Fifty years ago, defense spending accounted for about half of all government spending. Today, defense spending accounts for less than a quarter of all government spending. (In the graph, by the way, “Non-defense” refers to non-defense discretionary spending, which includes education, transportation and lots of other government programs.)
Medicare didn’t exist 50 years ago; last year, it accounted for more than 10 percent of federal spending.
The Washington Monument syndrome, also known as the Mount Rushmore Syndrome, or the firemen first principle, is a political tactic used in the United States by government agencies when faced with budget cuts. The tactic entails cutting the most visible or appreciated service provided by the government, from popular services such as national parks and libraries to valued public employees such as teachers and firefighters. This is done to gain support for tax increases that the public would otherwise be against. The name derives from the National Park Service’s alleged habit of saying that any cuts would lead to an immediate closure of the wildly popular Washington Monument. Critics compare the tactic to hostage taking or blackmail.
Although the strategy usually intends to highlight the government’s value to voters, it can also be aimed at lawmakers themselves. Faced with budget cuts in the 1970s, Amtrak announced plans to cease train routes in the home districts of several members of Congress.
The term was first used after George Hartzog, the seventh director of the National Park Service, closed popular national parks such as the Washington Monument and Grand Canyon National Park for two days a week in 1969. In response to complaints, Congress fired Hartzog and restored the funding.
Despite President Obama’s recent dinner with Republicans, it is increasingly obvious that Barack Obama has no real intention of compromising with the GOP in order to achieve the so-called “Grand Bargain” that would reduce entitlement spending, increase revenues, and begin balancing the federal budget.
Politico reports on one prominent Republican’s congressman’s encounter with the president.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the third-ranking House Republican, told us about an exchange he had with Obama at Saturday night’s white-tie Gridiron dinner. During a break in the program, McCarthy saw an empty chair next to Obama and decided to seize the chance. Surprised Obama wasn’t working the room, and thinking the president really is a loner, McCarthy walked up to the head table. He found the president was reading his BlackBerry. ...
“I’m waiting for my dinner invitation,” the Republican joshed to Obama, referring to the president’s recent evening out with Republican senators. “I listen to Paul,” Obama replied, according to McCarthy, referring to House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. Then, in what McCarthy took as a reference to a political charm offensive, he recalled Obama saying, “You guys give us too much credit. We’re not doing all that stuff you think we are.” As told by McCarthy, Obama then said that if Republicans are going to get entitlement reform, “You need me.” As McCarthy walked away, the congressman thought: “He’s still a law professor. He’d rather lecture you and put a red mark on your paper than talk to you.”
Rep. McCarthy’s aperçu appears to be reinforced by Obama’s subsequent interview with George Stephanopoulos, in which the President openly stated that he was not interested in balancing the federal budget “just for the sake of balance.”
Obama stressed that what matter to him was how the budget was balanced, not that it should be balanced. What he cares about is sticking to his left-wing ideological guns. Obama clearly intends to do nothing contrary to his class warfare agenda to restore economic confidence and avert fiscal disaster.
Really, though, Barack Obama is much worse than he appeared to Rep. McCarthy. His loyalty to theory obviously crosses the border dividing advocacy from action. And Barack Obama’s character is much more that of the fanatic than the contemplative intellectual. What has going on in Washington during the Obama Administration has not been a panel discussion or a colloquium. The administration has proceeded ruthlessly on every front simply to impose its will and get its way. What is most striking has been the absolute unwillingness of this President to subordinate his ideological agenda to economic reality.
Obama’s intransigence and complete indifference to consequences identify him really as a terrorist, rather than a mere theorist and professor. If Barack Obama is a professor, he is a professor resembling Peru’s Abimael Guzman, the founder of that country’s Shining Path guerilla movement. In the final analysis, President Obama has adopted a desperate modus operandi consisting essentially of holding a loaded gun aimed at the economic well-being of Americans and declaring himself perfectly willing to pull the trigger if his political opponents fail to surrender to his demands for an enormous payoff consisting of drastically increased taxes on businesses and upper income Americans.
We can only hope that Republicans recognize that nothing positive can possibly be gained by negotiating with terrorists.
Yuval Levin puts the oh-so-terrible impact of the automatically-triggered sequester into perspective. It doesn’t shut down the federal government. It does not starve the poor or leave America defenseless. It doesn’t even really reduce federal spending. It merely slightly slows already budgeted spending.
Let’s get a grip. In its first year, fiscal year 2013, which ends September 30, the sequester would involve a total of $85 billion in spending cuts. That’s a reduction of 3% from what federal spending otherwise would have been this year. But even that significantly overstates the effects the sequester would actually have this year. The federal government is so lumbering and huge that it can’t even reduce its own spending that quickly. That’s why “first year” cuts are always so difficult in even the most fiscally conservative budget proposals. The Congressional Budget Office (on page 11 of its latest budget outlook, published earlier this month) estimates that while FY 2013 spending will ultimately be reduced by $85 billion, “discretionary outlays will drop by $35 billion and mandatory spending will be reduced by $9 billion this year as a direct result of those procedures; additional reductions in outlays attributable to the cuts in 2013 funding will occur in later years.” So in this fiscal year, we would actually be looking at a $44 billion spending cut, or less than a 1.5% reduction from what federal spending otherwise would have been. It would mean that federal spending in 2013 will be about $3.553 trillion. In 2012, federal spending was $3.538 trillion. Yes, that means that even with the sequester we will be spending slightly more in 2013 than we did in 2012. In fact, we will be spending more than we did in any year in American history except for 2011 (when we spent $3.598 trillion).
Democrats and their media allies will be blaming Republicans, if the Sequester comes to pass, but Bob Woodward (no Republican) points out the truth.
What is the non-budget wonk to make of this? Who is responsible? What really happened?
The sequester and the debt ceiling, explained: President Obama and lawmakers are facing several important fiscal deadlines. One is to avoid the $1.2 trillion in spending cuts included in sequestration and another is raising the country’s debt ceiling. Here is a look at some of the issues involved in these two fiscal challenges.
The finger-pointing began during the third presidential debate last fall, on Oct. 22, when President Obama blamed Congress. “The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed,” Obama said. “It is something that Congress has proposed.”
The White House chief of staff at the time, Jack Lew, who had been budget director during the negotiations that set up the sequester in 2011, backed up the president two days later.
“There was an insistence on the part of Republicans in Congress for there to be some automatic trigger,” Lew said while campaigning in Florida. It “was very much rooted in the Republican congressional insistence that there be an automatic measure.”
The president and Lew had this wrong. My extensive reporting for my book “The Price of Politics” shows that the automatic spending cuts were initiated by the White House and were the brainchild of Lew and White House congressional relations chief Rob Nabors — probably the foremost experts on budget issues in the senior ranks of the federal government.
Obama personally approved of the plan for Lew and Nabors to propose the sequester to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). They did so at 2:30 p.m. July 27, 2011, according to interviews with two senior White House aides who were directly involved.
Nabors has told others that they checked with the president before going to see Reid. A mandatory sequester was the only action-forcing mechanism they could devise. Nabors has said, “We didn’t actually think it would be that hard to convince them” — Reid and the Republicans — to adopt the sequester. “It really was the only thing we had. There was not a lot of other options left on the table.”
Citing budgetary concerns, the United States announced today that it would discontinue regular Saturday drone strikes on U.S. citizens, beginning in 2014.
In announcing the decision, the White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged that the cutback in drone service was “bound to be controversial.” “In the United States, we’ve always prided ourselves on our ability to target our citizens with drone strikes, Monday through Saturday, regardless of the weather,” he said. “We know that losing Saturday drone service is going to take some getting used to.”
The world’s waterways are of themselves neutral and without a preference for the state that governs them. Different states bring their own order of governing the seas, and the US brings with it liberal economics. It is difficult to imagine serious discussions of international maritime law, or treaties that establish a law of the seas, had the Soviet Union emerged victorious in the Cold War.
America’s allies in the Pacific are currently being pressed more immediately by the Chinese than we are. They see, as Americans tend not to, that the US is in a long-term competition with China, and recognize, as we don’t, that the Chinese desire slowly to push US sea power out of the international waters close to them. The only force standing in the way of such a transition, which would destroy a complex web of alliances for the US in the Pacific, is our current sea power.
Alfred Thayer Mahan offers the intellectual arguments that address what the US stands to lose economically and militarily—and all that China will gain—if there is a profound shift of power in the Western Pacific. Commerce, he believes, plays to the natural advantage of an enterprising people who are largely free to act upon their judgment and enterprising spirit. But commercial advantage and our enterprising spirit relies equally on the ability to keep open the oceanic arteries through which commerce must be able to flow. This equation is set on its head when prosperity becomes an important instrument to justify single-party rule—as in China, where freedoms of commerce are restricted by the state’s pressing requirement, for example, to employ millions; by an understanding of commercial freedom that is wholly separate from political freedom; and by a parallel view of sea power that sees the interruption of commerce as a personal threat to those who rule the state.
Mahan saw correctly that American greatness depends on dominant sea power. He understood the close connection between domestic prosperity and maritime preeminence. The acceptance of his ideas at the beginning of the twentieth century helped immeasurably in encouraging both, the condition of which is the only one in the memory of Americans alive today.
Ezra Klein offers the left’s intellectually bankrupt and futile response. Young Ezra has nothing to offer but emotionally manipulative appeals to sentimentality. The Obama budget must be supported, regardless of consequences or affordability because it spends lots of money on the poor. “The poor” are a species of Brahmanic sacred cattle whose interests trump reality.
It doesn’t matter if you bankrupt the country and strangle economic growth affecting everyone. If you fail to immolate the American economy on the altar of bleeding heart social consciousness, you are just mean!
Ezra is a member of the economic school that wants to raise taxes (and stifle economic activity) now. After all, as unidentified “experts” cited by the Associated Press announced today, no study accepted by the left proves that drilling (and thereby increasing petroleum supply) reduces gas prices.
If you are simply an irrational emotionalist, economics is whatever left-wing studies say it is, and the proper operation of any economy really consists of transfers of wealth from the more affluent to the less affluent members of society.
You’re an average American family, facing tough times. Credit cards are maxed, bills are past due and the family home is about to be foreclosed upon. If it meant avoiding financial disaster, think you could cut 5, 10 or even 20% from the family budget? Of course you could, because you’re not a bunch of self-serving morons. Which brings us to the “Super Committee”. They’re about to fail in cutting a PATHETIC 2.7% (1.2 trillion out of a projected 44 trillion) in federal spending over the next TEN YEARS. Only in DC could such arrogance & foolishness be called “super”.