Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Steady as She Goes Towards the Waterfall

Yesterday I was busy all day loading up the data from the president's Budget of the United States Government for fiscal year 2016 into usgovernmentspending.com. It was a little more hectic than usual because I inserted a bug into my routine to project state-and-local finances out to 2020, and it took me all day to figure out what I had done wrong.

Everybody is aghast that the president's FY 2016 spending proposal is 7 percent higher than the FY 2015 spending proposal. But actually, the FY 2016 spending proposal is $100 billion less than the FY 2016 spending proposal in last year's budget. Here are the numbers. As you can see, half the difference comes from "Other Spending."

The big problem is that the president has proposed nothing to deal with the elephant in the room, which is that health care will eat the budget (and Obamacare does nothing to help).

Look, I understand the president's problem. Even if he weren't committed to crashing the health care system so the government could go to "single-payer," whatever that would actually mean in practice, there is no percentage for a center-left politician in proposing a reform (i.e. reduction) in entitlements. Government is force, and governments bid for support by offering free stuff to their supporters, exploiting the culture of the robber band, the dawn raid, the conquering army, and the cringing peasant in all of us. No doubt that's why 62% of Brits say they want more government. The whole point of the Democratic Party is offering free stuff to its voters, and the voters believe in getting the full amount they had in mind. Hence the president's offer of "free" community college.

In the end, of course, the government runs out of other peoples' money, and you get Greece, or Argentina, or Venezuela. You get a devaluation, a seizure of assets, and the game begins again. Don't the people get it? No, they don't. They don't think beyond their world of subordination to a noble patron. The patron will provide, and if he can't it's because of the dark forces conspiring against him.

The only way out is for the people to develop a culture of responsible individualism that instinctively cringes at the thought of free stuff. How many people are there in the world that feel that way? It's hard to tell, but I don't think it's that many.

Plus, the big-government folks always have the people on their side who say "I paid into Social Security, so I got mine coming. And anyway, who would trust the stock market?"

There is a sturdy truth in that sentiment. The government will always have to hand out some sort of Social Security because if it didn't there would be blood in the streets. It would be much easier for the government to raid everyone's retirement account, or rob the corporations that represent the wealth in those retirement accounts.

Or maybe not. We hear this week that gentry liberals, through their elected Dem representatives, pushed back against the president's plan to tax their kids' college savings accounts. It makes sense. If there is one thing sacred, it is the right of the children of gentry liberals to go to selective colleges and acquire the right left credentials.

So maybe there's hope. Figure out how to appeal to the self-interest of gentry liberals and all will be well.

1 comment:

  1. That just about sums up the state of the electorate. Depressing as getting a diagnosis of testicular cancer on income tax day from the doctor your wife is having a gay affair with.