The History of Us

I want to draw your attention to a fascinating, information-dense document: the historical tables of the budget of the United States government for 2013. It’s a detailed history of federal receipts and outlays from the beginnings of the country to the present. A few quick observations.

First, with the possible exception of 2012 the future projections contained in the document are wholly fictitious. There are assumptions being made which are so unlikely as to be fantastical, particularly on the revenue side.

Second, over the period of the last 20 years real declines in spending have been scarce. I count twice over the period: in 1993 and, remarkably, in 2007. That last makes me wonder if more federal spending in 2007 might have resulted in a shallower trough in the economy.

Third, I see no pragmatic reason that any item in the budget should have a permanent claim on a fixed or, indeed, increasing percentage of GDP. Do our defense needs increase because our production increases? I don’t see it. Or is the calculation that greater production means a greater willingness to pay? That’s even more striking when you consider the sharply rising percentage of GDP that the Department of Health and Human Services (read: Medicare) is consuming. I find blithe assertions about rich countries being willing to spend more on healthcare unsatisfying. I think that everybody would prefer to spend less on healthcare. It’s more a “market will bear” situation than one of preference.

18 comments… add one

  • jan

    I read a lot of discontent in your posts, as many of us have. But, why again was there no better choice than to have Obama have at it again?

  • Why, indeed? First, I didn’t vote for Obama in 2012. Second and obviously, Obama was a stronger candidate than Romney just as he was a stronger candidate than McCain. The question that Republicans need to answer for themselves is why are they nominating unelectable candidates?

    Let’s face it. Nominating somebody from the financial industry when many Americans are upset with the financial industry was not shrewd. Nominating a member of the top .1% of income earners when people are upset with the top .1% of income earners? Additionally, the distrust of Mormons among the evangelical part of the Republican base is nothing compared to the distrust of Mormons among much of the Democratic base. Maladroit positioning on social issues? The list goes on.

  • As for discontent, I’ve been discontented with every presidential administration of the last half century. My views on them have varied from disgust to shock.

  • jan

    Dave,

    What I find disconcerting is that we have become more segments of different parts of society isolated from each other, rather than a variation of people (ethnicity, gender, class, religioous affiliation etc.) that are pulling for the same outcome with whatever strengths a people might possess.

    Just take your second paragraph distinguishing why Romney was such a flawed candidate —> ” Nominating somebody from the financial industry when many Americans are upset with the financial industry was not shrewd. Nominating a member of the top .1% of income earners when people are upset with the top .1% of income earners? Additionally, the distrust of Mormons among the evangelical part of the Republican base is nothing compared to the distrust of Mormons among much of the Democratic base.”

    This 1% versus the 99% created by the OWS movement, which was a prize-winning strategy of the dems, has created more of a class dysfunction than anything elese. The fact that a ‘rich’ person should now be viewed with disdain is ridiculous. The same goes with being a part of the financial community — making a success out of unsuccessful business ventures most of the time. Don’t we need someone with a proven background in business and economics? As for religion — I thought this country was beyond judging people by how they chose to worship. We even have Islamic Congressmen! So, if Mormonism was a pitfall, I view that as disappointing in how this nation has developed in it’s attitudes towards religious diversity.

    Ironically, I look at Obama as a finessed political candidate by the democratic political power brokers. They assembled a candidate that would fit the slots of electability in their base — going heavy on the charisma factor. And, the ones that didn’t match up, they then created ‘issues and social divides’ that would fill in the voids. Maybe that’s how it is these days — artificially construct a candidate to win. It’s like building a legos figure — all angles and no substance.

  • steve

    “This 1% versus the 99% created by the OWS movement, which was a prize-winning strategy of the dems, has created more of a class dysfunction than anything elese. ”

    Nope. They didnt create it, they recognized it. As several people have said, of course we have class warfare, and the wealthy are winning. Setting aside the issue of trends continuing ad infinitum, if our trends did continue as they have for the last 30 years, the top 1% get all of the income. We become a large banana republic with a better army. I would note that at least some people on the right are beginning to acknowledge that massive levels of inequality and extreme wealth concentration is probably not consistent with a democratic form of government.

    “The fact that a ‘rich’ person should now be viewed with disdain is ridiculous.”

    It is a basic value among Americans. We tend to not trust big government, and we also do not trust extremely wealthy people running our government. We had a revolution to stop that. We can look around the world and see that is how third world countries work.

    ” rather than a variation of people (ethnicity, gender, class, religioous affiliation etc.) that are pulling for the same outcome with whatever strengths a people might possess.”

    You mean like when a senator says his most important job is to make sure a president is not re-elected? Not, participate in governing so as to make our country run better, just pure opposition.

    Obama was not a great candidate, in either election. However, we was better than his opponents. Romney held every possible position on every possible issue. He refused to get specific on anything, other than tax cuts. What a lousy candidate, and the sad part is that he was the best of the lot. A rational candidate, like a Mitch Daniels or Huntsman, is out because they dont kowtow to the social cons or because they worked with Obama. You guys are nuts. Give us a decent candidate, one who has plans beyond tax cuts, and you win easily. Oh, and find someone who isnt keen on putting the neocons back in power. There is a reason you guys mentioned W’s name maybe twice during the whole campaign.

    Steve

  • jan

    Steve,

    You are full of dem talking points.

    The McConnell’s ‘one-term-presidency’ statement has been especially overused and over-leveraged to the hilt for the purpose of personally propagating dislike between political parties and special interest groups, much like the 47% taped remark did. What’s missing in the discussion has been honest comparisons of economic viewpoints, as well as an honest retrospective look at what Obama’s policies have done for this country.

    BTW, Mitch Daniels was my early favorite. Huntsman was full of himself, IMO. Romney was not a good political candidate. However, I think, had he not been so profoundly and personally discredited from the getgo, and given the opportunity to take on the office of POTUS, he would have been a decent president taking us into a much better and stronger future than we are now facing under Obama’s rule.

    We will never know, though, as we are now stuck, with the same old, same old jive that has taken us where we are today — awaiting, with baited breath, another debt ceiling rise, higher taxes, more regulations, strangulating energy policies, a murky and weak approach to foreign policy, more, cronyism coupled with failed taxpayer investments, and of course implementation and clarity of the rules and regs, as determined by the HHS, for the ACA that you like so much.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    When people think that their financial future is negative, they vote Democrat. The D’s will ensure that the “safety net” is not eliminated.

    When people think that their financial future is positive, they vote Republican. The R’s will ensure that their money is not eliminated.

    Contrary to Democrat’s planned permanent majority, the Republicans will become a majority again. This will coincide with an improving economy. Many voters who are being declared geniuses by the Democrats will be declared idiots when the Republicans come back.

    After a big win, I think the Democrats are far more obnoxious than the Republicans. Democrats tend to do all the things they accuse the Republicans of doing.

  • Andy

    The fact that a ‘rich’ person should now be viewed with disdain is ridiculous. The same goes with being a part of the financial community — making a success out of unsuccessful business ventures most of the time.

    People care about how one becomes rich. Few view Bill Gate’s wealth or the late Steve Jobs or Richard Branson with disdain – they built their fortunes from nothing. The “financial community” was bailed out and profited from their own failures. Why should anyone view them with anything but disdain? Or the people that got rich off of Uncle Sugar? Sure there are some good eggs in there, but they’re hard to find among the rotten….

    Don’t we need someone with a proven background in business and economics?

    No, we don’t. Romney famously suggested that there ought to be a Constitutional amendment requiring Presidents to have business experience. Count up the good and great Presidents in US history and see for yourself who that would eliminate. Ronald Reagan, union organizer and union President, for one!

    Steve,

    You mean like when a senator says his most important job is to make sure a president is not re-elected? Not, participate in governing so as to make our country run better, just pure opposition.

    My opinion on this is that is a question between the Senator and his/her constituents. I think the job of elected officials is to represent their constituents and if an official’s constituents want to ensure the President isn’t reelected, then I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. Nor do I have a problem with “pure opposition” – if the people of Kentucky (not my state) have a problem with how he conducts himself or his opposition to the President, then they are free to elect someone else.

  • jan

    Andy,

    People care about how one becomes rich. Few view Bill Gate’s wealth or the late Steve Jobs or Richard Branson with disdain – they built their fortunes from nothing.

    Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were both democratic tech guys. It makes a difference what party affiliation you have, with regards as to how much of a ‘wealth’ pass one gets from the populace. For instance, the Kennedy’s were flamboyantly rich, had assets in other countries, inherited their wealth, Ted was even involved in a young woman’s death — but, none of it seemed to faze the liberal electorate nor the MSM who idolizes the dem side of the aisle, and forgets to print the bad stuff, so much of the time. To me it’s representative of the double standard applied to the R’s and D’s

    In contrast Romney’s father didn’t go to college, was a self-made man, raised his children to be self reliant (not silver spooned fed by any money he made), give to the less fortunate, make their own way in life, and in the end what money Romney got from his father he gave away — working for and earning the wealth he created, much like Gates and Jobs did.

    Tastybits,

    After a big win, I think the Democrats are far more obnoxious than the Republicans. Democrats tend to do all the things they accuse the Republicans of doing.

    I can’t believe how big the dems ego is at the moment. There is no humility, no olive branch or signs of working with the minority party. It’s all about who ‘won,’ just like in ’08, which seems to give them the idea that they should be able to sweep the road clean of any opposition from the opposition party.

    They also seem to be preparing the stage for blaming the R’s for anything that happens — whether there is a deal or no deal. The airwaves are being carpetbombed with accusations from Obama, already, about it all being up to the R’s to cooperate. What about the dems? I have never disliked the D party as much as I do now, and that is after being a member of it for most of my adult life!

  • jan

    Andy,

    Romney famously suggested that there ought to be a Constitutional amendment requiring Presidents to have business experience.

    I hadn’t heard such a comment from Romney. Hopefully that was uttered in jest — if not, it was pretty lame. Having said that, though, business experience is a needed asset for these times, IMO. I have frequently noted various economists lamenting Obama’s poor economic judgement, saying that it indicates a lack of fiscal knowledge and application in how he approaches remedies for the struggling business economy.

    I agree.

    Obama is basically a man whose instincts are fueled more by ideology than pragmatic and prudent knowledge of what makes business tick, what grows the economy and consequently produces more jobs. Ironically, Romney was just the opposite. He was a solution type of guy, immersed in ‘fixing’ problems, uncomfortable with politics and social issues — and the latter became what Obama flaunted, exploited — gimmicks which won him the election.

  • jan

    This is the society being cultivated under Obama’s policies, with only more to come due to his unfortunate reelection: When work is punished: the tragedy of American’s welfare state

    Exactly two years ago, some of the more politically biased progressive media outlets (who are quite adept at creating and taking down their own strawmen arguments, if not quite as adept at using an abacus, let alone a calculator) took offense at our article “In Entitlement America, The Head Of A Household Of Four Making Minimum Wage Has More Disposable Income Than A Family Making $60,000 A Year.” In it we merely explained what has become the painful reality in America: for increasingly more it is now more lucrative – in the form of actual disposable income – to sit, do nothing, and collect various welfare entitlements, than to work. This is graphically, and very painfully confirmed, in the below chart from Gary Alexander, Secretary of Public Welfare, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (a state best known for its broke capital Harrisburg). As quantitied, and explained by Alexander, “the single mom is better off earnings gross income of $29,000 with $57,327 in net income & benefits than to earn gross income of $69,000 with net income and benefits of $57,045.”

    Read the whole thing. It’s demoralizing, but has a lot of truth to it.

  • This is the society being cultivated under Obama’s policies

    I don’t think that’s quite fair. Without defending the president, I think that many of these policies have been developing for decades, in some cases three quarters of a century, and have frequently enjoyed bipartisan support.

  • jan

    Without defending the president, I think that many of these policies have been developing for decades, in some cases three quarters of a century, and have frequently enjoyed bipartisan support.

    Of course you are correct, regarding a more sweeping/accurate assessment regarding the beginnings of such policies. LBJ’s engagement in ‘The Great Society,’ Reagan’s own hand in increasing debt, Clinton’s CRA which was a component in the housing disaster, and Bush extending the donut closer —> prescription drug program — just to name but a few examples bringing us closer to a nanny state type of government.

    However, I did not say that Obama started these trends, only that they were being cultivated under the social policies pursued during his 1st term — with no indication of abatement in his upcoming 2nd term. Basically I think Obama’s leadership has been more of a B12 shot (especially the ACA), not only speeding up the process, but creating a kind of ‘new norm’ for people willing to participate in social programs, which at one time was considered a last-resort kind of remedy — food stamps to applying for permanent disability.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    It is Carter’s CRA.

  • jan

    TastyBits

    Technically you are right, in that the CRA was signed by Carter in ’77. However, it was a benignly implemented act until the Clinton years, where it became the tool of such groups like ACORN, and literally the ‘backbone’ for various left leaning affordable housing alliances throughout the country.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    The CRA was a shake-down tool for those groups.

  • jan

    TastyBits

    The left is full of shake-down devices/schemes and arm-twists. That’s why they are so successful in getting what they want. While the people call for honesty, civility and government transparency. They more often than not respond to and vote for the charming con man.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    It’s the game, and things are never what they appear to be.

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