Federal “government spending” is an empty phrase

Indeed, one of the reasons we need an increase in the debt ceiling is that the 2017 Trump tax cuts, especially the cut in the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, dramatically increased the deficit without promoting growth. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2018 that the tax cuts would increase the deficit by about $1.9 trillion over 11 years.–Heather Cox Richardson, Jan. 19th

Federal “government spending” is an empty phrase intended to mislead. Programs are authorized by Congress; when Congress acts responsibly, it also appropriates the necessary funds. If money is spent, it is when funds are appropriated rather than when the bills come due and are paid. Better call it funding.

We frequently read about government spending, particularly in the phrase “wasteful spending,” as if bill paying were optional. “Spending” suggests that government acts rashly and impulsively. This isn’t the case. The Treasury pays bills when they come due, as any person or organization does. When we pay for something we need, we say we are paying rather than spending. We “pay for” something when we need it.

Irresponsible politicians complain incessantly about government spending and demand that spending be reduced. However, they seldom say what costs would fall on individuals if certain programs were eliminated. They seldom note that Congress has authorized those programs. When Tom Reed in 2013 advocated eliminating SNAP (food stamp) funding, he neglected to mention the impact that would have on his constituents.

Discussions of the Federal budget are invariably one-sided. The only option presented to reduce the budget deficit is to eliminate government programs. Few politicians dare suggest raising taxes, even when that is clearly necessary. Those who do, George H. W. Bush for example, are punished by fickle voters.

About whungerford

* Contributor at NewNY23rd.com where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
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2 Responses to Federal “government spending” is an empty phrase

  1. josephurban says:

    George HW was a good example of a politician who makes bold claims (no new taxes) to get elected. Then faces the reality of governing and does what is best for the economy by compromising. We have no such politicians in the GOP today. They are intransigent and dangerous.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. whungerford says:

    I agree, Joe. HW was torpedoed by his party, which had long maintained that taxes were outrageous and could be cut without effect on popular government programs. Many were misled by Reagan’s assertion that cutting taxes would increase revenue (Laffer Curve). I foresee a bitter struggle today between defense hawks, fiscal conservatives and budget cutters.


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