Sunday, November 03, 2013

Drying the Budgetary Tears

Did you remember to turn your clocks back last night? I thought not.

Now that you've discovered you're an hour early for everything, let's talk about what we'll spend when the shops open.

At the root of the current debate in Washington over our economic future is the question of government spending ... specifically, how much we're spending and what we're spending it on. This is not a trivial question, because the amounts we're talking about are vast beyond the comprehension of Real People, the bills will come due about the time my grandchildren are taxpayers, and the two major political parties have radically different philosophies about what the government should be financing (and, consequently, how much in the way of taxes the government ought to levy to fund it all).

Because I don't like to gripe and complain without being able to offer a constructive alternative*, here are a few of my ideas on what types of government spending ought to be reduced, and which ought to be plussed-up.

Things to Cut:

1. Direct foreign aid payments. Charity begins at home. I'm all for helping out other countries, but only after we've taken care of our problems here at home. If they depend on Uncle Sam's largesse to subsidize their national budgets, they need to get their own houses in order.

2. Subsidies to special interests. Any tax advantage or direct subsidy payment to any industry or other special interest needs to be stopped, particularly credits or subsidies to any industry that shows a profit. If you believe in free enterprise, you also - by definition - believe that businesses should live by the law of the economic jungle.

3. Support to the Arts. I believe that art enriches life. But official government support to the arts is something we ought to be doing only once our other issues have been resolved.

4. Flood insurance for coastal development. Lots of people love to live along the shore in the path of hurricanes, and scientific studies have shown much of that development contributes to the severity of the damage caused by those storms. When the government subsidizes insurance for those who make the conscious decision to build in dangerous places, it's just throwing money away every few years when the claims come in after a major storm. Cut it out now.

5. Use of "tax credits" for any purpose. The standard Congressional (particularly GOP) approach to solving most problems seems to be the application of "tax credits" for the persons or industries whose support is desired. This is stupid. The purpose of taxes is to provide money for the government to function. Each "tax credit" granted to some constituency represents an income shortfall for the government that has to be made up elsewhere ... usually from those who aren't represented by reinforced battalions of highly-priced attorneys**.

6. Defense. Yes, this is heretical ... especially because my own livelihood depends on employment by the defense establishment. But we spend a lot of money on things we don't need*** and dangers that are scary but are out of proportion to the real threat they pose to the nation (such as terrorism). The defense budget is enormous and can stand to be significantly trimmed without sacrificing combat capability.

Things to Plus Up:

1. Education. A democracy can't function without a well-educated population, and yet one of the first things that seems to go on the chopping block when cuts are made is money for schools. You get what you pay for, and if the current state of the American electorate is any indication, we aren't getting much.

2. Basic research and development. Basic scientific research leads to new discoveries that can improve life and health. All research doesn't lead to economically significant discoveries, but no research clearly doesn't lead to any discoveries.

3. Public health. Sick taxpayers don't pay taxes. Investment in public health (health care Real People can afford) will pay for itself in the long run.

4. Public infrastructure. Paved streets, railroads, clean water, GPS satellites****, and environmental protection are crucial to the development of business and commerce. Along with education and public health, infrastructure is probably the most important area on which we should spend public money.

Those are my ideas. What are yours? Do you agree with me or not? I want to know what all of you think. Leave a comment.

Have a good day. Check your clocks. More thoughts tomorrow.


* As, for example, the GOP does with affordable health care.

** That would be, in general, you and I.

*** Particularly those things built in the districts of powerful Congressmen.

**** Not generally considered "public infrastructure," but in spite of their genesis as military tools, they've become crucial to many segments of the civilian economy.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

Tax credits, foreign aid, support for the arts, and certain targeted military items definitely should be eliminated from the budget.

Education funding has traditionally been the province of states. The problem is, with the recession, many states are scaling back on doing things that they had done. It's a problem.

Big Sky Heidi said...

I really support the increased support for public health, education, R & D, and getting the public infrastructure up to date.

Don't spend money on the arts or NPR.

Mike said...

We need public infrastructure fixed before bridges start falling down. Oh wait.... too late.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Hell, even the county-maintained little bridges in AL are not entorely safe.

And, yes, cut back on federal support for the arts. There's so much arbitrariness as to which artists or projects gets funded.