"What Federal Spending Are We Better Off Without?" Nick Gillespie in NY Times

I participated in a debate at The New York Times today. The basic question is "What Federal Spending Are We Better Off Without?" and the main page is here.

Here's a snippet from my contribution:

Much of what the feds spend money on is either unnecessary or ineffective … or both. The sequestration and the shutdown force voters and politicians to engage in serious and hopefully consequential cost-benefit analyses....

Then there’s Defense, which is one of the single-biggest items in the federal budget. The U.S. accounts for 40 percent of global expenditures on military might and, in real dollars, our defense spending rose nearly 80 percent between 2001 and 2012. As the shutdown entered its second week, The Dayton Daily News reported that the Pentagon is sending half a billion dollars’ worth of “nearly new” cargo planes to a storage facility in Arizona, where they will join $35 billion worth of other unnecessary aircraft and vehicles.

When leaders like Representative Nancy Pelosi claim “there’s no more cuts to make,” I have to wonder whether they are tripping on powerful hallucinogens – whose availability undercuts another unnecessary, ineffective and costly federal program: the war on drugs.

Read the whole thing here.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Am I saying the federal government never wastes money? Of course not. I’m saying we wouldn’t know that from either sequestration or shutdown. Did Congress set up any evaluations to gauge their impacts? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

    If we wanted to go after waste, we didn’t need these “experiments.” We already know of pet projects that waste small change and regressive tax breaks that waste billions of dollars and exacerbate inequality.

    The shutdown is ruining our march toward social justice! Or something like that. (This was the first debater listed, former economist to Biden.)

  • Brandon||

    Any money not taxed is spending. To...certain people.

  • Paul.||

    Or a cut.

  • Calvin Coolidge||

    "This is costing us billions in foregone revenue!"

  • Brian D||

    regressive tax breaks that waste billions of dollars...

    If the government isn't spending your money, you're probably wasting it!

  • Bill||

    That was going to be my response. Something along the lines of: "but what about the little guy" (or the children, the old people, the poor, our brave soldiers, etc.)

    Nothing can ever be cut, ever.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I agree that military spending ought to be cut, but its weird that you didn't mention what percentage of the federal budget military spending comprises.

  • DJF||

    Around 20% depending on how you count things

    However the first thing that needs cutting in defense is not money but commitments. As long as we are committed to defending half the countries of the world then it could be argued that we are not spending enough. Cut commitments to defend Europe, Asia and other places and cutting defense spending is much easier.

  • Jon Lester||

    It's almost as if contractors operating at foreign bases are more important than entrepreneurs here at home, or something...

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    We already see that we can do without the National Parks Service. They just get in the way of homesteading.

  • playa manhattan||

    They're not doing themselves any favors right now. To me, "closed" means there is nobody cleaning the shitters in Yosemite. For the NPS, "closed" means armed agents at reinforced barricades...

  • ||

    Yeah, and I hope they continue to do this idiocy. It's amazing how many people it is pissing off, because it's a blatant "fuck you" even to the normally unobservant.

  • Jon Lester||

    Nothing like bringing in extra manpower to forcibly repel 90-year-old men from the WWII memorial to make a point about the shutdown.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    To me, "closed" means there is nobody cleaning the shitters in Yosemite.

    Odd, in the DC area "open" means nobody is cleaning the shitters either.

  • Paul.||

    Boom, are you here all week?

    Internet one-liner win.

  • Swiss Servator, Kneel to Zug!||

    +1

  • Stormy Dragon||

    As the shutdown entered its second week, The Dayton Daily News reported that the Pentagon is sending half a billion dollars’ worth of “nearly new” cargo planes to a storage facility in Arizona, where they will join $35 billion worth of other unnecessary aircraft and vehicles.

    A program the Air Force has repeatedly tried to kill for the last four years, but which House Republicans keep requiring them to keep funding. But of course Republican pork is Nancy Pelosi's fault.

  • ||

    Nick, you leave Nancy Pelosi alone! JUST LEAVE HER ALONE!!!

    I had no idea you were Chris Crocker.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    I'm just annoyed by Gillespie's increasingly lazy reporting. It takes what, 30 seconds to google "C-27J" and look up it's history?

  • ||

    Uh, he's attacking all the politicians, but he used a quote from one to exemplify all of their profligate attitudes. Why do you get butthurt when the quoted politician happens to be TEAM BLUE? After all, it's an incredibly retarded statement from her and deserving of being quoted as an example of politician stupidity and wastefulness.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    No doubt, but why not pick an example like the CA high speed train boondoggle that she's actually responsible for?

  • Brandon||

    Because she is the one who said "There's no more cuts to make." Pointing out specific, easily identifiable and non-controversial cuts that can be made makes sense as a response whether those cuts are to her sacred cows or someone else's. Unfortunately, cutting the HSR boondoggle is more controversial.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Yeah, as if we don't already have Bo "blue tulpa, aka liber-minge" Equine to die on Pelosi hill. Another nitpicking thread filler is 2 too many.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I have never supported Pelosi on this site (or in my life, for that matter). Can you show any evidence otherwise?

    Several posters have surely expressed displeasure with the way I have the seeming temerity to actually criticize the GOP when they seem to fall short of libertarian ideals. Why that upsets so many posters here is confusing, at best.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    You don't actually criticize the GOP. You criticize us, sans evidence, for failing to meet your own private Equality Test. Do you think this perception of you is in no way your own damn fault?

  • General Butt Naked||

    Yeah, well that's just your opinion man.

    I don't even think you're, like, a real lawyer.

  • The Bearded Hobbit||

    I don't even think you're, like, a real lawyer.

    Wait, you think that he's a lawyer because of the "Esq" bit?

    The term "Esquire" is derived from "Squire" meaning a landowner. Hell, I'm a "Squire". How much land do you own, Bo?

    The fact that lawyers have been trying to fluff themselves by calling themselves "Esquire" should be treated with the full derision (i.e., laughter) that it deserves.

    ... Hobbit

  • Swiss Servator, Kneel to Zug!||

    It is a snotty affectations I have never adopted - I only use it in correspondence in an ironic manner, when writing other counsel.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Is it that he is 'butthurt when the quoted politician happens to be TEAM BLUE' or that he wants to make sure that TEAM RED does not continue to get the kid gloves treatment that so many posters here give it (mind you I am not ascribing that to you, from what I have seen of your posts you hate everyone fairly equally).

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Where do you think the name Team Red came from? Do you think that's a compliment? Your general and vague perceptions about some members on this board is not a valid reason to pick and pick all day long. Get a new schtick, dude.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    What in the world are you talking about? I rarely even intimate that someone may not be a 'real libertarian,' as that is not my 'schtick.'

    I have had several running discussions where several posters that disagreed with me about one thing really: the current GOP shutdown strategy. This disagreement has brought an enormous amount of personal attacks and charges that I must support 'Team Blue.' As if support for GOP tactics is suddenly part of the NAP. In response, while I have previously wondered why criticism of the GOP engenders so much upset on a libertarian site, I have for the most part refrained from accusing anyone of being a 'secret GOP shill.'

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    Your "schtick" is EXACTLY the same as Tulpa's. You come here to argue. You don't care what about. You find any little thing, you happen to disagree with in someone else's post, regardless of its actual relevance to the topic at hand, and you nitpick it to death. The only difference between you and Tulpa is that he leans right and you left.

    It grows tiresome. From both of you.

  • Swiss Servator, Kneel to Zug!||

    Seconded, thirded, and more.

  • ||

    The thing that's hilarious is the people that a year ago were bitching about how nick and reason weren't being fair to Romney and the GOP, are now saying the same thing about the dems during shutdowncolypse.

  • Warty||

    Who is worse, Tulpa, this idiot, or Bo Cara aka Blupa? ANSWER: YES.

  • Swiss Servator, Kneel to Zug!||

    Aye.

  • fish||

    But of course Republican pork is Nancy Pelosi's fault.

    Well maybe "Ol Eyelids" wasn't the prime mover in this one but noted conservative republican Sherrod Brown certainly is in for opprobrium in the instance.

  • DJF||

    The Airforce wants to kill it mostly because the Army wanted the plane. The Army wanted a replacement for the C-23. The Airforce demanded that it become a joint aircraft under the Airforce and when they got control they started to shut it down.

    This is a Army vs Airforce problem

  • Brandon||

    If there is such a thing as an Army vs Airforce problem, then both of their budgets could stand to be chopped.

  • John C. Randolph||

    They should both be subordinate to the Coast Guard.

    -jcr

  • JD the elder||

    The Air Force is clearly, blatantly unconstitutional! There is a provision in the Constitution for an Army, and a Navy, but nothing for a force of flying machines!

    Actually, someone did once give me a pretty good argument for why the Air Force was constitutionally OK; I wish I could remember the details, but all I remember is that I was impressed that somebody made that good an argument in response to what was basically a joke.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    The Constitution permits Congress to raise Armies. There's no reason to think an Air Army can't be one of those.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    From a constitutional standpoint, is the Air Force and Air Army or an Air Navy?

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    My guess is the founders allowed for a standing navy and not a standing army because in case of war you wouldn't have time to build ships and train people to use them. Back then the army was nothing more than pick up your rifle and shoot at the people you are told to with little training required. So I'd have to say the AF is an air navy.

    Either way, I agree with JD. The Constitution should have been amended to allow it, as it should have been amended to allow for a standing army.

  • Cascadian Ephor Xenocles||

    It's also very hard to use a traditional navy to oppress the people.

  • Bobarian||

    I believe the Navy does a bang-up job of oppressing sailors.

  • Cascadian Ephor Xenocles||

    It's okay, sailors aren't people.

  • alittlesense||

    There's a Village People joke in here somwhere........

  • Restoras||

    I'd also suggest the Founders allowed for a standing navy to protect merchantile interests.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Back then the army was nothing more than pick up your rifle and shoot at the people you are told to with little training required.

    Wrong.

    It wasn't a bunch of militia that defeated the British, but a formally trained army (comprising of many people who were militia) that wasn't able to adequately fight for years after the revolution began. Before that the army simply did just enough to not lose immediately. It certainly didn't win much.

  • Calvin Coolidge||

    "Back then the army was nothing more than pick up your rifle and shoot at the people you are told to with little training required."

    An aside, but this isn't correct. Back then, a professional army required years of training in march formations, manual of arms, etc. Look at how many years it took Washington to be able to field a force that could face up to the British on the battlefield.

    Professional armies were long-standing forces and generals were incrediby wary of going to battle and losing men that had taken a decade or more to train to the necessary level of proficieny to fire off three shots per minute from a muzzle-loading musket under battlefield conditions.

  • Mickey Rat||

    From a historical standpoint, it is an Air Army (what became the Air Force was the Army Air Corps). The Navy has its own Air Navy, and its own Army, which in turn has its own Air Army.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    The air force is kind of like an air navy, but also like a desk navy too.

  • Swiss Servator, Kneel to Zug!||

    "but also like a desk navy too"

    *applause*

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    No. Don't make them police with asset seizure powers.

  • Generic Stranger||

    We really should roll those two back up into the same service again. It seems to me that having them separate causes more problems than it solves.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    I think you could save a shitload of duplication, both in admin and ops, if there was a single service.

  • Redmanfms||

    You think that, but your reasoning falls apart under pretty basic examination.

    I've heard this argument from former Air Force pretty frequently. It's understandable considering USAF began as a component of another force, and not very long ago, but there is a huge difference in mission and personnel and logistical requirements between the Army and the Navy.

    I suppose the Air Force could be rolled back into the Army, the Marine Corps either eliminated entirely or administered by the Army, and the Coast Guard rolled into the Navy, but having administrative and operations being run by a common command is pretty stupid given how fundamentally different the missions are.

    As I posted in another thread responding to you, there is already enough trouble with people from different warfare disciplines not knowing WTF they are doing that it doesn't need to be complicated by having some idiot from a ground force background end up in charge of a marine or amphibious unit.

    Military outlays can be cut and certain services could very well be eliminated but the creation of an American People's Liberation Army/Navy just doesn't make much sense.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    And, as before, you are completely incorrect.

    Now, we train separately and fight jointly. That's about the dumbest setup I can think of.

    ...there is already enough trouble with people from different warfare disciplines not knowing WTF they are doing that it doesn't need to be complicated by having some idiot from a ground force background end up in charge of a marine or amphibious unit.

    Thank you for making my argument for me. One force, bringing the most effective assets to bear, without the dick measuring of interservice rivalries.

  • Redmanfms||

    And, as before, you are completely incorrect.

    Oh, so you think, as a former Air Force officer, that you have the knowledge to manage a ship?

    Really?

    Now, we train separately and fight jointly. That's about the dumbest setup I can think of.

    The Navy and the Army rarely fight jointly (except when providing CAS). They have fundamentally different missions.

    Thank you for making my argument for me. One force, bringing the most effective assets to bear, without the dick measuring of interservice rivalries.

    How? It makes you argument out to be the farce that it is.

    Army personnel and Navy personnel are NOT interchangeable.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    Oh, so you think, as a former Air Force officer, that you have the knowledge to manage a ship?

    Never said that, to suggest such is disingenuous.

    The Navy and the Army rarely fight jointly (except when providing CAS). They have fundamentally different missions.

    When you go to war, you have a set of objectives. You accomplish those objectives by employing assets. The decision of which asset you employ should be based upon which will most efficiently achieve the objective. Today it's based upon services wanting the glory for their Team.

    You would still have air, ground and naval specialties, but they are a part of one force where the commanders are aware of the innate capabilities and weaknesses of each. And after a time, the overlaps in capabilities would be eliminated, saving money and resources.

    Army personnel and Navy personnel are NOT interchangeable.

    No one EVER said they were. But they can both work within the same organization, providing the correct mix of assets based upon a given situation.

    In a joint force, assets would train together on a regular basis, allowing a cross-flow of knowledge concerning each unit's capabilities. That breeds leaders who will be able to determine which assets to employ in a given situation to complete the objectives. As it is, leaders have no fucking clue what the capabilities of the other services are which leads to the EXACT scenario you cite.

  • Redmanfms||

    In a joint force, assets would train together on a regular basis, allowing a cross-flow of knowledge concerning each unit's capabilities. That breeds leaders who will be able to determine which assets to employ in a given situation to complete the objectives.

    You're lost dude.

    Why would the Army train on a ship? It's a colossal waste of training assets to "cross-train" personnel in fields of expertise that are so completely different. To train jointly to an extent that would permit any meaningful exchange of knowledge would mean that training to expertise would suffer; that you cannot see that speaks volumes of your managerial skill.

    As it is, leaders have no fucking clue what the capabilities of the other services are which leads to the EXACT scenario you cite.

    That's not what leads to that example. What leads to that example are myopic know-nothing middle managers who think "a line officer is a line officer" and plug an aviation officer into a position of leadership over a submarine group.

    Basically, it's what results from the implementation of your ridiculous ideas.

  • Redmanfms||

    I'm repeating TIT's post:

    Ah, got it. I disagree with purple force suggestions; there are still too many functions of Army and Navy that are entirely independent of one another, and which require institutionalized specialization, to successfully integrate
  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    there is a huge difference in mission and personnel and logistical requirements between the Army and the Navy.

    There are also significant differences between Navy and Marines, but keeping those forces integrated makes sense.

    I'm not for a "purple force" (keeping Army/Navy separate is well worth the trouble), but the original separation of Army and Air Force was the result of doctrine (resulting from end of WWII) indicating that the USAF had an autonomous space in combat comparable to that of the Navy. Today that's simply not true, and that's why many former USAF (myself included) have moved towards sympathy in merging Army and USAF.

  • Redmanfms||

    There are also significant differences between Navy and Marines, but keeping those forces integrated makes sense.

    They aren't really integrated. The Navy merely provides transport medical support. The Marines could be eliminated by rolling them into the Army.

    Today that's simply not true, and that's why many former USAF (myself included) have moved towards sympathy in merging Army and USAF.

    And it's understandable. Which is exactly what I proposed.

    Francisco seems to think we need an American PLAN for some reason, which is what I'm arguing against. Force consolidation is possible, but there should still be a separate Army and Navy.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Ah, got it. I disagree with purple force suggestions; there are still too many functions of Army and Navy that are entirely independent of one another, and which require institutionalized specialization, to successfully integrate IMO.

  • Redmanfms||

    Ah, got it. I disagree with purple force suggestions; there are still too many functions of Army and Navy that are entirely independent of one another, and which require institutionalized specialization, to successfully integrate IMO.

    I concur.

  • Swiss Servator, Kneel to Zug!||

    USAAF, return!

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Honestly, Air Force leadership has been so hostile to the CAS mission for so long that integrating them with the Army would be counter-productive at this point.

    The biggest issue with all the services is too much fucking brass at the top and not enough enlisted troops to execute the mission properly. The outgoing ACC commander said earlier this year that HAF's been pounding the "do more with less" drum for years, and that they'd eventually have to accept that the new mindset would need to be, "Do what you can with what you have."

  • Generic Stranger||

    The marines don't seem to have trouble keeping their air jocks in line. I think if the Army reabsorbed the airforce that kind of BS would evaporate, along with the jobs of a great number of those "leaders".

  • alittlesense||

    Could we train jointly and fight separately?

  • ||

    Well, we cut aid to Egypt. Victory!

  • Rich||

  • Rich||

    Representative Nancy Pelosi claim “there’s no more cuts to make,”

    Botox, Baby!

  • eyeroller||

    I think we should commend Nancy for being honest: she doesn't want to cut anything.

    Republicans, on the other hand, constantly lie about that.

  • Brandon||

    NBC News contributor decides that fishing boats couldn't possibly operate without government approval, blames shutdown for destroying the crabbing industry. Seriously.

    http://www.nbcnews.com/busines.....8C11354763

  • General Butt Naked||

    It scares me to think that there are actually some people out there reading this shit and taking it seriously. How many "government can only solve the problems government causes" stories can the authoritarian media push during this shutdown?

    Fuck. Goddammit. Jesus.

  • Brandon||

    The comments are encouraging. They are losing this battle.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

  • General Butt Naked||

    Nope.

    I have very limited coding experience doing computational chemistry, but no, not an engineer.

    Got a BS in chem...

    Totally useless, as I've recently found out.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    Couldn't remember your background. Oh well, worth a shot.

  • SIV||

    Refineries ain't hiring?

  • GILMORE||

    psst. two words. Blue. Meth.

  • Sevo||

    Also causes dehydration:
    "Ark. reporter survives days lost in Texas park"
    "The partial federal government shutdown had forced Frye and her husband out of their original destination, Big Bend National Park, on Tuesday."
    So they decided to almost die in an unfamiliar park! See how that works?
    http://www.sfgate.com/news/tex.....877197.php

  • pogi||

    Morons.

  • Bob Straub||

    Maybe the boats should put to sea sans benefit of licenses. With luck, the people who would have inspected and fined them will be on furlough.

  • PapayaSF||

    My current favorite: the feds spend billions every year on farm subsidies, most of which go to agribusiness and rich "farmers" who live in cities. The point of farm subsidies, following insane FDR-era economic thinking, is to make food more expensive. Then we spend billions more on food stamps etc., because some people can't afford to buy food. Brilliant!

  • Stormy Dragon||

    My favorite area for things to cut is when you have pairs of federal programs that are just cancelling each other out, like the fact we have federally funded anti-smoking programs while at the same time we have federal subsidies for tobacco farmers.

  • SIV||

    They don't subsidize tobacco anymore.

  • Sevo||

    Must be a mistake.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Yes we do, they brought them back:

    http://farm.ewg.org/progdetail.....de=tobacco

  • juris imprudent||

    Re: alt text - it isn't WHAT she is holding, it is where.

  • Tony||

    Without our massive defense budget we can no longer claim to be a superpower, since we are middling to below-average on pretty much every social metric, and god knows what our economy would do without propping up the MIC. Thank you Ronald Reagan for putting these priorities in order for us. It may only take a couple more decades to reorient them.

  • Swiss Servator, Kneel to Zug!||

    Hmmm, a variation on BOOOOOSH.

    Too bad there have not been any Donkey Presidents and Congresses since 1988 to set us right, eh Tony?

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Not to mention every Donk President since Wilson.

  • Tony||

    Could you try again, this time in English?

  • Winston||

    So doesn't the shutdown pretty much prove that the is the libertarian era is not upon us? Matt Welch's own articles contradict his own book!

  • kingice||

    I worked on a federal government project that, before any work had actually been done. Half of the money budgeted had already been spent on administative costs....I was dumbfounded. And the bureaucrat I was contracting to was very matter of fact about it.I will never do that again....and I needed a shower after hearing that. No cuts? Nancy maybe you need to lay off the drugs.Oh yea, thats a shitty facelift...you look like a meerkat.

  • Calvin Coolidge||

    NBC News headline this morning: "Shutdown Worsens Blizzard!"

    You can see this one of two ways. You can be outraged that NBC News has been a shill for Obama throughout the shutdown, with multiple articles every day telling us about all the people whose lives are being ruined. Or, you can laugh at how far they have to reach to come up with the headlines. "Dozens inconvenienced!"

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Is Pelosi attempting to show an actual expression in that picture or is that merely the result of a Botox malfunction?

  • Eric Bana||

    I just saw the comments on the NYT page. I wasn't prepared for that--I've gotten so used to comments here. I'm still in shock.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement