Thursday, October 20, 2005

BUSINESS AS USUAL. Some laughs from the Heritage Foundation, exploring the pretty pass to which our budget has come in the age of compassionate conservatism. First, a backgrounder:
First, President Reagan inherited a bloated federal government that spent 21.7 percent of GDP, and he reduced that burden to 21.2 percent—even while fighting the Cold War and working with an often-Democratic Congress that regularly sought to increase spending further.
-0.5 percent! Reagan always benefited from being graded on a curve.
By comparison, lawmakers in early 2001 inherited a leaner budget that, as a result of difficult decisions made by previous Congresses, had been pared down to 18.4 percent of GDP, and they promptly responded with across-the-board spending hikes that pushed spending all the way back to 20.2 percent of GDP by 2005.
No mention of the reviled Clinton, natch. Nonetheless, the one-point drop seems kind of sad in general, until we get to the current figures:
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), total U.S. government spending (including state and local government spending) reached 35.9 percent of GDP in 2005, which is more than was spent by the governments of Australia (35.5 percent), Ireland (35.2 percent), and New Zealand (35.1 percent). Granted, the memo specifies spending by central governments, but when measuring the total economic burden of government, there is no reason to ignore other levels of government, which is why virtually no international measures do so.
That's a bit crafty, but you can see what they're getting at: when a state government cuts education spending so that it may announce a lean 'n' mean new budget, you may expect local governments to pick up the slack. That's how we do in these United States, which fuels the reputations of various celebrity tax-cutter politicians who know small-timers will have to take the fall.

In more conventional conservative precincts, we are told that the Republican Congress has finally gotten serious about cutting the Federal Budget. And how will they accomplish this? From Scripps-Howard we learn that Katrina funding will be partly funded by, guess what, student loan spending cuts. And $3.1 billion in emergency heating relief for this coming winter is also on the chopping block, despite an expected surge in gas and oil prices. You can guess the other budgetary targets. Democrats are trying to make hay of this, but they have only press releases, not meaningful votes. Current tax breaks at the high end of the income bracket -- like the 15% tax rates on capital gains -- are not going to be touched. The pretense of fiscal responsibility will be affected by screwing the already-screwed.

Students of history already know that the conventional wisdom will tell us this is all the Democrats' fault. This is indeed (or heh-indeed) a blow to the MSM; why bother to read or watch news when you already know how it's all going to turn out?

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