Government Spending

Do Budget Cuts Kill People? Or Do People Kill People?

|

The Washington Examiner has a bracing editorial up about the propensity of liberal commentators to say that cutting government spending will kill people.

Snippets:

"To be a little melodramatic, the budget would kill people," New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently told CNN about House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's Path to Prosperity. "No question." With the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund set to run out of money Thursday, and with none of the federal government's 12 appropriations bills signed into law so far, you can expect a lot more melodramatic quotes like this one in the coming weeks.

Liberal assertions that cuts in government spending will cause certain death are nothing new. Sixteen years ago this week, Krugman's fellow columnist Bob Herbert warned New York Times readers that the welfare reform bill Republicans were then debating in the Senate "would hurt many people, would kill some and would help no one."…

More recently, the Washington Post's Ezra Klein accused Sen. Joe Liebermann, I-Conn., of being "willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands" because he threatened not to vote for Obamacare.

The reality, of course, is a bit different. As the Examiner notes, Krugman and Herbert offered no data to suggest how folks would die. In the case of the welfare reform deplored by Herbert and many others back in the day, it seems to have been a rousing success with exactly no body count. Far from being some draconian budget exercise, the Ryan budget (alas) envisioned spending $3.6 trillion in fiscal 2012 and $4.7 trillion in 2021. The notion that not passing Obamacare would kill "hundreds of thousands," the Examiner notes drily, was based on a "flawed study."

More here.

I don't doubt that Republicans cry mass murder (or its equivalent) when folks talk about cutting their preferred spending, whether it's "defense" or farm subsidies or abstinence-only education or whatever. National security hawks certainly get the vapors when commie-symp-pinkos such as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) grant that the Pentagon's budget is fattier than bargain-brand baloney.

It's amazing how nobody seems serious about cutting the freaking budget. Even the budget cutters aren't particularly hard-core on the issue, which sorta-kinda explain why government spending keeps on going up.

But to get back to the opening gambit: Do budget cuts kill people?

Consider at least this much. The most-recent flap over a possible government shutdown centered around funds for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which oversees federal response to earthquakes, fires, floods, and other natural disasters. This is an agency whose track record is as horrible as its budget seems pretty flush. In 2001, the director asked for $3.6 billion (not sure he got it; it's hard to find the agency's data online) and Wikipedia reports its 2008 budget at $5.8 billion.

In any case, the recurrent criticism of FEMA, which probably added to the death toll of Hurricane Katrina through its widely noted incompetence ("Heckuva job, Brownie!"), has little to do with dollars per se. The plain fact is that federal government spending on virtually everything is way, way up since, say 2000. Whether you slice it as percentage of GDP, inflation-adjusted dollars, amount per targeted recipient, you name it, we're spending tons more than we were only a decade or so ago. If people are going to drop dead if that amount of dough gets trimmed at all, it's not really about money. As with many things, maybe most things, especially when it comes to government, it's the people and the organizational structure that is the problem.

NEXT: The Butter Battle

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.

  1. “Look at me! I’m bloggin’ on the rooooof, muthafucka!”

    1. Did they have to include the picture of Klein? If I never have to see his face again, it would be an improvement.

      1. If we cut the budget and it didn’t kill, but only slightly maimed Ezra Klein and Paul Krugman, would this be a better rallying cry?

        I bet we could sell some subscriptions to that magazine.

        1. You may be onto something there. If you took up a collection to punch Klein in his punchable face, you would get a check from me.

          1. Just imagine the price of tickets to see Klein vs. Krugman at MSG.

            I guess MSG doesn’t deserve such a shitty bout…we can move it across the street to the steps of the post office.

            1. It deserves to be held at some rundown armory somewhere.

            2. Klein vs. Krugman at MSG

              How long does it usually take for a person to die from rimjob 69?

              1. If you are doing it with one of those two, seconds.

            3. Krugman Vs. Klein: the intellectual equivalent of an alleyway bum fight.

              1. … only without the stately grandeur and austere dignity.

    2. Wearing a tie, ’cause I’m dapper, but jeans because I’m a man of the people. The smug, pensive facial expression is the accessory that ties it all together.

      1. Excerpt from The Punchable Man, Random House, 2011

        1. Subtitled “The guide for the 21st century hipster douchebag”

        2. There is going to be a whole chapter on hair products.

        3. Is there any chance at all that Klein can throw a baseball 30 feet or punch his way out of a wet paper bag?

      2. “This is my special blogging chair. It gives me special insight into domestic affairs.”

      3. Did you not notice my stubble? But I worked so hard to grow and trim it!

    3. I betcha he didn’t get that chair at Walmart.

  2. It’s amazing how nobody seems serious about cutting the freaking budget.

    No, it’s not. The politicians are still feeling no pain. Why would they stop the spending that is their way of life; that gets them re-elected? Yeah, some people are pissed, but so what? Until “pissed” equals “enormous numbers of politicians being voted out of office”, they will not stop.

    They still have money–even if it’s fictional money, or borrowed money–to spend. So they sure as fuck aren’t going to stop until they literally cannot. But since they can print money, when does cannot come?

    1. That and you have to understand what a bubble Washington is. Even if they mean well, once they get here and the staffs and the bureaucracy get a hold of them and show them what is “reasonable”, they are worthless.

      1. I don’t care about bubbles. Except for Bubbles, of course. The politicians will not stop until they feel (career) death breathing down their necks; anything short of that, they will just keep spending and kicking the can down the road.

        “You see this, Randy. When someone like Alex Lifeson gives you a fuckin’ shirt to put on, you’re puttin the fuckin’ thing on!”

        1. It will not change until you elect a group of people who absolutely don’t give a shit what the people already there think of them or think is reasonable. Good luck with that.

          In case you haven’t realized it, We’re Doomed!!

          1. Sure, we’re doomed. But the question really is, how long can the politicians kick the can down the road? Because they’re going to as long as possible, and that might be for quite some time.

            1. As long as they can print money and people willing pay their taxes. That is how long. You really have to get to a point of total societal breakdown where no one takes the money anymore and no one will pay their taxes for politicians to personally start feeling the pinch.

              Yeah, it really has to and probably will get that bad.

  3. “commie-symp-pinkos” is soo 50’s like me

  4. Exactly how does cutting PBS or the Legal Services Corporation kill people?

    1. The resulting increased suicide rate among neurotic liberals.

      1. So no downside then….

    2. If I can’t watch Nova on channel 13 I might skip about all gazelle-like in the Rockies and be attacked by a ravenous wildcat something something. See, watching Nova prevents that from happening every day.

      1. Psych 1, Psych 2
        What do you know?
        All your life is Channel 13
        Sesame Street
        What does it mean?

          1. Dude, you knew the source of those lyrics, so you’re just as guilty as me.

            BUSTED

            1. Old Billy Joel- The Stranger, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant= Good.

              New(er) Billy Joel- We Didn’t Start The Fire, Downeaster Alexa, = Terrible, horrible, no good.

              I think The Nylon Curtain was where it all started to fall apart.

              1. I agree. I saw him and Elton John in a concert a while back, and he thankfully didn’t play any of the later, crappier stuff except for two songs–“Pressure” and that stupid fire-starting song.

      2. I was watching a Nova episode a few weeks ago and noticed that it was brought to me by a generous contribution from Charles Koch Foundation….

        I can only imagine how the liberals immediately recognized it as a piece of right wing fascist propoganda.

        1. I’ve mentioned that before. If the Kochs are such fascists, how come they’re a major funding source for one of the flagship shows on PBS? I must not be privy to their master plans, I guess.

  5. The plain fact is that federal government spending on virtually everything is way, way up since, say 20007.

    1. It helps more to use 2000 instead of 2007. A not insignificant amount of the voting public believes that Bush, ruthless as he was, cut spending on everything that didn’t directly char the bones of brown people worldwide.

  6. The reality, of course, is a bit different. As the Examiner notes, Krugman and Herbert offered no data to suggest how folks would die. In the case of the welfare reform deplored by Herbert and many others back in the day, it seems to have been a rousing success with exactly no body count.

    “Proof? Don’t bother me with no stinkin’ proof when our favored policies are threatened!”

    It’s amazing how nobody seems serious about cutting the freaking budget.

    That’s because each side wants their piece to be left alone. It’s like the husband and wife that fight over the comforter – no matter how big, one will always feel the other is going to hog it and leave one uncovered to freeze to death. The solution ends up buying an even bigger comforter.

    1. My lies are noble…or is that Nobel?

  7. So if budget cuts kill people, wouldn’t budget increases cause fewer deaths? I’d like to see some stats on that.

    1. Don’t you know we are all going to live forever thanks the budget deficit?

      1. Liberal Life Cycle:

        Birth

        Attend school/university/sociology postgrad program for FREEZ! until age 35.

        Work at non-profit foundation that lobbies for increases in funding for homeless shelters until age 55.

        Retire, live until 120.

        Spend entire lifetime in cognitive dissonance regarding the seemingly impossible prospect of working for 20 years being enough to fund 100 years of complete and total financial dependence on the state.

        1. My neighbors all work for nonprofits and NGOs. None of them make or produce anything. Yet, they are convinced those who do are the focus of evil in the modern world.

        2. Here in New Hampshire they recently increased from 20 to 25 the years a “public safety” employee (cops and fireman) has to work before full retirement. My god, the howls of pain and anger.

          In particular, one cops wife started a website to protest this travesty. She very clearly felt that 20 years of one person’s productive effort should fund a middle class life for 2 adults to raise four children, and a comfortable 40 years of retirement for the 2 adults. Just completely divorced from the reality that most people face in the real economy.

        3. The new liberal lifecycle:

          http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb…..12-03.html

  8. “Some people say they can’t taste a difference, but I really can.”

  9. Seriously, what is the point of that picture of Klein? It is almost surreal. Who works from an office chair in the middle of a gravel pit?

    1. He looks like Andy Garcia after having been punched in the face, doped up on thorazine, and told to look “thoughtful”. In a gravel pit. In other words, it’s a scene from Godfather III.

      1. “Andy, you’re going to be doing several scenes with a complete amateur – Francis’ daughter.”

        *finds office chair in gravel pit*

        *sulks*

        1. “Her death scene is gonna be amazing! Francis says so!”

          At least she can direct.

          1. Isn’t that odd? After seeing that film, I thought she must be mentally deficient in some way.

  10. They cut the budget on The Real Housewives of Wherever the Fuck and that guy killed himself. So there’s your data.

  11. In any case, the recurrent criticism of FEMA, which probably added to the death toll of Hurricane Katrina through its widely noted incompetence…

    I don’t believe one can underestimate the role of NOLAns themselves in their own early deaths and fuctup situation. Here’s a stupid-ass population of proudly ignorant black folk who keep electing the same corrupt, ineffectual palm-greasers, over and over (when they bother to get off their fat tub o’ shit asses and vote at all). And of course, when their doomed, sub-sea-level town gets sucked into the drink (gosh, who knew that wall was crap? golly, who knew that town was in trouble the next time a hurricane hit? What a surprise.), what’s the first thing they do? Move someplace safer? Oh, no. Stop thinking like a rational person.

    They demand that their homes be rebuilt, exactly where they are. They get in front of any camera they see (what of their massive, nearly inert frames can fit in front of the cameras, at any rate), and they shriek and holler that the gub’mint’s not rebuilding their (again, doomed) homes fast enough, and waaannh, everybody’s a racist, and the reason FEMA’s dragging their feet is that the victims are largely black (when the reason for the sluggish response is more or less that FEMA can’t find its ass with both hands in broad daylight) and they can’t live in their FEMA trailers forever, but they hate the FEMA trailers because they’re not good enough homes, and where’s their next handout?

    When it comes to Katrina, I guess I hold the rather unpopular opinion that most of those deaths could have been avoided if those fools had moved their asses and got out of town. I also hold the opinion that people die, disasters happen, no one is guaranteed the right to survive a natural disaster, and that the government’s job (indeed, nobody’s job) is to guarantee a risk-free existence for people who choose to live below sea level in Hurricane Central, USA.

    1. A lot of the people died in Mississippi. People forget New Orleans didn’t flood until after the storm. The day after people thought New Orleans dodged a bullet. Then the levies started to break.

      And yeah, a full year after Katrina, I was in Houston and they had people on the news who were complaining the FEMA had fucked up and not paid their rent. They had been in Houston, a city that was booming and probably had a 4% unemployment rate at the time, for a year and they still didn’t have jobs and were depending on FEMA to pay their rent. Is that pathetic or what?

    2. A lot of the people died in Mississippi. People forget New Orleans didn’t flood until after the storm. The day after people thought New Orleans dodged a bullet. Then the levies started to break.

      And yeah, a full year after Katrina, I was in Houston and they had people on the news who were complaining the FEMA had fucked up and not paid their rent. They had been in Houston, a city that was booming and probably had a 4% unemployment rate at the time, for a year and they still didn’t have jobs and were depending on FEMA to pay their rent. Is that pathetic or what?

  12. Submitted for your consideration without comment:

    http://research.stlouisfed.org…..02-012.pdf

    1. What you mean the fact that a state like New Jersey or an important swing state like Virginia gets a disaster declaration every time there is a thunderstorm and Texas nearly burned to the ground and didn’t get one may have been politically motivated? Shocked. I am shocked I tell you.

      1. This has been covered by Huffington Post. Apparently, because Rick Perry is an asshole who criticized the federal government, Texans should not receive any benefit from existing federal programs.

  13. I see from the pic that Krugman takes his urine neat.

    1. He seems to really enjoy it too! I wonder if he ever drinks straight from the bottle?

  14. “Gentlemen. To evil.”

  15. How many people die, live less happy lives, or otherwise suffer because of the much weaker economy we have due to too much taxation, too much spending, and too much regulation?

  16. The main thing worshiped in this country is not Jesus, as they would have you think. It’s money. If you have money, you have power, you have a voice, you are something. If you do not have money, you have nothing and you ARE nothing. You’re pondscum. If you do not have money and you happen to be elderly, you’re even less than nothing. Which is why I plan on bidding this country a fond adieu and spending my later years somewhere else where they don’t consider elderly people of modest means a “burden” on society. Remember Jesus’s words: “you cannot worship God AND money.” But these fake hypocritical vangie types could care less what Jesus says. So…buh-bye. Don’t let the golden door hitcha on your butt on your way down to hell.

    1. That was…odd.

  17. But these fake hypocritical vangie types could care less what Jesus says.

    I recall he also said “I have come not to bring peace, but a sword”

  18. Union Strikes Do Kill People, however.
    The nurses union on strike in California this week — resulted in a patient dying because she was given the wrong dosage of medicine.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.