I’m not going to do the LP’s work for them, but the gist of it is that they called the Obama cuts out as bullshit in their latest Monday message. And indeed it is:
Obama’s budget calls for around $11,755.00 in spending for every man, woman and child in America. But his “cuts” — which aren’t even new reductions — come out to only around 32.7 cents per person.
That much isn’t really news-the time has long since passed when the word “millions” as applied to the federal budget lost any real importance. However, what did catch my eye, after the usual dime’s-worth-of-difference propaganda, was the list of 12 specific items in the budget suggested as cuts:
Here are just a few of the reductions we back. You can find more in the Cato Institute’s “Handbook for Policymakers, Seventh Edition.”
• Avert the oncoming fiscal crisis in Social Security by indexing initial benefits to changes in prices, instead of wages. Saves $47 billion annually by 2018. Without reforms like this, the program will go bankrupt or force trillions of dollars in destructive new taxes or borrowing.
• Turn Medicare into a block grant and freeze federal spending, forcing states to pursue cost-cutting reforms. Saves $227 billion annually by 2018.
• Eliminate the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, a $352 million corporate welfare program.
• Eliminate the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration, another $369 million in corporate welfare.
• Eliminate the Energy Department’s nuclear energy research programs, $695 million in welfare that should be undertaken by nuclear energy investors.
• Turn Head Start over to private charities, saving $687 million annually. Since its inception Head Start has shown no substantive increase in inner-city literacy rates.
• Eliminate the Bureau of Indian Affairs, saving nearly $2.5 billion a year.
• Eliminate funding for the United Nations and other international programs, saving nearly $1.6 billion annually.
• Eliminate the Legal Services Corporation, saving $350 million annually.
• Eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, $278 million a year in welfare for wealthy arts patrons.
• Eliminate the Small Business Administration, $530 million in welfare for businesses.
• Eliminate the $935 million a year in Postal Service subsidies and force them to further privatize operations.
Those are just a few cuts, a “twelve step program” if you will, which alone save taxpayers $282.3 billion. That comes out to $921.78 in savings for every man, woman and child in America, and there would be a lot more savings than that to come with even more reductions.
Compare that to Obama’s piddling 32.7 cents.
That’s not bad, but I would submit that the math is a little fuzzy there. You can’t know exactly what the Medicare reform would save, especially since there would be fifty different solutions to how to deal with those block grants. Some states might choose to supplement falling federal funding with more state funding, keeping the net amount of taxation even or even increasing it as far as that state is concerned.
Also, I don’t particularly care how much a given plan saves me in 2018, I want to know what it saves NOW. I also want to know whether those numbers are accounting for inflation… is that $282.3 billion in today’s dollars or 2018 dollars?
Also, not every last one of those cuts is a good idea from a libertarian point of view. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is the price we rightfully pay every year for the intermontane West. The treaties concluded with those tribes guarantees them various payments in exchange for the cession of land. All I’m gonna say is that if you’re a libertarian and you believe in keeping your word, you can cancel that funding but be prepared to hand North and South Dakota over to the Lakota, Arizona to the Hopi and Navajo, etc. Those treaties are law, not polite suggestions to be ignored when they’re inconvenient for the budget.
I’m all for a general reformation of the way we treat Native Americans in this country, namely restoring to them whatever land and sovereignty we can via new treaties with their tribal governments. But that’s going to take a lot of research and a lot of negotiation and is beyond the scope of a single unilateral budget cut during a recession.
But anyway, my main point is that it looks like the Cato Institute is aiming to become the next Center for American Progress. CAP did a lot of homework for the incoming Obama administration, giving it several well-articulated policy proposals to implement. CAP won the war of ideas against the neocon think-tanks sometime in 2005, and more and more that intellectual reality became reality for the rest of us.
It is said that in the short term, the stock market is a voting machine; but in the long term it is a weighing machine. In that same sense, in the short term American politics is a battle of parties and personalities; but in the long term it is a battle of ideas. You can win for a time without ideas, so long as you have a well-oiled propaganda machine. The GOP proved this for the past 8 years. But you cannot hope to win in the long term without ideas on your side.
The Cato Institute has seemingly appreciated CAP’s role in the ascent of Obama, and is positioning itself to be the thinktank responsible for the eventual GOP comeback. I think this would be an excellent development, especially as the neocons are in disarray. I do believe that Obama will eventually discredit himself if he allows the spending to spiral out of control, and at that point, we have our moment, our victory in the war of ideas, and it’s just a matter of letting reality catch up.