Let’s set the record straight. The tax cut President George W. Bush is proposing is puny when you compare it to the amount of surplus money coming into the United States Treasury.
The argument between Democrats and Republicans is not about whether to allow us to keep more of what we earn or to pay off the national debt. The argument is over what to do with that portion of the surplus that is going to be spent. Here’s the important thing to remember: Either we spend it or Congress spends it, thereby increasing the size of government.
Why would anybody want to increase the size of the federal government? Most people think that the government already is too big. How did it get so big? By spending more than was necessary. Sen. Everett Dirksen once said, “A million here and a million there, pretty soon you are talking about real money.” Today a million in Washington is considered chump change.
However, when Congress spends a million dollars on a new project, that project becomes sacrosanct. If you fail to shell out another million for the same project the following year, plus a little extra to cover the cost of inflation, the people who got the million the previous year will scream bloody murder.
If you add another million to an existing project, that million, plus inflation, becomes part of the spending floor for the project the following year. Every puny little million added to the budget today will cost you $12.5 million over the next 10 years.
Today, we’re not talking about adding millions to the federal budget. We’re talking about adding billions. In January, the Congressional Budget Office raised the amount of the projected 10-year budget surplus by $400 billion over its August projections. However, at the same time, CBO increased its revenue projections by $900 billion. What happened to the extra $500 billion? That’s the amount of additional money Congress spent between August 2000 and January 2001.
In 1994, Republicans, promising to shrink government, were given control of both houses of Congress. In their first budget, for fiscal year 1995, domestic discretionary spending was $502.2 billion. In the five years that followed, domestic discretionary spending has been pushed to $635 billion. That’s an increase of 26.5 percent in just six short years.
Under the budget Mr. Bush is proposing, domestic discretionary spending will rise to $661 billion in 2002. That’s a 4 percent increase over this year’s budget, which, in modern terms, is tight-fisted but well above the inflation rate of 2.93 percent.
Nevertheless, Democrats aren’t satisfied with a $26 billion increase in the part of the budget that is open to debate. They want you to give up part of the proposed tax cut so that they can increase the size of government even more. That’s why they are proposing triggers. “What if all this surplus money doesn’t materialize? What then?” they ask. “We need a mechanism to allow us to take back the tax cut if the money isn’t there at the end of the day.”
There are two reasons the projected surplus funds might not be available:
- The economic downturn might turn out to be worse than expected.
- Congress might spend more than it originally planned.
CBO numbers traditionally are conservative. However, if the downturn turns out to be worse than expected, there still is wiggle-room between the 2.9 percent expected inflation rate and the four percent increase to fully fund all of the existing programs, good ones and bad ones. If you give Congress the option of taking back the tax cut, the money won’t be there at the end of the day. Congress will find a way spend it.
Remember the budget caps Congress put into place in 1997? Congress already has blown by those caps by a whopping $93 billion. Spending our money gives our elected representatives power and clout. That’s what this game is all about.
What we need are triggers on the budget, not on the tax cut. It’s bad enough that no one in Congress is proposing to cut the size of our bloated government but, if there is an economic downturn, why should Congress be allowed to add more money to existing programs or create new ones that will take on a life of their own? Those proposed triggers are misplaced!
Don’t let your congressman tell you that there is nothing that can be cut. Citizens Against Government Waste just released its annual “Pig Book” which contains 6,333 pork barrel projects that were inserted into the 2001 budget at the last minute, without a congressional hearing, as a political payoff to a particular senator or congressman. The pork barrel projects for the current fiscal year add up to $18.5 billion. They include:
- $4,100,000 for “shrimp aquaculture research” in five states, including landlocked Arizona.
- $8,500,000 for the Gallo Center for Alcoholism Research, which was slipped into the Defense bill.
- $700,000 for the University of Idaho Institute for the Historic Study of Jazz in Moscow.
- $5,000,000 for an insect-rearing laboratory;
- $25,000,000 for the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) in support of the Anglo-Irish Accord. In the past, our contribution to the IFI was used to build such things as a national water sports center for coaching top-level athletes.
- $500,000 for the U.S. Telecommunications Training Institute (USTTI) to provide tuition-free communications and broadcast training to professionals from around the world.
- $300,000 for the Salt Lake City Organizing Committee for a national arts and education model for the 2002 Olympic Games.
- $5,786,000 for wood-utilization research.
- $645,000 for alternative salmon products.
- $250,000 for floriculture research.
- $500,000 for swine waste management.
Perhaps most insulting is a million-dollar gift to the National Flag Foundation in Pittsburgh. For years, Congress has refused to release a proposed constitutional amendment to protect our flag, which has been requested by 48 of our 50 states. Instead, it throws a million-dollar bone to the Flag Foundation “to inspire people everywhere” to be “more responsible” citizens and have “greater respect” for the flag.
The money would be better spent if the foundation could teach our congressmen and senators to be “more responsible” representatives and have “greater respect” for our hard-earned money.