Porkus Federalus: Will It Ever Be Cut?
Jim Grichar (aka Exx-Gman)
by Jim Grichar
Bush released his much-awaited fiscal year 2005 budget proposal,
with the usual complaints that some "programs" are not
adequately funded while a minority of House members claimed that
there should also be cuts in defense and homeland security. Since
this is a presidential election year, in which no large voting blocs
are left unbribed, cutting federal spending Porkus Federalus is likely to be more difficult than usual.
has proposed cutting various programs in a number of departments
in order to reduce the projected deficit from this year’s budget
(fiscal year 2004 ends this September 30) from $521 billion to an
estimated $237 billion in fiscal year 2009, but the chances of these
cuts being made are very low.
apparently wants to sucker fiscal conservatives into voting for
him in November so his minions have fashioned a budget plan to try
to appeal to conservatives, if only on paper. Bush has deliberately,
and mendaciously, left out a request for the estimated $50 billion
needed to continue the U.S. foray into Iraq and Afghanistan. As
part of his budget announcement, the president’s budget minions
have announced that the costs of the new Medicare prescription drug
benefit program have already risen by $134 billion to $534 billion.
He apparently hopes that Congress will take the heat on reigning
in this nightmare program.
this with Bush’s desire to raise defense spending and make permanent
most of the recent tax cuts (the tax cuts being the only legitimate
part of his proposal) and you have the recipe for a real political
stinkfest, one that is unlikely to yield any significant cuts in
federal outlays this year.
Deck is Stacked Towards More Spending
spending is nearly an impossible task in Washington, made even more
difficult by the way budgets are proposed and enacted. A lot of
the budgetary shenanigans has its genesis in the so-called 1974
budget law, which created a lot of the current mess. The law was
passed by a Democratic Congress in order to prevent Richard Nixon
from "sequestering" funds, that is, from not spending
funds for the purpose Congress appropriated them. An additional
justification for the law is that it would bring fiscal discipline
to Congress, allowing them to view the budget and its impact on
the economy and thereby restraining itself when it came to spending.
fact, the law went way beyond those goals. It also required that
estimates be made (by the Congressional Budget Office, which was
created by the 1974 law) of what it would take to continue government
operations at the current level of "services." This lunatic
requirement enables politicians of all stripes to claim that their
favorite programs are being cut if they are not keeping pace with
inflation and the anticipated expansion of "claimants."
When a program was not getting the full current services budget,
its champion(s) in Congress could get the attention of the national
media and mobilize support from all those claimants who were allegedly
having their budgets cut.
even more important, the 1974 law grouped all executive branch spending
into 13 monster appropriations bills. On the surface, it would seem
easier to have Congress pass only 13 bills instead of passing a
hundred, if not hundreds, of separate appropriations bills. At the
time, proponents of the law claimed that Congress would be better
able to exercise fiscal restraint.
that just is not the case. Instead, by putting all appropriations
into thirteen monster categories, Congress has made it extremely
difficult to cut any program. That is because each of the thirteen
bills contains at least one departmental budget that is generally
not considered a total waste of money or that is considered by many
as being critical to running the government (remember the big stink
when Gingrich and Company closed down some parts of the federal
government in late 1995?). All the rest of the spending bills in
each of the thirteen categories are losers. In this way, those wanting
to preserve useless programs have the leverage to put enough heat
on those supporting the one program to get them to go along with
increases for all.
good example of this is the appropriations bill that deals with
the Department of Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development,
and Independent Agencies. Independent Agencies include (but are
unfortunately not limited to) such goofball operations like the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (payoffs to the Star
Trek and aerospace crowd $16.2 billion), the Environmental
Protection Agency (buying off tree huggers and other earth worshipers-
$7.8 billion), the National Science Foundation (welfare for academics
$5.7 billion), the Corporation for National Service (i.e.,
Americorps and the rest of the alphabet soup of federal "volunteer"
agencies $1 billion), and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
($400 million for subsidizing propaganda that favors bigger government).
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is a sewer for public
money and is best known for subsidizing housing for those unwilling
to work, thus making it more difficult for those working to obtain
housing. The proposed HUD budget (subsidies to landlords) for fiscal
year 2005 is $38.9 billion, which is lower than 2004's $46.2 billion.
Add up just these, and you get a total of about $70 billion, with
many other independent agencies probably bumping up the total to
at least the $7275 billion range. And don’t bet that George
Bush is sincere in wanting to cut HUD’s budget as it is one way
for him to try to bribe Hispanic immigrants into voting for him.
When it comes time to voting on the whole package, Ted Kennedy and
other Congressional spendthrifts will probably stage a media event
depicting "poor people" being thrown out of HUD-subsidized
one big appropriation that protects these dogs is the proposed $67.3
billion budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which includes
medical care and pensions for military veterans injured or made
ill by their service. Whatever you may happen to believe regarding
the legitimacy of the Department of Veterans Affairs, it was a stroke
of evil genius in holding that budget hostage to the other dogs.
It would be a flight of fancy to expect any significant cuts to
take place in the dogs mentioned above, especially in an election
of the thirteen major appropriations bills are similarly structured,
with various constituencies supporting each. You get such proposed
expenditures (that is, actual outlays) as $64.3 billion for the
Department of Education, $59 billion for the Transportation Department,
$31.1 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, $81.8 billion
for the Agriculture Department, $57 billion for the Labor Department,
and a whopping $479.7 billion (I have added in the $50 billion for
Iraq and Afghanistan not included in the official $429.7 billion
in outlays proposed by the Bush administration) for the Defense
at more than $2.4 trillion in spending and how it is spent, a person
of average intelligence could easily find hundreds of billions of
dollars in programs that could be eliminated, including whole departments
and agencies, with no harm to the health and safety of citizens.
That citizen’s proposed cuts would wipe out the deficit within several
years, permit further permanent tax cuts, and free up resources
for productive use in the private sector, probably touching off
a real economic boom and not the on-again, off-again recovery the
U.S. has been experiencing.
the fact that 2004 is an election year will make it virtually impossible
for most members of Congress to find the backbone to cut any federal
spending, regardless of how useless the program and/or wasteful
the expenditure. Washington lives by plunder, and Bush’s latest
budget proposal only perpetuates the buying off of various electoral
constituencies, all to the detriment of the average taxpayer.
political opponents will paint him as a stooge for the rich, cutting
their taxes excessively and proposing cuts in federal programs,
geared to "helping those in need," in order to reduce
deficits. They will demand that he raise taxes to pay for all the
"necessary" expenditures, when in fact the bulk of the
proposed $2.4 trillion budget is pure plunder. Because it is election
year, the Senate will likely delay voting on many spending bills
until near or just after the election, all to paint Bush as an ogre.
his part, Bush cannot be trusted to demand significant cuts in federal
spending. If he can somehow get re-elected by suckering real conservatives
into voting for him, he is just as likely to turn on his conservative
base and support a tax increase in 2005 to pay for all those "necessary"
federal spending programs.
is good news despite the grim picture I have painted, and that is
more of the electorate are getting wise to the plunder that comes
from Washington because of its vast scale. Whether it is disgust
at the exploding welfare state or horror at how the U.S. has become
a modern day version of the warfare state Roman Empire, more citizens
see the federal government for what it is nothing more than an
exercise in brute force by a power mad elite that is destroying
the individual freedoms it is supposed to protect.
greater citizen anger at what is going on can lead to more heat
being put on Congress to exercise
it proper role, namely to defend liberty by cutting spending drastically.
Such an action would have the added benefit of preventing the nation
from going bankrupt.
Grichar (aka Exx-Gman) [send
him mail], formerly an economist with the federal government,
writes to "un-spin" the federal government's attempt to con the
teaches economics part-time at a community college and provides
economic consulting services to the private sector.
© 2004 LewRockwell.com