell you what you can and can't do with your own property; and on and on through the endless list of government agencies, departments, and bureaus.
In his speech, Obama repeated the tired mantras of leftist demagoguery while describing Paul Ryan's budget:
These aren’t the kind of cuts you make when you’re trying to get rid of some waste or find extra savings in the budget. These aren’t the kind of cuts that Republicans and Democrats on the Fiscal Commission proposed. These are the kind of cuts that tell us we can’t afford the America we believe in...
The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America.
We've heard arguments about government waste and duplication, and the need to reduce them. No doubt we do, but that's not nearly enough.
Let's assume for a moment that it's proper for government to guarantee a minimum level of education to all citizens; our Founders mostly didn't, but they did agree that a literate populace was essential for a democracy. It doesn't follow that government must actually provide the education.
Yet Democrats fight tooth and nail against school vouchers, which provide vastly superior education at a fraction of the cost. Why? The only possible conclusion is that they don't give two hoots about the education itself, merely about the power and patronage the money gives them and their thuggish union-boss donors.
Again, regulation of hazardous private activities is not automatically improper; nobody wants another Triangle Shirtwaist fire. There are non-government methods of accomplishing the same thing, like requiring insurance coverage and trusting the insurance companies to require safe practices of their customers.
We have long since passed the point where more regulation improved the economy. Recent studies indicate the dreadful damage done by our current red-tape-infested system:
Even a small 5 percent reduction in the regulatory budget (about $2.8 billion) would result in about $75 billion in expanded private-sector GDP each year, with an increase in employment by 1.2 million jobs annually. On average, eliminating the job of a single regulator grows the American economy by $6.2 million and nearly 100 private sector jobs annually. Conversely, each million dollar increase in the regulatory budget costs the economy 420 private sector jobs. [emphasis added]
Want to create new jobs and cut spending? Sack some regulators! Unfortunately, John Boehner's much-vaunted cuts left the regulatory agencies almost completely alone.
Ronald Reagan proved that it's possible to both lower tax rates and increase tax revenues. Given how addicted the Democrats are to spending your money, you'd think they'd be more willing to lower taxes; that way they'd get more actual cash to spend.
But they're not; they'd rather you have less money and they have less tax revenue, as long as they control a higher percentage of what money there is. Put another way: they'd rather reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
It's pretty clear that our current Republican leadership knows that our monster deficits are spending us into the poorhouse; they do want to trim things up a bit and right the ship somewhat. That's good, as far as it goes - but that isn't very far.
If we are ever to have a fully-growing economy, "conservative" politicians cannot merely aspire to run the welfare state more efficiently than the Democrats. They must dismantle it, carefully re-examining each and every program in light of the Constitution and cancelling those that don't line up.
Otherwise, the century-old ratchet of bigger government, higher taxes, and less freedom, will continue unimpeded through good times and bad - with increasingly more of the latter and fewer of the former. At some point, however, the whole house of cards will come crashing down, at which point we will have no economy at all.
And when that black day arrives, without a doubt Obama will say, as he did once again in yesterday's speech, "It's all George Bush's fault!"