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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Growing in Depth, Shrinking in Breadth

For John, BLUFThe Baby Boomers are shaping the future of the Federal Budget.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Writing in The Washington Post Mr Robert J Samuelson suggests the end of Government options>  The title is "The End of Government", but really it is "the end of government as we know it".
Something strange is happening in Washington.  We are slowly dismantling the federal government, even as its spending is growing larger.  The paradox is that governmental competence is being systematically degraded while the government’s size, as measured by its budget, is increasing.  We are spending more and getting less, and — unless present trends are reversed — this will continue for years.  It threatens the end of government as we know it.
It is all about the voters and the power of certain groups to influence the Government.  Mr Samuelson gives us some examples of how the Government outreach is shrinking and the total cost goes up.
  • The military is being weakened.  As a share of national income, defense spending is projected to fall by 40 percent from 2010 to 2024.  For example, the Air Force has discussed retiring all its 300 A-10 jets, a close-in ground support fighter, for a savings of $3.7 billion. The move would mean that “more people will get hurt and die” in combat, one general told the Wall Street Journal.
  • The National Institutes of Health reports that since 2003 its budget has declined 22 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.  The cuts squeeze research for Alzheimer’s, AIDS, cancer and heart disease — among others — and makes it harder for younger scientists to get grants.
  • Chief Justice John Roberts warns that cuts in the federal courts’ $7 billion budget threaten delays in trials and decisions.  Since 1997, the system’s workforce has shrunk 14 percent, despite more civil filings (up 2 percent), criminal defendants charged (up 34 percent) and people on probation (up 45 percent).
The National Institutes of Health is a bothersome one, in that advances in medicine, some of which might lower costs, are not being explored.  The medical device tax strikes me as falling in the same category.

I see this as some sort of Governmental graveyard spiral that could lead to decreases in investments in R&D, Infrastructure and Education, all of which will narrow the future for our children or grandchildren.

Mr Samuelson concludes:

But no one is looking.  Budget debates and the media focus on deficits and debt ceilings.  This makes people seem engaged when they are actually evading explicit choices of what programs to cut and taxes to raise.  Both liberals and conservatives are complicit in this charade, but liberals are more so because their unwillingness to discuss Social Security and Medicare benefits candidly is the crux of the budget stalemate.  This refusal is rich in irony:  The pro-government party in rhetoric has become an anti-government party in practice.
Which takes us back to the comments of Rep Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) from one of yesterday's blog posts.  As noted there, only the voters can save us.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Medical devices, such as the examination gloves used by a medical person in a medical institution.  "Most medical devices become subject to a 2.3% excise tax collected at the time of purchase.  (The ACA provided for a 2.6% tax, but this was reduced to 2.3% by the Reconciliation Act).  This tax will also apply to some medical devices, such as examination gloves and catheters, that are used in veterinary medicine."  This Wikipedia extract has a link to here, which has links.

1 comment:

Neal said...

I think this goes back to JFK's famous statement "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Or words to that effect. I think the media and the populace at the time sort of brushed off that axiom with thoughts of peace corps and other voluntary acts of service...which are needed and good......however, what I believe Kennedy was driving to was for every citizen to apply a yardstick to their endless lists of wants and desires.....and ask themselves what of that list could they do for themselves rather than asking government to do it for them. If all Americans would do this.....and do the things that they are able to do.....we'd have little need for huge government....and government could provide us the essential things that only a collective institution can efficiently and effectively provide. Like Defense. Instead, we are in the process of rapidly opening ourselves to being defenseless in exchange for comfort and personal irresponsibility.

Medicare and SS are both unsustainable in their form. I am a beneficiary of both and I am the first to suggest it must go or be dramatically reformed. Medicaid should not even exist. Of course we can't merely STOP Medicare and SS but we can surely phase it out or morph it into something better. Generations were lied to by the FDR administration w/r SS which of course led to Medicare. The promises were as empty as the so-called SS Fund that the government spent long ago. So, we can't exactly blame today's beneficiaries for not planning ahead. They did. They trusted their government. They were wrong.

To thine own self be true. That is a basic and critical axiom to follow. Only the individual can chart their course, and when you turn over the tiller to someone else, it is no longer YOUR course you are following.