Government Spending

What Brave Politician Will Speak for the 74 Percent of Americans Who Want a Federal Spending Cap?


Mitch "the Knife" Daniels is out of the GOP run for the presidency. So is Paul "Young Gun" Ryan and Jeb "Smarter Brother" Bush. Which is all interesting and fun to follow if you care about that kind of thing.

The real question, especially considering the sad shape the U.S. government's finances are in, is what brave national politician of either party is going to get behind the idea that the feds can't simply keep spending like the Rapture is coming before the bill collectors. The debt ceiling is about to be breached again and something is going to have to give at some point.

According to the recent Reason Foundation-Rupe Poll, fully 74 percent of Americans support a spending cap. The idea has strong majority support among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents:

You can trust at least two of the GOP presidential hopefuls— former Gov. Gary Johnson (R-N.M.) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) to push for defined spending. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is pushing a spending cap equal to 18 percent of Gross Domestic Product (roughly in line with average historical revenue), while other senators (including both Dems and GOPpers) are pushing for a cap that would settle around 20.6 percent of GDP, almost three points higher than the historical revenue average). That latter limit only looks good in a world where government expenditures equal 25 percent of GDP; indeed, it would probably lock in persistent deficits for the long haul.

But a spending cap—especially one that is pegged to actual average annual revenue brought in by the government wouldn't just be good from a fiscal point of view, it would be good from a political point of view. Or so says three-quarters of the American public. So would some pols now please go chase those votes?

Read "The 19 Percent Solution: How to balance the budget without raising taxes."

NEXT: Weekly Standard Finds Daylight Between the Pauls

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  1. Everyone wants to cut government spending that doesn’t affect them.
    But just about everyone benefits in some way from government spending.
    Cut defense spending, but don’t shut down the shipyard because we need the jobs.
    Cut entitlement spending, but not the program that pays for grandma’s drugs.

    Any cut in spending will mean someone loses their job or someone loses their freebie.

    Until people are willing to give something up, any meaningful spending cuts are a political impossibility.

    1. I dont buy it. The demagogues will come out in force any time you talk about cuts, but that doesnt mean they represent ‘everyone’.

      1. I don’t buy it either. That narrative is just the fig leaf that is always used to try to provide cover for politicians who want to spend more.

        1. So you two would forgo social security and medicare when you’re older if it meant a balanced budget?

          1. Yes i would. Having said that, there are lots of other places where government spending could be cut that I would be much more in favor of. In a way, you are acting out what i said above, demagoguing any and all cuts as meaning I must ‘forgo social security and medicare’. Its a false dichotomy to imply that I must choose between Social security and a balanced budget.

            1. Your last sentence is what I take away from sarcasmic’s original post. That everyone will still be able to keep the thing that they want while cutting other things to balance the budget.

              1. Then you are simply doubling down on your logical fallacy, that the only two choices are a balanced budget with no SS and medicare or the current course of action. And you are also ignoring the part where I said that if this false dichotomy were real then I *would* chose to forgo SS and medicare when im older.

                1. Hey mofo. You neglected to tell me what bit of spending you would like to keep.

                  I’ll bet you there’s someone who wouldn’t miss it one bit.

                  And I bet that person has some piece of spending they would like to keep that you wouldn’t miss.

                  The only way to please them all is to cut nothing.

                  1. A diminished military, most of the federal law enforcement (minus most of the drug war), some elements of both SS and medicare, most of the functions of the dept of interior. I could go on, but im not sure what you think you are proving.

                    Yes, someone somewhere will complain about any cuts proposed, that goes without saying. To claim that no cuts of any kind are possible due to those complaints is absurd.

                    1. “To claim that no cuts of any kind are possible due to those complaints is absurd.”

                      No cuts are politically possible.

                      Politicians keep their jobs by pleasing people. Once they take something away then people are displeased. Unless they can blame it on someone else they lose their job.

                      No politician who plans to be reelected cuts spending.

                      Ron Paul only gets away with his rhetoric because none of the things he proposes actually happen.

                      If they did he’d be voted out of office.

                    2. No, cuts are politically possible they are just difficult, and frankly i think you are overstating even that. And in any event, you have already moved away substantially from your starting point: “Everyone wants to cut government spending that doesn’t affect them.” I dont believe that is the whole truth. Yes, people want to cut spending in such a way as to not effect themselves, that goes without saying, but you can still eliminate spending by simply targeting your cuts to those things which do no benefit most people.

                      Further, I dont believe that everyone is so totally selfish as you suppose, I personally would accept a lesser degree of service from the government in exchange for a balanced budget and Im sure Im not alone. I cant help but note that your proof for this claim is the mere fact that you declared it to be so, hardly convincing if you ask me.

                    3. “I cant help but note that your proof for this claim is the mere fact that you declared it to be so, hardly convincing if you ask me”

                      That’s funny, because you have no proof of your claim.
                      In fact I have more proof than you do in that history is on my side.
                      Show me a cut that doesn’t result in organized resistance.

                      Remember “Get your government hands off my Medicare!” at the “Government is too big” town hall meetings?

                      It’s always “Cut cut cut! Just not anything that affects me!”

                      But since every cut affects someone, no cuts exist that will not meet resistance.

                      Unless people are willing to accept cuts that affect them, and all evidence is to the contrary, then there will be no cuts that aren’t political suicide.

                    4. People say “Cut defense! Just don’t cut anything that will affect the troops, cost American jobs, or endanger our missions overseas.”

                      Hmmm. What’s left?

                      They say “We can save by cutting waste, fraud and abuse.”

                      OK. That just means “Come up with savings that don’t involve layoffs or cutting benefits.”
                      Sounds good, but it means nothing.

                      Any cut means that some Congress person will go home and tell the people who vote for them that a defense contractor will close, laying people off. Or some agency will close, laying people off and leaving people without benefits.

                      Then they lose the next election.

                      That’s reality bub.

                      Life sucks.

                    5. “I cant help but note that your proof for this claim is the mere fact that you declared it to be so, hardly convincing if you ask me”

                      That’s funny, because you have no proof of your claim.

                      My claim is that I think you are wrong, simple as that.

                      And you keep claiming as evidence the fact that someone, somewhere held up a sign at a meeting, or that ‘they say’ or ‘people say’, call me a stickler, but i would rather you offer some actual evidence to support your claim.

                    6. “but i would rather you offer some actual evidence to support your claim.”

                      I see. My claim requires that you think. It is a chain of reasoning.

                      I’m sorry that I asked too much of you.

                      Next time I will treat you like an idiot.

          2. Yes, if it meant I could stop paying into those programs now.

            1. My stance exactly.

            2. My stance exactly.

            3. me three

            4. You are not “paying into” anything. How many times need this be said?

              1. Ok, then, if it meant we would stop having that 5% bonus taxation withheld from our paychecks starting next week, yes, we’d be in favor of cutting social security.

          3. I would if it meant that the government would give back all of the money it has taken from me, plus interest, for those two programs and stopped taxing me for those programs in the future.

            I can provide for my own future if the government would just leave me alone.

            Incidentally, the narrative associated with your question is really tiresome. The government defines an environment by interfering in one market or another which causes problems which “requires” another government program to fix. Then when someone says, “the government caused this mess in the first place. Let’s fix things by phasing out the original offending program”, inevitably, someone defending the status quo says something like, “so you would be willing to forgo receiving handout X?” It is not hypocrisy to want to recover some of the money stolen by the government in the first place and most people recognize the necessity of grandfathering and protecting those people who have built their lives around expectations associated with programs like medicare and ss. That doesn’t mean that a compromise can’t be reached that protects current retirees and those near retirement and also allows younger people to opt out.

            Call me overly optimistic if you will, but I think most Americans would support the necessary changes before the whole shaky house falls down. The pols avoid making the needed changes by insisting that ss is the “third rail” of American politics, the touching of which is political suicide. I’m not buying it.

            1. My point is that someone at some time is going to be screwed by the SS ponzi scheme.One generation at some future time will not be getting back what they put in.

              With all pyramid schemes your money is gone. There is no getting it back.

              1. +1. There is no painless way to unravel a Ponzi scheme. Someone has to take a hit sooner or later.

                I too would gladly forgo any claim to future SS if they would just let me opt out of the system but that’s not going to happen. SS is not going anywhere. The good news is that it can be made sustainable with some changes e.g. raising the retirement age (life expectance was like 67 when SS was created, now it’s what, 80?) and means testing (why should my taxes pay for Warren Buffet’s SS?). But someone will still have to take a hit for that to happen.

            2. The thing is, if the stolen money was there to recover to begin with there wouldn’t be a problem. Had the system actually been set up as a form of forced savings, a genuine retirement insurance program, the money you had paid into it would be around when you retired and current retirees would just be collecting the money they had paid in. The problem is that’s not how it works nor has it ever worked that way. It is a ponzi scheme, whereby the money currently generated in SS taxes is used to pay the current beneficiaries who paid in decades ago.

              Occassionally, I’ll hear tea party types talk about a willingness to scrap their SS benefits if the government offers them a buy-out. Even a steeply discounted buyout wouldn’t work because it would expose the fundamental problem with SS; that the money that a given person paid in has been squandered in decades past on general spending and was never actually earmarked for the fucking program is was ostensibly collected for. The only meaningful reforms short of scrapping the damn thing entirely are means testing and across the board bennie reductions; and honestly, both are probably necessary or will be since the no politician will have the testicular fortitude to address it (post-GWB’s failed attempt at reform) until it is literally teetering on the precipice of full-blown collapse.

              1. I am all in favor of scrapping SS and MC…I don’t want a “buy-out” just an “opt-out”. Stop taking extra out of my income to pay for something that neither I nor my family is likely to benefit from.

                If this means that we have to budget our “general funds” better to handle the loss of SS/MC tax revenue, then so be it.

                I’m also in favor of paying things like gas-taxes (and other user based fees/taxes) to provide for common programs that I want to use. If I want to opt out of directly paying for the roads, there are alternatives to gasoline powered vehicles that I can chose. Please give me that same choice when it comes to retirement/medical care.

      2. Can you name a bit of federal spending that affects you or will affect you that you would not want to do without?

        I’ll be there’s someone else who wouldn’t miss it, yet has a bit of spending they would not want to do without that you wouldn’t miss.

        In their effort to please everyone, the politician’s solution is to cut nothing.

    2. I work for the DOD (contractor), yet I fully support cutting defense spending…even though I would probably lose my job in the process. What’s right and what benefits me aren’t always the same thing.

      1. Well, that’s you and nobody else. Most non-politcal blog reading folk tend to vote for their own pocketbook and not some higher sense of justice.

      2. Obviously you have principles.

        I’m starting to think that that is rare.

  2. You people still don’t get that what Government does is provide standards and oversight (labour laws, food safety, etc).

    1. You could do all of that for much less than 18% of GDP.

    2. Sacre Spew!

    3. Pepe Re Peu

    4. “You people”

      What the fuck is that supposed to mean?

      1. We’re Europe’s [deleted horrific epithet]s.

    5. Hmm … yeah … food safety laws … what percentage of say, beef, is inspected before being sold? The tort system provides better oversight than government regulators ever have or ever will.

      I must admit though that the Government provides examples of standards and oversight that are unmatched in the private sector.

      1. that just means we need to increase the amount of beef which is inspected.

        1. If you were a true European progressive like me, you want to would ban the consumption of meat products because it is murder of defenseless animals. I wouldn’t even shop at your Whole Foods stores because they cater to the omnivores.

          1. “If you were a true European progressive like me”

            You’re a poser. A true European progressive would have mentioned their opposition to GM fruits and vegetables.

          2. You’ve obviously never been to Europe. Taking meat away from practically any one of the European cuisines is unthinkable.

    6. Leaving aside the reality that this so-called oversight is as useful as a screen door on a submarine, what is being discussed here is not abolishment of the Government but simply setting an upper limit on how much money it can spend.

      Do you truly believe that there should be no limit on government spending?

      1. you could spend less on war.

        1. Agreed but that doesn’t answer the question.

          1. Just point out that you could eradicate the entire Department of Defense budget, as well as all the supplemental war fundings, and still have over $800 billion in deficit this year alone.

            Watch his head asplode

            1. Yeah, in a couple different directions. Lefties like to rag on the military but it’s central to many of their schemes of foreign intervention. Many of them see the military as social workers with guns.

              But in the end I just want them to answer the simple question, should there be a limit? Or to at least stop with the false dilemma routine–capping federal spending (even if it works which history tells us won’t happen) would NOT mean that government would disappear.

    7. I thought the unions were supposed to do that? But maybe that was your point. If the government is doing this we no longer need unions.

      Good point.

  3. I’d love to see the alternate universe poll where there is a sitting Republican president. My first cynical prediction would be a flipflop in the Dem/Rep numbers…can anyone come up with a reasonable argument tho the contrary?

    1. Alternate universe, how about five years ago?

  4. Apparently many are still under the delusion that the driving force in politics is the will of the voters. As was proven by the GOP during the last go around, the parties would rather choose a guaranteed loser for a candidate – which is another way of saying they do not care about what the voters want – than displease their overseers who dispense the bulk of the booty looted from taxpayers. Voting, elections, politics – it is all a charade and I am amazed how many seemingly aware people buy into it. Also, it demonstrates the disingenuous nature of the “argument” that “Ron Paul can’t win!!!” It has nothing whatsoever to do with “winning” in the sense that most people understand politics.

    1. Your vote counts! Well, maybe not yours, but other people’s.

  5. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is pushing a spending cap equal to 18 percent of Gross Domestic Product

    Senator Lee wants to impoverish the nation, et c, blah blah blah.

    Because if the government didn’t do it- stone age!

    1. Does anyone know what percentage of Somalia’s GDP is spent by its government?

      1. Does anyone know if Somalia has a GDP?

        1. I know what Somalia doesn’t have.


        2. Yes it does. And according to the UN (that bunch of anarchists) it’s growing faster that most other African countries.

        3. “”Does anyone know if Somalia has a GDP?””

          Sure, but pirates don’t have good record keeping.

  6. What’s the point of trying to enact a spending cap when they’ll just try to raise it once it becomes inconvenient? (see debt ceiling over the years)

  7. If elected, I promise to lay waste to the entire population of do-nothings and spongers, as well as their enablers. The night sky will be alight with the burning embers of the homes of the former recipients of my largesse. The productive living will feel the burden of society’s deadweight ease from their shoulders, unleashing levels of industry the likes of which the world had yet to see. Also, the gingers.

    1. Look, I hate gingers as much as anyone else but the answer isn’t always going all Kristallnacht on any undesirables. Surely if the right people were in charge all welfare recipients would cast off their shackles and join the productive classes.


    2. You get my vote.

      Both of them.

    3. Show pity on their poor Ginger souls and my vote is earned.

      1. Ginger lover or one of them? I’m all for the big tent, but where do you draw the line?

      2. you know they have no souls, right?

    4. Also, the gingers.

      You bastard! A world without redheaded girls is a world I don’t want to live in (so I guess it’s fortunate that you’d kill me too).

        1. I didn’t say he couldn’t kill any of the redheads.

          1. I’m sure you’re one of the “good ones”.

            Fine, pick another group to target. (No, not the Jews.)

            1. Hipsters?

              1. unhappy hipsters – put them out of their misery

            2. JOOOS!!!11111!!

  8. Sacre Blow has a special place in his heart for the meat inspectors…

  9. We think a spending cap is a terrific idea! Why hasn’t somebody thought of it before?

  10. So, if CONgress enacts a spending cap, will it work as well as The Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985?

    Or the Balanced Budget Act of 1997?


    1. D’oh! Someone beat me by six minutes. Should read all the comments.

      1. It’s OK, Issac. America has a short, um…what’s that thing that we use to remember stuff…

        1. Anyway, we were declared unconstitutional. Can you believe it? And we were just trying to help. But we really really think that this time around, unconstitutional powers enacted by Congress to balance the budget will work, gosh-darn it!

        2. The Library of Congress! That’s why we can’t cut spending, because without government no one would remember anything!

          1. Everything worth remembering has already been pirated.

  11. Sarcasmic first post is dead on. And I would bet everyone has a issue that proves him right. Sure you might not mind cutting your SS and Medicare benefits, but what happens when your 89 year old mother has to move in with you, and you become responsible for her care due to the cuts?

    Everyone has a deal breaker.

    1. but what happens when your 89 year old mother has to move in with you, and you become responsible for her care due to the cuts?

      That’s why is pays to have a steep staircase, hardwood floors on the bottom, and plausible deniability.

      1. you’re not helping to dispell the “liberatarians are heartless monsters” myth. Ooh, I’m not helping either. Perhaps it’s not a myth at all?

        1. She tripped on my tophat, officer.

    2. Yeah, the government has its tentacles entwined so deeply into everyone’s lives that any spending cuts will entail a hard adjustment, and nobody believes that the sacrifice will be shared equally. The more likely scenario is that the unlucky ones hit by the cuts will have the added burden of watching others grow fat on their sacrifice.

    3. That’s why old people should be given many opportunities to wander off into the woods, never to be seen again. Old folks homes should stop locking their doors and trying to keep the inmates in. With an open door policy, Alzheimer’s wings should empty themselves out pretty fast.
      Now, I’m not for killing old people, or encouraging them to choose one thing over another. But giving them more opportunities to voluntarily make a graceful exit from their pointless and miserable lives could only make things better.

    4. With the proper forethought, your mother would rather die than move in with you.

  12. There will be violence before it’s all over. No, I’m not endorsing it or encouraging it. But there will be some pain, and the unions will fight hard to keep their share of a shrinking pie. And by fight, I mean taking to the streets and getting a little bloody, as Massachusetts congressman Mike Capuano encouraged them to do during the recent Wisconsin unpleasantness. Leftists are thugs at heart, and some point, it’s gonna get nasty.

    1. $20 says your car radio has 101.3 and 560 preset. Probably 95.5 as well.

      1. 0 for 3 my friend, so I don’t understand if you are agreeing, disagreeing or just giving me shit.

        (btw, you can contribute the $20 to the Guiding Eyes for the Blind..they train guide dogs)

        1. Just giving you shit.

  13. but what happens when your 89 year old mother has to move in with you, and you become responsible for her care due to the cuts?

    I’ll finally wear the super-adhesive branding stickers off my shovel blade.


  14. Sorry, but if you want a cap on federal spending, you’re not “serious” about solving America’s problems. Act like a “grown-up” already.

    1. Yeah, grown-ups use their credit cards, like, all the time. And when the card hits the limit you can just get another. Consumer spending is the cornerstone of healthy home economics much like Government spending is the cornerstone of the economy at large.

  15. Just stop your wars and put all money going there towards SS and MC immediately.

    1. You seem to be under the impression that the people here are Republicans. We, for the most part, would be absolutely thrilled if all the wars were ended tomorrow. But that wouldn’t be enough to balance the budget.

    2. How do you plan on addressing the gaping $800 billion hole still remaining after completely removing the Department of Defense from the federal budget?

      1. How do you address the gaping hole in your head that must be there if you equate ending wars to cutting the entire defense budget?

        1. Huh?

          If cutting out the entire defense budget can’t balance the budget how does only cutting part of it balance the budget?

          1. I misread then if that was the point.

    3. You also seem to be under the impression that ending all the wars would put us in the black. We could cut ALL military funding and we’d still be half a trillion in the red.

      1. Well over half…. over 3/4 of a trillion in the rojo

  16. I’m more of a “stop all the warring and retire debt” kind of guy.

  17. These polls are dumb. Anyway, people braying about the need for such things as spending caps aren’t really interested in fiscal responsibility. They’re interested in dismantling the welfare state for ideological reasons, in addition to finding Jesus on spending for the purpose of bashing Democrats over the head with it.

    What’s apparently missed here is that an arbitrary spending cap for the federal government would be a disaster, and would serve no purpose.

    1. Anyway, people braying about the need for such things as spending caps aren’t really interested in fiscal responsibility

      You mean people like Clinton?

      hell even Joe was in favor of PayGo back in the days of Bush.

      Once again Tony your go TEAM BLUE hackness is in full display.

      1. When his guys do it they’re fighting irresponsible Republican corporate giveaways.

        When anyone else does it they’re heartless ideologically driven extremists who would shoot the poor, aged and sick for sport if it wasn’t prohibited by law.

    2. Not like right now, where there’s no imminent disaster from continued limitless spending.

  18. an arbitrary spending cap for the federal government would be a disaster, and would serve no purpose.

    You tell ’em, Tony!

    Those gutless vermin in Congress are incapable of qualitative analysis and rational decisionmaking, so a “cap” on spending won’t result in any sort of prioritization of spending. It’s hopeless, so we’d better just keep shoveling money into the burner!

    1. We’ve got paper to burn!

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