Day by Day

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Perfect As The Enemy Of The Good

Republicans "Spending like drunken sailors". The horrors of Pork in the Federal Budget. "Record budget deficits." Failed Social Security Reform. Conservatives pissed off by an "ineffective Republican majority". All hyperbole, emotionalism, and misunderstanding. This is not to say that Social Security reform is not important. It is the number one issue concerning the growth of federal spending. Nor is it to say that congress could not reduce spending. They can. It is to say that the way in which these issues are being discussed is counter productive and invevitably self defeating.

What is "pork"? It's the term for items in the federal budget that were put there by elected representatives in an effort to bring home the bacon (hence the name) in the form of tax revenue collected by the federal government. The voters of the locality that elected that representative will decid whether they are happy or unhappy with the bacon brought home. If one wishes to nationalize the issue, one should push for responsible reform of the process by which such spending items find their way into the budget. The federal government has a legitimate interest in maintaining an efficient and functional infrastructure in the states for purposes of transportation, military presence, economic prosperity, and other matters relating to standardization, efficiency, prosperity, and security. It is up to the representatives of each state to address the concerns of their constituents and square them with the objective interests of the federal government. So while the process itself is legitimate, abuse can occur in it's practical application. It should be our goal to specifically and comprehensively define what constitutes abuse and advocate those reforms. Instead we invest ourselves in scare politics. According to Citizens Against Government Waste's "Congressional Pig Book":
The 2005 Pig Book identified a record 13,997 projects in the 13 appropriations bills that constitute the discretionary portion of the federal budget for fiscal 2005, costing taxpayers $27.3 billion.

And conservative pundits of all stripes shout - "TWENTY SEVEN BILLION DOLLARS!!!" That number is often included in rants about how "Republicans spend like drunken sailors". What is never mentioned is what a miniscule portion of our $2.4 TRILLION federal budget or our $12.7 TRILLION GDP that amount actually constitutes. As a percentage, the CAGW-CPB's $27.3 BILLION is 1.3% of the federal Budget for 2005, and .2% of our GDP for the same time period. A literal mountain made out of mole hill.

The same tactic is used to describe recent budget deficits as "records". If that were the measure, the budget deficit for almost every year of the past several decades has been a "record". What matters is what percentage of our GDP the national debt and budget deficits comprise. Look at our recent budget deficits and national debt in it's proper historic context:

Well, let’s take a look at the Reagan legacy on federal spending and deficits. In 1980, the last year of Jimmy Carter’s presidency, government outlays were running at 21.7% of GDP and the budget deficit was 2.7% of GDP. (The economy was also a basket case, which is when you would expect budget deficits to be at their worse.) In 1988, Reagan’s last year in office, outlays as a percent of GDP were running at 21.3% with a deficit of 3.1% of GDP. The budget deficit over Reagan’s eight years averaged 4.2% and ran as high as 6.0% in 1983.

Bush entered office with an economy that was booming: in 2000 government outlays ran at 18.4% of GDP with a budget surplus of 2.4%. But the stock market implosion, 9/11 and the war quickly changed the budget dynamics and the surplus switched to a deficit of 3.5% in 2003 and 3.6% in 2004. In 2005, the budget deficit came in at 2.6%, with government outlays running at 20.1% of GDP.

Luckily, Bush was successful in implementing the Jobs and Growth package of 2003 which accomplished it's goals, exceededing the expectations of it's architects and defying it's ignorant critics. Unemployment - low. Stock Market value - Up. Housing value - Up. Business Investment - Up. Dividend payments - Doubled. Most importantly - GDP - UP! And to those imbiciles who asked "how will Bush pay for his tax cuts" - They pay for themvelves! - Tax Revenue UP! Which means - Deficits - DOWN!

What about spending? From the article above at Real Clear Politics:

Conservatives may harp on President Bush for increasing government outlays from 18½% to 20%, but the increase is almost exclusively spending on defense, homeland security and the war - all of which is a response to 9/11. The growth in non-security discretionary spending has been cut every year of the Bush presidency.

These are but of a few of the accomplishments that the GOP congress and the President have willed into existence that go uncelebrated. It's like I tell people who harp on federal spending - You must look at the entire picture in order to fully understand what you have to lose. Our elected Republicans have enacted legislation that protects gun manufacturers from lawsuits by people who blame THEM for crimes involving guns. If you think that isn't currently an unspoken target of the power-mad DNC, you're out of your gord. And this medium I'm using to communicate with you now - they HATE it. This is us bypassing the DNC infested MSM. They'll set to work crafting legislation to protect you from reading this type of stuff as soon as they get that power they've been lusting after. Humorously, you hear Democrats harp on the budget deficits and federal spending. They aren't going to spend less. In fact, they propose MORE spending with their next breath. They aren't going to worry about the deficit, they have votes to purchase with "the government's money" and dependency to enshrine. Social Security reform did not fail for lack of trying. It failed because of an obstructionist minority:
March 10, 2005 The Washington Post newspaper has surveyed the Senate's 44 Dems and Jim Jeffords, and they've determined that 42 to 44 rabidly oppose private accounts.

They need 41 to filibuster.

The answer to your frustration with the status of the conservative agenda is 2 fold - 1) Advocate advocate advocate. You have the facts on your side. Push them! Talk loud and talk often. We don't have the DMSM on our side. In fact they work against us. We choose the hard way because it's also the right way, so our positions require more than appeals to the lowest parts of human nature. Everyone wants something for nothing. Understanding why nothing is free tasks the intellect. Fight! 2) If you live in Lincoln Chaffee's district and you are frustrated with what you percieve as a stalled conservative agenda, BOOT THAT MOTHER OUT! Get a real Republican in there. You have nothing to lose. If you live in Rick Santorum's district, consider the opposition. Your agenda sure won't get anywhere by allowing them to win.

Vote Smart and Fight Hard. And watch out for rhetorical pit falls like the ones highlighted here in. Your goals are good and there are a lot of good people working to advance them on your behalf. They aren't perfect. Not one of them. But Democrats don't hold their representatives to such high standards, or any at all it seems. At least none they're willing to talk about publicly.

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