28 July 2011

Stomping the gas pedal less hard

Reason Magazine | A. Barton Hinkle | Is the Tea Party Crazy or Just Nuts?

At this point it might be useful to clarify precisely what the dispute concerns. The question is not whether the federal government should grow. As Reason's Nick Gillespie pointed out a few days ago, nearly nobody in Washington has actually proposed shrinking the leviathan. To the contrary, the dispute is whether to raise federal spending from the current $3.8 trillion to $4.7 trillion over the next decade (the Paul Ryan plan)—or to $5.7 trillion (the Obama plan).

Bear in mind that those increases would come on top of one of the fastest expansions of federal spending in U.S. history. When President Obama took office, the budget stood at $2.9 trillion. Two. Point. Nine.

Spending has risen 30 percent in the past three years. It is quite a feat to grow federal spending faster than the Bush administration: Under Bush, domestic discretionary spending rose faster than at any time since the Lyndon Johnson administration.

If Bush floored the accelerator, then Obama lit the afterburners. And nobody in Washington (except Sen. Rand Paul and perhaps Sen. Tom Coburn) has suggested applying the brakes. For the most part, the cuts being discussed are reductions in the rate of future growth. What does that mean? This: (a) your rent is $10,000 this year; (b) you thought you were going to spend $15,000 next year; but (c) you've decided to spend only $12,000—therefore, (d) you've 'cut' your housing expenses by $3,000.
This is why people should learn some calculus or physics. If I've been reading the summaries of these plans right, Congress and the White House are debating adopting a negative second or even third derivative, depending on the plan.  That's not "cuts" in any way that means something to me.  (It's better than nothing, but it can't be called a "cut.")

See also: "Military Spending's Uninterrupted Rise"

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