Economics

For the Budget Crisis, a Fake Solution

The trouble with Obama's State of the Union

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Spring is months away, but bipartisanship is blooming in Washington. Amid a terrible fiscal crisis, President Barack Obama and Republicans have come to a historic accord on the budget. They are agreed on a fake solution.

The big news from Obama's State of the Union address is his plan to freeze discretionary spending on non-security programs for five years. This category includes such things as education, transportation, national parks, job training, and environmental protection. His idea echoes a proposal from the conservative House Republican Study Committee to impose a freeze for a decade, after rolling outlays back to the 2006 level. The House itself passed a resolution this week more or less embracing the latter approach.

A five-year or 10-year freeze on anything sounds serious. In reality, these recommendations amount to a charming ruse.

One reason is that this slice of the budget accounts for only one-seventh of all federal spending, and it's not growing. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office projects that by 2015, without a freeze, it will be at its lowest level as a share of GDP since 2001.

Freezing non-security discretionary spending is like rounding up everyone on The Biggest Loser and putting the trainers on a diet. The payoff is likely to be small and certain to be irrelevant.

Talking about this type of action is even less useful. But that's what Obama and Congress have been doing for the past year. In his 2010 State of the Union address, the president proposed a three-year freeze on these programs. So far, that idea has sat on the shelf.

The latest Obama plan would cut projected outlays by an estimated $400 billion in the next decade, and the Republican alternative would cut spending by $2.5 trillion. It's a measure of our predicament that these enormous sums wouldn't make a lot of difference, even if they were achieved. They're the equivalent of trying to empty a swimming pool with a tablespoon.

The Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan fiscal watchdog group, estimates that given current policies and trends, the cumulative federal deficit over the next decade will amount to about $15 trillion. So if the Republicans actually got their version enacted, we would add some $12.5 trillion to the national debt by 2021. This heroic feat of fiscal discipline would leave taxpayers with nearly twice as much government debt as today.

That's not the only flaw. Another is that both parties are mostly silent on which programs will be downsized. It's easy to inform the public that the government will spend less than it planned next year. The hard part is telling ordinary citizens which benefits will be pried from their cold, dead hands.

Then there is the matter of bombs and bullets. Neither party is prepared to reduce our military budget, which has grown by a staggering 45 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars over the past decade—not counting the cost of our two wars.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's "Roadmap for America's Future" presents an ambitious blueprint for fiscal balance. Amount he would squeeze from the Pentagon: zero. Obama wants to "cut" defense outlays, but only in the sense of not letting them grow quite so fast.

But the biggest part of the bipartisan fraud is the refusal to deal with the outlays that are out of control. The Congressional Budget Office notes that "almost all of the projected growth in federal spending other than interest payments on the debt comes from growth in spending on the three largest entitlement programs—Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security."

At the rate they are growing, the federal government will spend as much on them in 2050 as it spent on everything 10 years ago. Unless they are restrained, our leaders can save a lot of money elsewhere and accomplish nothing. If you're driving toward a cliff, slowing down will delay the crash, but it won't improve your fate.

The beauty of this approach is that it lets politicians look tough on spending without antagonizing an inordinate number of voters. The shortcoming is that it leaves the debt crisis to keep growing.

Obama admitted Tuesday that to make real progress, "we have to stop pretending that cutting this kind of spending alone will be enough." But really, our leaders have just begun to pretend.

COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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  1. The big news from Obama’s State of the Union address is his plan to freeze discretionary spending on non-security programs for five years.

    Didn’t he propose a three year one while he had a super-majority in the Congress? And I believe his phrasing was “domestic spending”. Seems that really fast choo-choo was either already budgeted or he is planning to build it for China, if we can take him at his word.

    1. That’s some nice reading comprehension, Suki. From the article…

      In his 2010 State of the Union address, the president proposed a three-year freeze on these programs. So far, that idea has sat on the shelf.

  2. Cutting spending by $40 billion a year is like cutting back on drinking water in order to lose weight.

  3. WERE’RE DOOMED!!!!!!!!

    1. WE’RE FUCKING DOOMED!

  4. It shows intent.

    1. See also: the road to hell.

      1. But it was paved with good intentions and pixie dust!

      2. You missed my (subtle) point:

        It shows true intent.

  5. Freezing non-security discretionary spending is like rounding up everyone on The Biggest Loser and putting the trainers on a diet.

    They’re the equivalent of trying to empty a swimming pool with a tablespoon.

    Congressman Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future” without addressing defense spending is like a using bungee cords for elevator cables. You are never going to reach the level you are aiming for.

    Without looking, which of those was not in Chapman’s article?

    1. “like a using bungee cords”? Is Chapman an Italian name?

      1. That’s racist. Also…

        …goddammit.

    2. Trick question. Only the first one was in the article.

        1. Yup, I failed. Do I at least get a free toaster?

          1. Free? On a Libertarian blog? Parasite!

          2. tanstaaft

            1. Worst gameshow ever.

              1. At least I didn’t sick Buzzsaw, Fireball and Dynamo on you.

  6. Run lemmings run!

  7. Obama, like Ryan and Paul and others, barely touches defense. When you ignore entitlements (as they all do sadly) defense is the big pig on the farm that should be targeted. We spend like 100 times more on defense than any other nation, we could cut the heck out of that and still be quite well defended. And who knows, it may encourage us to be a bit more prudent and wary in foriegn adventurism.

    1. I agree. It’s totally disingenuous to suggest there isn’t rampant pork and goodies in defense spending. One cannot be intellectually honest when saying “Stop the spending!11!” and stop short of one’s favorite ox being gored. Roll back all spending to pre-Shrub levels, none of this “freezing” nonsense or the faggotry of “slowing the levels of spending” and claiming a cut when actual spending is higher than before.

    2. Maybe you’re willing to leave our German brothers undefended but I say NAY!

      1. Das ist nein, dunkoff!

      2. I’m pretty sure you’re kidding but since (as with pro-war on drugs posts) a lot of people actually do think this way I’ll respond as though you’re not.

        Leave our German brothers undefended against what? Germany is quite capable of meeting its own defense needs. If we stopped the subsidy, we would find outr quickly if it was really necessary.

        Actually despite all their near-pacifist protestations the Germans, and Italians, would squeal like stuck pigs at the thought of our closing any (more) bases. Local civilian employment and spending at local businesses (both government and personal) are important parts of many local economies.

    3. While neither of the Pauls have made specific proposals on defense cuts they at least adress one of the major issues feeding it, namely foreign interevention.

      It really is time to come up with some kind of plan to unravel some of the entanglements that put us on the hook for the cost of policing so much of the world and let other countries decide if they are willing to pick up the slack. They may not want or even need to but they do need to confront the issues.

      1. I thought Rand Paul’s proposal chickened out on the whole defense issue. Not only were the Iraq and Afghanistan wars discretionary spending, but at least during the Bush years they were funded by special appropriations, because the Pentagon’s budget didn’t have any room in it for fighting actual wars (even though they’d spent years telling us our military was prepared for a two-front war.) So not only should they stop spending the money for those wars, but the Pentagon should give back all that money in its budget that was obviously just pork barrel.

    4. it may encourage us to be a bit more prudent and wary in foriegn adventurism.

      Ahahahahahahaha! That was a good one, MNG. Can you do tomorrow’s Funny cuz it’s guaranteed to outwit Payne et al. Can you draw? Eh, doesn’t matter. Just keep the jokes coming.

    5. Re: MNG,

      We spend like 100 times more on defense than any other nation

      Only because it is not really for defense, but for Empire. The Constitution clearly states that, for “defense,” Congress shall maintain a Navy and raise armies when needed.

      1. But we need them all the time, to maintain the empire, see? QED!

    6. Re: MNG,

      And who knows, it may encourage us to be a bit more prudent and wary in foreign adventurism.

      What? And leave Darfur to its fate?

    7. Yes, defense could and should be cut. But the poverty programs should be eliminated.

  8. I read that America spends only 4% of their GDP on defense, people. That’s nothing! It’s everything else that’s bankrupting us.

    1. The government accounts for something around 25% of GDP. 4%/25% is a little under one sixth of the whole.

    2. Most of US defense spending has nothing to do with America’s defense needs.

      Yes, it’s true that defense is not the biggest ticket item in the budget but it’s in the top three or four. And no serious spending reductions can be had without tackling the big ones.

      Even a 25% cut would still leave us at one and a half times any other country in percent of GDP terms.

      Oh, and MNG, I believe the number is more like 25 times the next highest spender. A minor quibble since we agree that there’s plenty of room to cut.

      1. Even a 25% cut would still leave us at one and a half times any other country in percent of GDP terms.

        Well, maybe not. I forgot about North Korea. Sorry about that.

        But then, NK is not a country anyone should want to emulate, i think.

  9. This whole obsession with spending is out of order. Nobody apparently has the balls to call for any tax increases anywhere. The only solution that ever seems to be on the table is punishing the working class. For crises caused by corporate America.

    1. Corporate America caused the housing bubble?

    2. Re: Tony,

      This whole obsession with spending is out of order.

      The teenage daughter told her dad…

      Nobody apparently has the balls to call for any tax increases anywhere.

      No, of course not:

      http://si.wsj.net/public/resou…..173855.jpg

      The only solution that ever seems to be on the table is punishing the working class.

      Yes, through inflation – but YOU happen to LIKE inflation, don’t you, Keynesian?

      For crises caused by corporate America.

      The Fed, an innocent bystander…

      1. The Fed, an innocent bystander…

        Along with Freddie and Fannie…

        1. Along with FDIC…

      2. Tony apparently believes that there’s something other than the working class to raise taxes on.

        Here’s a news flash, Tony, the NON-working class doesn’t produce anything to tax.

        And if there’s anything that will guarantee more movement from the working class to the non-working class it’s raising taxes. Trouble is only certain privileged memmbers of the non-working class get a share of the loot from taxes.

        So when you raise taxes, who’s getting punished again?

        1. Should add that Tony also doesn’t believe that the owners and managers of businesses do any work.

          1. That’s not true. I just don’t think it’s self-evident that they work harder than low-wage workers. Mostly I don’t think a moral evaluation of a person’s contribution to capitalism should have anything to do with tax or social policy.

            1. No, because you believe, apparently, that there are priveliged people who should not have to work but who still get to consume what is produced by those who do.

              Believe me, Tony, we know exactly what you believe.

              1. No I just think it’s perverse to call poor people privileged. The problem with free markets is that they tend to reward merely having money a lot more than they reward hard work or virtue. I think we should have policies that treat people well because they are people, not because they have money or contribute to capitalism. Capitalism is a tool, not an end.

                1. Poor people aren’t the one’s getting the money, dickwad.

                  It’s the armies of do-gooders who have created sinecures for themselves by “helping” the poor who are.

    3. This whole obsession with spending is out of order. Nobody apparently has the balls to call for any tax increases anywhere. The only solution that ever seems to be on the table is punishing the working class. For crises caused by corporate America.

      Maybe this will help you understand why

      1. Never mind, I see this did not help Tony very much.

    4. Nobody apparently has the balls to call for any tax increases anywhere.

      *I* do. Double *every* tax this year. If “things don’t turn around” (according to some reasonable measure) by 2012, um, do something else.

    5. Right, because when you spend more than you have and get yourself deeply into debt, the first thing you do is NOT cut back on your spending, just try to get more money instead. And just imagine cutting spending to 2005 levels – there would be people dying in the streets! SOMALIA!!!11!

      1. Why 2005? Why not 1935? Nobody has a fucking clue what they’re talking about, they’re treating the federal budget like a fucking checking account. Without a strong economy, it doesn’t matter how much we cut, it will never be enough. The real problem is decreased revenues from a weak economy and reckless tax cutting. There is plenty of spending that can be cut, mostly defense and corporate welfare, but Republicans won’t ever stop bitching about spending no matter the circumstances and they won’t ever do anything to fix it either. The people obsessed with spending don’t want to make things solvent, they want to destroy the state as we know it. Because they are ideological loons.

        1. “The people obsessed with spending don’t want to make things solvent, they want to destroy the state as we know it.”

          Uh, no and yes. They want to make things solvent by destroying the state as we know it and returning this country to its roots of individual freedom and free market capitalism.

          “Because they are ideological loons.”

          No more ideological than those who feel there must be some governmental policy regulating every human activity.

          1. Uh, no and yes. They want to make things solvent by destroying the state as we know it and returning this country to its roots of individual freedom and free market capitalism.

            A fantasy world of the past ideologues invented out of thin air. Free market capitalism and individual freedom are not the same thing at all.

            No more ideological than those who feel there must be some governmental policy regulating every human activity.

            That would be true if there were actually people who believed that, but there aren’t. There is an evermore ideological right and an evermore pragmatic left making compromises with them.

            1. Holy shit you’re a fucking moron.

              “A fantasy world of the past ideologues invented out of thin air.”

              It’s called The Enlightenment. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?

              “Free market capitalism and individual freedom are not the same thing at all.”

              I didn’t say that they are the same thing, I said they’re root principles of the founding of this nation.

              “That would be true if there were actually people who believed that, but there aren’t.”

              Yeah. Those people who are telling us what kind of light bulbs we may purchase aren’t interested in regulating every activity. Same with those who dictate the quantity of water used to flush our shit down to the sewer. Certainly not the ones who want to control what kinds of fats are used when frying food and the salt content of that food.

              “There is an evermore ideological right and an evermore pragmatic left making compromises with them.”

              Right and left is too simplistic a description. And to call the left “pragmatic” shows that you are one of those ideologues that wants to control everything.

              I call them authoritarians because they need some governmental authority dictating what kind of light bulbs they use, how much water to flush their shit down the toilet, what fats to use when frying their food and how much salt they may put on it.

              You’re so full of shit it’s dripping out your ears.

              1. It’s called The Enlightenment. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?

                And what does free market capitalism have to do with The Enlightenment? You can’t appeal to the Age of Reason to advocate religious-like zealotry, which is what libertarian resembles more than an rational system. Besides, we are in the modern era now, which extends Enlightenment principles to focus on social conditions. That you guys missed the boat is your problem.

                I didn’t say that they are the same thing, I said they’re root principles of the founding of this nation.

                Going back to the roots is also not an Enlightenment proposition. Regardless, we’ve never had a pure free market (because they are impossible), and a dogmatic devotion to the idea didn’t come about until relatively recently.

                Yeah. Those people who are telling us what kind of light bulbs we may purchase aren’t interested in regulating every activity. Same with those who dictate the quantity of water used to flush our shit down to the sewer. Certainly not the ones who want to control what kinds of fats are used when frying food and the salt content of that food.

                Government making policies to conserve resources and promote efficiency is better than government making policy to let people indulge their natural tendency to waste as much as they possibly can. Or are you under the impression that there is such a thing as there not being a policy? There isn’t. Also, we are the fattest country on earth. It’s not because we collectively exercised our individual freedom to eat horrendously. The conditions of our existence contribute to our collective health problems, government taking some of the vast amounts of salt out of our diets is perfectly legitimate. We don’t have the capability to police all our food for toxins, so that’s why government regulates it on the front end. It’s very arguable that the salt content in our food has reached toxin-like levels. Your freedom is not being impinged. You can still buy as much salt as you want. Freedom does not equal choosing among the limited options that exist in the status quo.

                1. Thank you Tony, I now have no doubt in my mind that you are a socialistic totalitarian authoritarian statist fuck.

                  1. I could just as easily say you are equally authoritarian, you just want to impose an energy inefficient, high-fat, high salt lifestyle on everyone. That’s your policy choice. You’re just slapping the word freedom on it.

                    1. “you just want to impose an energy inefficient, high-fat, high salt lifestyle on everyone. That’s your policy choice.”

                      That makes no sense.

                      I would have people be free to choose whatever light bulb they want to use. You can still use the efficient ones. You want to take that choice away.

                      I would have people free to choose high-fat, low-fat, no-fat, animal-fat, vegetable-fat, whatever fat lifestyle they want. You want to take that choice away.

                      I want people free to choose salty food or low salt food. You want to take that choice away.

                      I want people to have freedom to choose, you want an authority making choices for them.

                      I guess you could call me an authoritarian. You’d be a liar though.

                    2. You want people to have the freedom to choose within the current status quo. That might mean there simply are no cheap low-salt alternatives. Such as in schools.

                      Besides that, it’s not like these choices have no external costs. We are very unhealthy, so our policy on nutrition is obviously a bad one. This leads to increased healthcare costs for everyone. Energy inefficiency is also a shared problem.

                      My point is that there is no such thing as no policy. Just because it’s what we’ve had before doesn’t make it the most free. The market status quo might not provide all the choices people should be entitled to, whether because of government intervention or not.

                      I don’t want to make certain products illegal to consume, I want to increase the quality of the available choices.

                    3. but if everyone wants a low cost no-salt food and you know that Tony, why don’t you just go make yourself a bajillion dollars by offering to it to the public? Seems pretty simple to me.

                    4. “That might mean there simply are no cheap low-salt alternatives. Such as in schools.”

                      Yes there is. It’s called a brown bag.

                      “We are very unhealthy, so our policy on nutrition is obviously a bad one.”

                      Policy on nutrition? WTF does that mean? Some guy is writing policy that decides what people may or may not eat? Holy hubris Batman!

                      I’ve got an idea!

                      Let’s have everyone dress in identical uniforms and participate in group calisthenics at dawn let by a member of the Authority. We will then sit down and eat a healthy meal served by the Authority. We then go to work in the fields as directed by the Authority.

                      It’s a Holiday in Cambodia!

                      “I don’t want to make certain products illegal to consume, I want to increase the quality of the available choices.”

                      You want to tell producers what to produce, even if nobody wants to buy it. And when nobody buys it because it tastes like shit, you’re going to ban the choices that taste good so they’ll have no choice but to buy the stuff that tastes like shit.

                      You really need to go to Cambodia.
                      You’d LOVE IT!

                    5. You’ve been offering nothing but one strawman after another. I don’t actually have that much love for nanny state laws, and regulating light bulbs and salt is pretty low on my list of priorities.

                    6. Tony, you say you want to increase the quality of available choices.
                      So… why not go into business?
                      No?
                      You want to increase quality through policy.
                      OK, that means instead of offering higher quality choices, you tell others what to make. Hmmm, doesn’t quite sound like freedom.
                      And what happens when consumers don’t like your new and improved products? Or is that why you didn’t go into business? Because nobody really likes those increased quality choices? And if when given a choice between your increased quality choices and the old one, and not choosing yours, you will not ban the old one?

                      You’re either not following this through or you’re dishonest.

                    7. Government’s role in this discussion is to correct market failures. My premise is not that people should take whatever the market provides and they should like it. My premise is that, for example, there ought to be cheap, healthy food available for all people. If the market doesn’t provide that, then that’s when policy should step in.

                    8. “My premise is that, for example, there ought to be cheap, healthy food available for all people.”

                      I eat health and on the cheap, though I don’t eat much prefabricated crap out of a box. I tend to cook the majority of my food from scratch. Maybe you should encourage people to learn to cook.

                      Or do you mean there should be cheap and healthy prefabricated crap out of a box?

                      Here’s a clue: the people who eat cheap prefabricated crap out of a box have no interest in eating healthy.

                      “If the market doesn’t provide that, then that’s when policy should step in.”

                      If “the market doesn’t provide that” it’s because NOBODY WANTS TO BUY IT! IF PEOPLE WANTED TO BUY IT THEN SOMEONE WOULD SEE THE OPPORTUNITY TO GET RICH SELLING IT!

                      It is not a “failure of the market” when people don’t buy what you think is good for them. It is a failure of people not to think what you want them to think, not to buy what you want them to by, and not to eat what you want them to eat.

                      It’s just you being full of arrogance and hubris.

                    9. sarcasmic I think it’s pretty uncontroversial that people need food and nutrients. There’s no guarantee that the market will provide an adequate supply of nutritious food. In fact, there’s ample evidence that our corporate food culture provides vast quantities of poison and offers relatively little in the way of good options for people on a limited budget.

                      It cannot be that our obesity and health problems are only the result of all of our people deciding at the same time to eat poorly. Individual choice has to happen in the context of available choices.

                    10. free to make own choices=authoritarian; got it, makes sense to me. Clearly 5 years ago it was not possible to choose the kinds of food you wanted to eat. Ahh how I yearn for those days of being force fed cheeseburgers.

  10. Reading the comments, apparently any plan to cut spending should be rejected, and spending should continue at present levels, unless and until there are defense cuts. Is that about it?

    And, of course, a spending freeze isn’t Obama compromising with Republicans, its Obama declaring victory on the growth of the state, cementing in the huge increase in spending over the last two years. The various stimulus plans were mostly about raising the baseline. Obama’s just auditioning his end-zone celebration.

    1. Though just a pipedream of actually happening, how would refusing to increase the debt ceiling mitigate this colossal amount of profligate hemorrhaging of red ink? Opinions on likely outcome of such a drastic action?

      1. People get mad at GOP for shutting down government.

        1. Exactly, nothing will change and that is why we are fucked.

      2. Our government is not bound by the law.

        If they refused to increase the debt ceiling they would just break the law and borrow the money anyway.

    2. “Reading the comments, apparently any plan to cut spending should be rejected, and spending should continue at present levels, unless and until there are defense cuts. Is that about it?”

      I say it should be the opposite.
      Whatever level of military spending is REALLY necesssary for defense is highly debatable but however iffy that is, ALL of it is INFINITLY more Constitutionall justifiable than anything at all being spent on entitlements, farm subsidies, food stamps and the like. There isn’t even a scintilla of Constitutional language that related to any of that at all.

      1. This bullshit is so tiresome. Did it ever occur to you that a constitution that allows for unlimited spending on a war machine but very little for domestic programs is fundamentally flawed? What kind of sense does that make? Foreign invaders are neither the only threat to the well-being of the people, nor is it really all that much of a threat at all in this day and age.

        Hiding behind a fringe, minimalist interpretation of the constitution that doesn’t exist in case law reality is just a way to avoid talking about policy choices.

        1. “Did it ever occur to you that a constitution that allows for unlimited spending on a war machine but very little for domestic programs is fundamentally flawed?”

          Nope. Not for a second.

          The beauty of such a constitution is that it frees the individual States from needing to worry about defending their borders while allowing them to implement any domestic program of their choosing, or none at all, while leaving the people free to vote with their feet.

          Your interpretation takes away from the states the freedom to have or not have domestic programs, as well as the freedom of the people to decide what they prefer by choosing where they will live.

          Why do you hate freedom so much?

          1. What does freedom have to do with giving individual states more power? In all likelihood some would become more oppressive. Laboratories of democracy is a good idea, but it only goes so far. First, it’s not quite as easy to choose a state like you would a car. Second, we had a civil war on this issue. A lot of states fucked up and oppressed people, so the federal government had to assert more control, and the constitution was amended to reflect that (the amendments are a part of the constitution you know–it’s not just the founders’ document). To restate: the federal government acquired more power and increased individual freedom as a result. Imagine that!

            Besides, it’s just arbitrary lines on a map. A government should have as much power as it needs to do the job of governing in its jurisdiction. Most commerce is now interstate. It makes increasingly less sense to have 50 different social policies. And anyway, at some point laboratories of democracy have to produce results, right?

            1. Ok thats one example of Feds increasing freedom. Here’s one of Feds taking direct freedoms, Prohibition. So they are best neutral (we all know they are worse). Why do you hate local government? You prefer 1 representing thousands instead of hundreds? Seems like you just hate democracy

              1. External I don’t hate local governments. I believe in government at all levels of society, and I believe governments should be appropriately powerful to address the issues of its jurisdiction. I just think that it’s a fantasy to think that our national community needs government any less than our local ones do. There are national issues, increasingly so in the modern age.

                And actually I heard an interesting proposal the other day to increase the size of the House of Representatives by a lot. Would make it more democratic and might bust up the party duopoly. I’m definitely for more representation of people’s interests.

            2. Re: Tony,

              What does freedom have to do with giving individual states more power? In all likelihood some would become more oppressive.

              But a sole, central government would NOT be oppressive, right? Not that people could migrate to the less oppressive states, leaving California unpopulated – we wouldn’t want that! Right, Tony?

              First, it’s not quite as easy to choose a state like you would a car.

              Of course not, silly, as there are millions more cars than states! Sheesh.

              Second, we had a civil war on this issue.

              Sure – as such things are settled by violence. Right?

              A lot of states fucked up and oppressed people, so the federal government had to assert more control

              Never mind the states that seceded refused to levy the big tariff that the federal government wanted, as the fed had no intention of freeing any slaves (guarranteeing slavery in the pro-union states.)

              Besides, it’s just arbitrary lines on a map. A government should have as much power as it needs to do the job of governing in its jurisdiction.

              So much for “it’s just lines.”

              Most commerce is now interstate. It makes increasingly less sense to have 50 different social policies.

              Totally correct and agreeable – unfortunately, the Interstate Commerce Clause has been ‘interpreted’ to mean something entirely different than the original intention of tackling that very issue you mention. So, there are still licensing laws, import/export restrictions between the states, and other protectionist schemes that the Interstate Commerce Clause intended to eliminate.

              And anyway, at some point laboratories of democracy have to produce results, right?

              Depends on the “results.”

            3. Wouldn’t there be an advantage to refinements based on 50 different inputs over a single one size fits all approach?

              Of course there would. If one state is seeing good results with a particular way of doing things other states can adopt. If one office mandates the way everything is done, you get one approach, ill suited for most situations, and changeable only through acts of Congress.

              1. “If one office mandates the way everything is done, you get one approach, ill suited for most situations, and changeable only through acts of Congress.”

                If you need there to be a policy for everything, and you don’t care what it is as long as someone else is doing your thinking for you, and if you don’t want there to be a choice of policy because the purpose of policy is to eliminate choice, then a top down approach from Washington D.C. is ideal.

                1. There should only be national policy for national issues. Arguably healthcare is a national business and a national concern. Arguably so is our extreme obesity.

        2. “Did it ever occur to you that a constitution that allows for unlimited spending on a war machine but very little for domestic programs is fundamentally flawed? ”

          What occurs to me is that whether you think the Constitution is “fundamentally flawed” or not doesn’t mean diddly squat.

          It says what it says and the stuff you like isn’t authorized – period.

          If you think those things should be authorized, then get a Constitutional Amemdment passed that says so.

          1. I don’t have to because the very legal system in which these issues are decided has authorized them. Why don’t you go get a constitutional amendment, since your form of government is obviously not the one the constitution creates.

            1. Classic example of the Appeal to Authority fallacy.

              The words of the Constitution have a plain and easily understood meaning.

              They do not require that you be appointed to a position of Authority complete with a black robe to understand them.

              Well, they do if you want the words to mean something other than what they plainly say. They do if you are dishonest and corrupt. They do if you want to unchain the government from the constraints put upon it by the plain and simple to understand words of the Constitution.

              Here’s the truth. The very legal system that decides these issues has been corrupted. It is broken. It is derelict in its duty to uphold and protect the Constitution.

              1. The words of the Constitution have a plain and easily understood meaning.

                No they don’t, no matter how many times you say they do. You cannot determine the correct outcome of every constitutional dispute merely by consulting the language. If that were true, everyone would be able to agree all the time and we wouldn’t need courts in the first place.

                The legal system is not broken. It just doesn’t give you the outcomes you want.

  11. I think people overlook the expense of having military bases all over the place to protect our allies who many do not seem very aligned with us at this time.

    The Europeans take longer vacations, work less hours a week and have more benefits by and large than US workers do. So we work longer and harder to pay for our military while all of these “allies” only have to finance a tiny little military because they know the US will swoop in and save their asses if anything happens.

    So they then have all this money to spend on socialism and other government programs. All the while we are left here with politcians that think we should be paying for everything like they have been in Europe all this time and are now trying to get away from.

    So the Europeans couldn’t afford the freebies even without spending on defense and we have people that think we can afford it all!

    Make these countries pay for their own defense and use our troops to stop the illegals already. We are more worried about keeping an Iranian out of Iraq than we are about keeping them out of our own country!

    1. And Europe still manages to have worse debt/GDP than we do. The Euro area’s around 80%.

    2. “I think people overlook the expense of having military bases all over the place to protect our allies who many do not seem very aligned with us at this time.” Those bases are not there to protect anyone….they are there to project power!

    3. Several commenters have already remarked on “….the expense of having military bases all over the place to protect our allies…” and on other threads the fact that “…many do not seem very aligned with us at this time” has been noted in other threads as well.

      You have listed some genuine grievances but I part company with you here “and use our troops to stop the illegals already”.

      It is neither constitutional nor good policy to use the military to stop illegal immigration.

      Law enforcement is and should be a matter for civilian authorities and furthermore the trend to militarization of our law enforcement agencies is something that needs to be reversed. But that is a topic for another thread.

  12. So we have the Dems who have flat out exposed themselves as rabid big gov’t spenders and we have the the GOP who after the elections actually have some small gov’t libertarian minded people who against enormous odds are actually proposing a slowing and eventual turning around of the run away train and as usual the Libertarians are playing the violin on the Titanic…Why not get in the effing game and support those who are trying to right the ship and work actively against those who want to continue over the cliff…the Dems are a lost cause…but within the GOP we have a small window of time to cull the pork and put in some real libertarians…Rand Paul, Bachman, and others have stated when it comes to cuts everything should be on the table and people are paying attention. The discussions are actually taking place. Social issues are second tier at this point … so all the pot smoking fetus killers can get along with in utero bible thumpers and support those who are at the very least attempting to turn this thing around. Or not…BTW wasn’t Chapman one of those idiotic libertarians who voted for the least qualified Presidential candidate in history? Bright fellow that one.

    1. While I praise your political pragmatism, Republicans are dangerous and will probably finish the job on this country once and for all if they are ever returned to full control of it.

      1. That is just plain stupid. “Republicans” is nothing more than the name given to group of people who inhabit the party. That is an ever evolving thing and has changed throughout history. The party has definitely albeit reluctantly moved more to a fiscal libertarian slant (thanks not to Libertarians but to those wacky, racist buffoonish Tea Baggers). And if Libertarians would come down off their lofty perches and actually lift a fricken finger (instead of just giving everyone the middle one) and get involved they might embolden those within the GOP and those considering running to actually force the Libertarian point of view to the forefront while the focus is on fiscal issues.
        Much better chance there than within in the immediate Clear and Present Danger…the Democrats.
        Get the financial house on a libertarian path and people will be more open to social side of the equation. Or not…

        1. Republicans do not have policy proposals to go to fiscal libertarianism, they have poll-tested talking points. Nothing about their actions in the past decades suggests they even know how to be fiscally responsible.

          1. So they’re just like Democrats. Some of us have been saying that all along?

            1. No, they’re much worse in every way.

              1. Name one.

                1. Worse on corporate welfare. Worse on starting bogus wars. Worse on individual freedom. Worse on not causing economic disasters. Worse for the environment. Worse on torture. Worse on the budget. There’s seven.

                  1. Well Dems have 1 bogus, repubs have 1 bogus. how is that worse? the rest are just your standard platitudes.

                    Why does the reason staff feel the need to torment us by creating this Tony thing to boost their comment counts?

                    1. You’re right. i shouldn’t have wasted my time.

                      You said it better than I and with much fewer words.

                  2. Bullshit.

                    Democrats are masters of corporate welfare only they never call it that they call it a “jobs bill” or some such crap. Never saw a Democrat back away from a chance to bail out a big corporation. Of course it’s always “for the workers”, right, Tony?

                    On individual freedom, it depends whether you want them out of your wallet or out of your bedroom, but don’t give me any crap that there is a serious net difference, it’s just a matter of direction not degree.

                    Bill Clinton ordered troops used in foreign interventions more times than any post war president. He was lucky that only his escalation in Somalia ended in disaster. Obama wants to invade some place he callsd Pock-ee-ston and Hillary’s just itching to get some troops in Persia. And John Kerry thinks it would be splendid to have some troops in Darfur.

                    Bush was hell on the economy but he got lots of help from Democrats. Barney Frank, anyone.

                    Who is better on the environment depends on your religion.

                    I’ll only give you torture because it seems like this administration is keeping it out of the news. I really doubt that what the CIA does in secret has changed.

                    Worse on the budget, how? All I see from either is borrow and spend.

                    Try again. Remember you have to show they’re better.

                    Oh, and taking money from people who earned it and giving it to people that didn’t does not count as a good thing, though it does seem to be the only thing that Democrats promise more than Republicans do.

          2. Tony, to clarify Doc K’s point about party labels, remember that you earlier touted the feds’ power to expand freedom. You do know that Lincoln was a Republican and the South was controlled by Dems don’t you?

            1. Of course. I also know the parties have realigned since then.

              1. Yes they have…the racist, fascist, Marxist socialists all ended up on the left…like I said…time is short…the only party even remotely making any inclination towards moving (at least fiscally) towards libertarian principles is in the GOP. Did Rand Paul just say he would gut the Dept of Education and a whole host of other things? Why yes he did? Did Michelle My Belle Bachman just have Scalia speak to some of the new GOP members on the Constitution? Where do the Democrats stand on the Constitution? To quote Pelosi “Are you kidding me???”Did these GOP tea bagger jokers just get McConnell to commit to banning earmarks? The question remains. Will you keep playing the violin on the titanic and bitch and moan or will you actually get in the game and force some real change. We will not get everything we want but we sure as hell can move the bar further in the direction libertarians want to go and right now that is within the GOP. Or not

                1. Fuck the GOP.

  13. Re: Tony,

    A fantasy world of the past ideologues invented out of thin air. Free market capitalism and individual freedom are not the same thing at all.

    Of course they are not the same thing. One thing BEGETS the other (individual freedom LEADS to free market capitalism), that all.

    No more ideological than those who feel there must be some governmental policy regulating every human activity.

    Certainly. Both are ideas: the seeking to maximize human freedom, and the seeking to enslave humanity (i.e. government regulating everything.)

    1. One of these days you will get it out of your head that government is the only thing that can oppress people. If government is working right, it can lift people out of oppression and maximize individual freedom. The vast majority of people left to a laissez-faire capitalist system with no social protections are decidedly unfree.

      1. Re: Tony,

        One of these days you will get it out of your head that government is the only thing that can oppress people.

        I don’t think government is the ONLY thing that can opress people, Tony. Government IS opressive by its very nature, but that does not mean it is alone in that regard.

        If government is working right, it can lift people out of oppression and maximize individual freedom.

        And if evolution worked just right, we would have unicorns.

        Go on, Tony. Continue.

        The vast majority of people left to a laissez-faire capitalist system with no social protections are decidedly unfree.

        Really? So the reverse should be true: People living in a non-capitalist society with plenty of social protections MUST be totally free. Where does that happen? Hmmm:

        http://www.paulnoll.com/Korea/History/Korean-night.html

        1. Yes OM because I’m against laissez-faire capitalism I am for totalitarianism. Of course, that’s not a strawman at all!

      2. Tony|1.27.11 @ 1:06PM|#
        “One of these days you will get it out of your head that government is the only thing that can oppress people.”

        Well, there’s pirates. And thieves. Other than that, you’re full of it.

  14. Re: Tony,

    Government making policies to conserve resources and promote efficiency is better than government making policy to let people indulge their natural tendency to waste as much as they possibly can.

    Because government knows better how to conserve:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aral_Sea

    http://www.thefreemanonline.or…..pollution/

  15. Gillespie thinks we can balance the budget by cutting $1.5 trillion over 10 years. The Republican Study Committee is proposing $2.5 trillion. Concord Coalition and Chapman seem much less optimistic.

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