I’ve had it up to here with all the hype and hysteria about what the politicians in Washington are going to do to save our country, and perhaps the world, from doom. The most important thing these politicians need to do is get out of the way, and let entrepreneurs and the private sector do what the private sector does best – create jobs. Unfortunately, it is not in their DNA to do this, and so we need to elect better people to send to Washington who understand and support the private sector.
Another thing that ticks me off is when the politicians try to act like their hands are tied and they are in a straight jacket that limits what they are able to do. They use Washington-speak to describe baseline budgeting automatic triggers of mandated spending, and automatic triggers of raising taxes, and automatic triggers of increasing wages for the federal workforce. This entire process that they created can and should be dismantled. Except for interest on the debt, all of the spending by the federal government is spending that they choose to continue. But for that one exception it is all discretionary spending.
Because of their addiction to spending they find creative ways around the budgeting processes they themselves created so they can spend more. Veronique de Rugy has written recently a working paper, The Never Ending Emergency: Trends in Supplemental Spending. Here is her conclusions:
Supplemental bills are funding somewhat predictable hurricane and war costs. Nonemergency spending is being channeled through supplemental spending. These techniques are enabling Congress to avoid complying with budget limits and have increased spending significantly. A close look at the data and trends in supplemental spending reveals how these budgetcap exempt bills have enabled lawmakers to explode overall spending especially since FY 2002. The data shows that while supplemental appropriations remained at less than 1 percent of discretionary appropriations in 1990, they began to rise after 1998, reaching an all-time high of 16.2 percent in FY 2005. Since then, supplemental appropriations have continued to make up a significant amount of overall discretionary spending. There seems to be no end in sight to the abuse of a process that was meant as a safety valve, not as a way to avoid budget caps and fiscal responsibility. Supplemental bills have become the tool of choice for Congress and the administration to avoid caps set by annual budget resolutions and to increase spending across the board. In addition, because these funds are not subject to the same kind of budget discipline as other appropriations and because of a serious lack of congressional oversight, they have become more than just a loophole, they have become a budget gimmick that enables the president and Congress to spend dramatically more than they would otherwise be allowed to spend. As it is currently practiced, supplemental spending is a shell game, with the president as the operator, Congress as the shills, and the taxpayers as the marks. Like all shell games, the game is rigged in favor of the operators and the shills: the marks will always lose
When these folks in Washington call it “emergency spending” for the 2010 Census, (mandated by the Constitution for the past 200 years), then you doubt these people can really cut, cap, and balance the federal budget. We have only ourselves to blame for voting to send folks like this back to Washington every election.
We also need to stop looking to Washington as the place where all the great and wonderful things are going to come from. The folks we elect to send to Washington have some things that they should do, but like my title says – these politicians are NOT all that.
When historians look back on the last 20 years of the 19th century for wonderful events that rocked the world, they will not be writing about the politicians. They’ll write about Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and Charles M. Schwab. These are the people who really made the world a better place. The musician who made a lasting impression on culture was Tchaikovsky.
Over a hundred years from now they still won’t be writing about politicians. They will write about the scraggly looking fellows pictured below. They will write about an American rock band who for some reason made a lasting impression on people in the Soviet Union. Yes, we citizens need to do a better job of electing the folks we send to Washington. We also need to remind ourselves that not all of our hopes, dreams, and happiness depends on what they do in Washington. They are NOT all that.