Politicians Prefer Scare Tactics to Sensible Reform

Bogus fears about budget cuts at the state level.


Not many of my friends or neighbors are sitting on pins and needles, worrying that the world as we know it will end as the federal government "slashes" spending as part of the automatic sequester cuts mandated by a previous budget bill.

And not many people have been thinking, "Geesh, there's nothing we need more than higher California taxes and additional directives from state legislators to help us live our lives in a better and healthier manner!"

Yet the political class is acting as if its own crisis – i.e., some modest limits on its power to tax and spend – is the same as a real crisis for the people whom they govern. So officials are scaring us into submission. This game has gotten particularly ugly at the federal level, where the president and members of Congress are raising the specter of poisoned food and endangered troops to get us to acquiesce in their latest scam for more dollars.

At the state level, legislators used similar tactics to convince voters to raise their income and sales taxes last November. But it's never enough. In the new legislative session, they continue to use hobgoblins – i.e., childhood obesity caused by sugary soda pop and the environmental calamity posed by plastic shopping bags – to impose new fees and taxes that would fund programs on the backs of officially disapproved legal behavior.

Unfortunately, the media reliably champions these efforts and helps keep the rest of us from behaving as any normal people should – by laughing out loud at the vulgarity of the money-grubbing and by pointing out some fairly obvious facts.

For starters, we know how governments spend money. We've watched as the Obama administration has thrown around hundreds of billions of so-called stimulus dollars that have enriched the politically well-connected without doing much for the economy. A good bit of that money has been lost or stolen, and there are hundreds of ongoing investigations into potential stimulus-related fraud.

At the state level, Gov. Jerry Brown is pushing a high-speed-rail system that will end up costing $100 billion to basically replicate what Southwest Airlines already accomplishes using private dollars (quick intrastate travel). We know that state officials refuse to reform the six-figure government-employee pensions that have led to a half-trillion-dollar unfunded liability. We're aware of the newest boondoggle – a multibillion-dollar plan to change the direction of the Delta water flow in order to save a few bait fish.

We know that the state budget solution is predicated on something impossible, that Democratic leaders suddenly embrace governmental austerity. As the Sacramento Bee reported this week regarding the new legislative session, "Taxes, fees or other charges are proposed for soda pop and sweet tea drinkers, motorists, gun owners and people who frequent strip clubs, buy prepaid cellular phone minutes, or use paper or plastic shopping bags. Businesses are targeted by proposals ranging from an oil severance tax to a manufacturers fee for mattress recycling, and a crackdown on firms that avoid property tax reassessments after ownership changes."

The federal government is even worse. We see what it costs to maintain a military presence worthy of an empire. We are familiar with the salaries paid to federal workers and the soaring debt the government faces to pay for all its "entitlement" promises. We know that government spending has long been on an upward trajectory regardless of what party runs the Leviathan.

Yet we're supposed to believe that cutting a measly $85 billion from a $3.55 trillion budget – a mere 2.4 percent – is going to stretch the government so thin that it can't even maintain tours to the White House and it might even endanger lives by laying off meat inspectors.

Are those the best theatrics they can come up with?

This is the equivalent of a family that spends lavishly but then threatens to abandon its pets and starve the children when the trust fund doesn't perform as well one year. You know the moment new funds come in they'll be back vacationing in Maui and buying big-screen TVs at the Best Buy.

To forestall any potential panic, Congress this week is working on legislation that keeps the meat inspectors on the job and also is "giving government managers flexibility to minimize the impacts on the public by finding the savings elsewhere in their budgets," according to a McClatchy report. That bill reinforces reality. This is a manufactured crisis designed to upset the masses. Really – we need congressional legislation to legalize common sense in public agencies?

The truth is seeping out. According to the Heritage Foundation, "Federal spending is projected to grow from $3.6 trillion in 2013 to more than $6 trillion by 2023, a 69 percent increase without sequestration. Even with sequestration, federal spending would still grow by 67 percent. Sequestration barely even slows the growth in spending, let alone cuts any spending out of the overall budget."

Somehow, the nation will survive even if the federal government doesn't grow as rapidly as planned and California might get by without a bullet train and higher taxes on nude dancing. As usual, the first step in controlling government's endless appetite is to call its bluff and refuse to give in to the predictable and at-times laughable scare tactics.

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  1. “As usual, the first step in controlling government’s endless appetite is to call its bluff and refuse to give in to the predictable and at-times laughable scare tactics.”

    Silly me; I thought the CA voters might have seen through Moonbeam’s BS about crumbing schools when he pitched the latest tax increase.
    Fat chance.

    1. They couldn’t see through Moonbeam’s BS for the piles of dead children and aged people caused by Washington’s “austerity” measures.

      I blame Bush.

      1. I’ve confirmed California’s rail systems last stop will be the 7th Circle of Hell, after a long stop through the 8th Circle of Hell. Those against it will be forced off at the 6th Circle of Hell. While those that participate will get to live in the 3rd and 4th Circle of Hell.

        All aboard.

  2. Is resisting our betters still a “thing”? Cause I’m ready to Love Big Brother?.

    1. They may be richer, more connected, and more corrupt, but they are not my betters.

      1. You call this happiness? Surrounded by toadying lackeys and paid sycophants? Living with a love goddess, sex-bomb model megastar. You call this contentment? Y’know, I stand here now, and I look at the two of us, and I ask one simple question: who is the rich man? You, with your fifty-eight houses, your private island in the Bahamas, your multi-billion pound business empire, or me, with…with…with what I’ve got? *uncomfortable silence* It’s you isn’t it?

  3. But just try to imagine how awful our schools would be without all that additional spending. We’re barely staving off the total collapse of the system. If we hadn’t thrown all that money into education, it would be like Lord of the Flies in every classroom in America.

    1. If we hadn’t thrown all that money into education, it would be like Lord of the Flies in every classroom in America.

      If only. The little shits might actually learn something then.

      1. A friend and I were biscussing what a fully privatized, free market school system may look like. Average K-12 class size in US is 20 pupils, average cost $10,615 per pupil. I know the problems with averages, but this is just a back of the napkin exercise. That’s $212,300. At $100k per year in most markets you could get a well located building sufficient for a single classroom (not to mention scaling up)and easily cover expenses. $112k for Teacher Salary. And you could interview teaches, have a classroom near your house, have choice for all year, partial year schooling. There would certainly be the Wal-Mart of Schools, and the small shop school next to your neighborhood T-Mobile store. A retired and brilliant professional could teach five students in their home and make $50k. Teaching opportunities would be diverse and lucrative. You’d hire them like you would other professionals, the dentist for your child, the attorney, the architect, the doctor. Parents woudl care since it was their child’s future in consideration. Sorry, but administrator jobs would die off. The vareity of choice is nearly unimaginable.

        1. P.J. O’Rourke wrote about something like this in the 1980s – he said New England was so infested with academics/PhDs that you could just hire ’em for each group of kids… just use the absurd tax dollars that were being poured into the publik skoolz.

          It was in Parliament of Whores, IIRC.

          1. My reading list grows exponentially with the time I spend on Reason Blogs.

          2. I loved that book.

            1. “I mean, what the fuck?! What the fucking fuck?!?!?”

      2. I could imagine a scene of a retired person, meeting a parent at their home, saying they will be sticking with Math all week or saying next week they’ll be working on critical thinking skills and discussing the assignments and some help the parent might provide.

        A parent could select a like minded teacher. or on a given year, throw their child to a Socialist Mind Rapist to help show the child disturbing world views in real time. Choice.

  4. Fear IS the little mind killer. And thinking is not desired, just tune in and vote for them to make the scary monsters go away! Really!

  5. Speaking of this, have you guys heard what’s going on in Chicago?

    Their student population has shrunk so drastically, they’ve got half-empty schools, and that right-wing neocon, Rahm Emanuel wants to start closing and consolidating schools.

    The entrenched Chicago power has actually said that children will die, and when they do, the blood of those children will be on Rahm’s hands.…..ic-schools

    There’s a wonderful subtext of press-bias here, too. But that’s for another thread.

    1. While driving in to work this AM, I heard Karen Lewis (the CTU Chief and honorary Goodyear Blimp) announcing that DEATH was going to be the result of these school closings.

      I did not know whether to laugh or puke.

      1. I’d suggest the only proper method of cleansing the spirit would be to first puke, then laugh.

  6. The entrenched Chicago power has actually said that children will die, and when they do, the blood of those children will be on Rahm’s hands.

    If they are going to restrict magazine sizes, it’s only fair to put fewer children in each classroom.

    1. You’re on fire today.

    2. This is the most poltically incorrect thing I’ve read since the one about the two Nazi Jews and the naked prostitute with an enlarged labia, that enter a mosque eating a Calr’s Jr bacon swiss sandwich.

      But I’m sure you know that one already.

      1. Did I tell you my grandad died at Auschwitz?
        He was a guard, not real smart, and locked the door on the gas chamber from the inside.

  7. Terrorism – the systematic use of terror, often violent, especially as a means of coercion.

    Enough said.

  8. …’And not many people have been thinking, “Geesh, there’s nothing we need more than higher California taxes and additional directives from state legislators to help us live our lives in a better and healthier manner!”..

    Uh, I hate to break it to you, but there are a GREAT MANY people who eat up the ‘Sky is Falling’ rhetoric of politicians and genuinely believe society will collapse into Mad-Max dystopia without everyone “kicking in” more, and more “nudging” from regulations to be compelled to “act better”

    I have mentioned a conversation with a guy who was *a fact-checker* for the New Yorker… Columbia U grad. Not stupid (superficially). I asked him why he *wanted* higher Federal taxes; his reply was = “I believe we need things like roads, bridges, schools….”

    I then told him federal govt does virtually nothing in any of those areas, and that a mix of municipal bond issues and property tax pays for those things. He didn’t believe me.

    I was like, “Fact check it, bitch”. I was a little shocked he never even understood the distinction between taxes and Public Bond Issues.

    He then falls back to, “well, regardless…” Basically – “More government is always a good thing”

    It is hard to tell you how aghast this left me.

    1. Dang, I didn’t know only municipal bond issues and property taxes paid for roads and bridges. Now I feel like one of young kids who think the Kentucky Derby is held in Minnesota or something.

      1. “roads and bridges” can be paid for a buncha ways, including tolls, private money, one-off bond issues, or whatever… but the key idea is that the average guy seems to think that most infrastructure in his local community exists solely because of the beneficent largesse of the *Federal* Government, which is complete and utter horseshit.

  9. I read an article recently (here??) that the federal government is really just “an insurance company with guns”

    All they really do is a) get into wars, and provide the world’s most expensive and inefficient b) retirement-annuity (Social Security) and c) LTC/Health (Medicare) insurance. That’s basically it. The rest is a lot of fluff that hardly even ranks mention.

    God, i just googled that phrase and the first thing that came up was Krugabe… arguing that Solyndra “wasnt a big deal” because the Govt spends SO MUCH MORE MONEY on the above Big 3 issues…. which was really a backhanded way of saying, “yeah, govt spends way too much” without him intending it. The original thing i read was more of a critique of Govt’s main mandates.

  10. Here’s more SEQUESTER DOOM NEWS~!

    “Sequester Will Cause Planes to Rain From the Skies in Flaming Pieces”…..story.html

    The Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday that it would shutter 149 airport control towers early next month, including at least six in the Washington region.

    The closures come on the heels of the mandatory spending cuts that went into effect earlier this month. The Federal Aviation Administration had planned to make the closure announcement last week but delayed the decision because it had received a of the volume of appeals

    Translation = “They were already planning to shutter a lot of unneeded infrastructure but too many people had cushy jobs on the public tit. Now we can moan that SEQUESTER killed us all!”

    1. I am sure all those fields were D airspace anyway and shut down at dark and turned into Class E or G. There is still a TRACON facility that handles IFR and Flight Following duties. Nothing to see here.

      1. IOWs, these were already ‘fat’ that needed trimming.

        1. Yes. Flying into an uncontrolled field isn’t what the media or politicians would like to make it out to be. You still have a Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) that you are required to use to report your position to traffic in the area. The TRACON facility will have radar coverage to vector IFR traffic and in VFR conditions “See and Avoid” is still in effect. So it is pretty much like flying in 80 percent of US airspace.

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  14. Fear is a must stronger motivator than reason. It’s a survival mechanism. From a survival standpoint, it’s better to jump away from what looks like a snake than to stand there until you realize it’s a stick. Doesn’t work so well in law-making though.

    1. Which is pretty much the point. Both teams prefer emotion to thought to garner support, and most people (voters) respond to that.
      So the libertarians get to wait for the biologic evolution to catch up to the cultural evolution. And tolerate the politicos and sputniks until it does.

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