Steve G.

Posts Tagged ‘pork’

It’s the Economy, Stupid!

In Barack Obama, Corruption, Democrats, Economics, George Bush, Pork, Republican, Spending, Taxation, US Government on March 17, 2009 at 6:51 pm

The Mercantus Center at George Mason University released yesterday an overview of the Bush spending policies.  And as any libertarian can tell you, those eight years were not pretty.

According to the data (Table 1), spending under Bush increased each and every year.  The smallest budget increase, from ’06–’07, was one of $75,000,000,000, while the largest budget increase, from ’08–’09, was $955,000,000,000.  Overall, the budget increased from 2002 to 2009 from $2,011 billion to $3,938 billion.  That’s a total increase of $1.93 trillion.

Entitlement spending and discretionary spending both also increased each and every year Mr. Bush was president.  Net interest and deficit spending fluctuated over this same period, but deficit spending took place each of Bush’s eight years, between $158 billion in 2002 and $1.75 trillion in 2009.

The data also tell us that government spending increased under the Bush regime more than under any of the previous six presidents, including the Johnson regime (Table 2).  It is estimated that in Bush’s second term, real total outlays increased by 48.6%, exceeding that of Johnson’s 35.8%. Bush’s first term saw an increase of 18.9%, the biggest increase since Johnson, beating Carter’s 17.2%.

I recognise that not everybody is going to be familiar with the term outlays; it’s not a term used often.  The website of the U.S. Senate describes outlays as follows: “Outlays are payments made (generally through the issuance of checks or disbursement of cash) to liquidate obligations. Outlays during a fiscal year may be for payment of obligations incurred in prior years or in the same year.”  Wikipedia probably gives a better definition for layman use. According to Wikipedia, the term “outlays” is usually synonymous with “expenditure” or “spending” (cited 17 March 2009, 4:36 PM).

Total outlays can be divided into two general camps: (1) entitlements and net interest payments and (2) discretionary spending.

Entitlement spending is any spending the government thinks it has to make, and includes such things as Social Security, Medicare, and the like.  The idea is that the government has already established these programmes and informed citizens that they are supposedly entitled to this money; thus, the government says, it must spend its money on these things in accordance with the already-established policies of the programmes.  To eliminate or alter this spending, the government would not merely need to alter the budget, but would also have to alter the programmes themselves, say for example by raising the age necessary to receive the Retirement Insurance Benefits of Social Security from 62 to 64.

Discretionary spending is all other spending, from military expenditures to earmarks for wood utilisation research.  (And, yes, Bush did approve spending for wood utilisation research.)  Thus, discretionary spending is itself divided usually into two camps: (1) defence spending and (2) non-defence discretionary spending.

The data are not in yet for these two types of discretionary spending under Bush’s second term, but it is estimated that his total second term discretionary spending entailed an increase of 29%, the highest since Johnson’s 33.4% increase (Table 2).  And in these past ten terms, who had the third highest increase in discretionary spending, following Johnson’s one term and Bush’s second term?  Why, once again it is Mr. G. W. Bush, with his first term (2001–2005), with his increase of 27.7% over Clinton’s second term.

Some may find this surprising, but of the past ten terms, it appears the most responsible President (at least as far as spending is concerned) was Bill Clinton, at least in his first term where total outlays only increased by 4.2% and discretionary spending actually decreased by 8%! This isn’t to say that Clinton was an ideal president, but if I had to choose between Bush and Clinton in the realm of spending, I’d choose Clinton in a heart-beat.  (Figure 1 makes a direct comparison between Mr. Clinton and Mr. Bush, showing the actual spending in millions of dollars between the two men.  According to the source, “Adjusted for inflation, in eight years, President Clinton increased the federal budget by 11 percent.  In eight years, President Bush increased it by a whopping 104 percent.”)

Although the specific numbers are not yet available for Bush’s second term, we can still analyse his first term discretionary spending.  In doing so, we find that his defence spending increase at the dramatic rate of 36.0%, more than any president in the pat ten terms, even beating out Johnson’s 33.1% and Reagan’s 26.1% (Table 2).  We can also see that his first term non-defence discretionary spending increased by 20.7%, the highest increase since Nixon’s 25.5% increase, beating Clinton’s second-term 14.4% and his own father’s 13.9%.

Figure 3 compares the cumulative real discretionary spending of Bush, Clinton, and Reagan over each of their eight years.  What I find most remarkable about this is the paragraph that follows:

President Bush outspent both Reagan and Clinton.  President Reagan boosted defense outlays by 41 percent during his terms, but he also cut real nondefense outlays by 10 percent.  Overall, total discretionary spending increased by 15.8 percent during Reagan’s terms.  During Clinton’s first term, real discretionary spending actually decreased by 8 percent.  During his second term, with the Republicans in control of Congress, it increased by 8.8 percent.  Over Clinton’s eight years then, real discretionary spending increased by 0.1 percent.  During his two terms in office, however, President Bush increased real discretionary spending by 44 percent.

Figure 9 is also quite interesting.  It depicts Congressional pork from 1994 to 2009.  1994 is the last year that the Democrats held control of Congress before the Republican Revolution of ’94.  After that point, we see the number and cost of earmarks skyrocket, especially in the years Bush was president, culminating in $29 billion dollars worth of pork in 2006, the last year Republicans held control over Congress.  Following the Democratic Revolution of ’06, the Democrats seem to have briefly attempted to abide by their libertarian mandate (remember, it was libertarian-leaning Republicans voting for Democratic candidates to protest the high spending and unnecessary wars of the GOP that enabled Democrats to win all those new seats) by reducing pork to $13.2 billion, the lowest it had been since 1999.  But the Democratic reforms did not last, and Democrats have since fallen into the same nasty habit as their Republican allies, increasing pork expenditures back up to $17.2 billion the following year.

The publication concludes with the following remarks:

Republicans often claim to be the party of smaller government.  Many Republicans would express support for Ronald Reagan’s observation:  “Growth, prosperity and ultimately human fulfillment, are created from the bottom up, not the government down.”  Unfortunately, once Republicans are elected to political office, they tend to fall into the Washington trap of assuming that more federal spending will solve the nation’s problems.  Certainly, President Bush appears to have fallen into this trap.  So did the Republicans in Congress.

Harvard economist Jeffrey Frankel argues that we should not be surprised by the discrepancy between the rhetoric and the actual policies of Republicans.  Frankel even argues that “the Republicans have become the party of fiscal irresponsibility, trade restriction, big government, and bad microeconomics.”  Frankel is incorrect about the microeconomics—Republicans generally pursue sounder tax policies than Democrats, for example—but when it comes to big government spending, the Bush Administration seems to have gone out of its way to confirm Frankel’s point.

Perhaps there’s an easy way to summarise the approaches to government of the two major parties:  Democrats want big government, while Republicans want to supersize government.  This isn’t true across the board, of course; the GOP does have a few noble, small-government friends, such as Dr. Ron Paul and Mr. Walter Jones, but they seem unfortunately few in number.

This is not to be taken, of course, as a ringing endorsement of the Democratic Party or the current president.  I have maintained in the past, and continue to maintain, that Mr. Obama is just as bad as Mr. Bush.  Ultimately, time will tell.

Nor is this to be taken as a justification for the Clinton years.  Clinton’s willingness to starve innocent Iraqis through embargo, and his administration’s authoritarian mishandling of the Waco Massacre, go to show that Mr. Clinton was by no means a man of honour.

Rather, I believe this serves another purpose: it serves as a warning about trusting Republican politicians and their talking-head partisans.  Republicans talk a good game regarding smaller government, but they never seem to deliver (with the rare exceptions mentioned above).  Thus, I recommend always taking what politicians say with a grain of salt.

—Alexander S. Peak

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Make Congress read the laws it passes

In Activism, Congress, Corruption, Law, Politics on February 26, 2008 at 10:42 pm

Logo from DownsizeDC.org

I ran across this proposed law at DownsizeDC. I absolutely agree that no member of Congress should ever vote to pass any bill they haven’t actually read in its entirety, yet it happens all the time. Worse, far too often special interest items are inserted at the last minute. The truth is that Congress passes laws on a regular ongoing basis, which the majority of Congressmen have never even read.

The failure of our elected representatives to read bills before passage causes multiple problems, the most obvious of which is an out of control bureaucracy with laws either so complicated, or so poorly written, that even the courts can’t agree upon what they mean.

Since Congress has proven that they won’t do their elected jobs properly on a voluntary basis – by knowing exactly what laws they are passing, and what the effect and cost of that law will be – it should come as no surprise that some citizens are suggesting that laws be passed, effectively forcing them to do their jobs properly.

What follows is the draft of a proposed bill along those very lines.

A BILL

To require before final passage of any Bill the printing and full verbatim reading of the text of such Bill, and each and every amendment attached thereto, to each house of Congress called to order with a quorum physically assembled throughout, the entry of such a printing and reading in the journal of each house of Congress, and the verbatim publication of every such Bill, and each and every amendment thereto, on the official Internet web site of the Senate and the House of Representatives at least seven days before floor consideration and final passage of any Bill, and each and every amendment thereto by each house of Congress; and to provide for enforcement of the printing, reading, entry, publication, recording and affidavit requirements herein.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE

This Act may be cited as the “Read the Bills Act.”

SECTION 2. FINDINGS

(a) The United States Constitution vests all legislative powers granted therein to the United States Congress, members of both the Senate and House of which are elected by the people to whom each member is accountable to represent the people of the State and of the House District in the exercise of each member’s legislative powers.

(b) To the end that Congress be politically and legally accountable to the people, Article I, Section 4 of the United States Constitution requires each House of Congress to keep a journal of its proceedings and from time to time publish the same.

(c) To the end that no legislation be passed without effective representation of the people’s interest by the elected members of the Congress, Article I, Section 7 of the United States Constitution states that only those Bills “which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate,” and not vetoed by the President, “shall become” Laws.

(d) According to Section I of Thomas Jefferson’s 1812 Manual of Parliamentary Practice for the Use of the Senate of the United States (“Jefferson’s Manual”), “nothing tended more to throw power into the hands of administration and those who acted with the majority … than a neglect of, or departure from, the rules of proceeding [which] operated as a check and control of the actions of the majority [and] a shelter and protection to the minority.”

(e) According to Sections XXII and XL of Jefferson’s Manual, it was the rule of the Senate that every bill receive three readings, two full readings by the Clerk of the Senate, and a third reading of the title of the bill only in that “every member of the Senate had a printed copy [of said bill] in his hand.”

(f) According to Sections XXIV, XXV, and XL of Jefferson’s Manual, it was the rule of the House of Representatives, following the parliamentary procedure of the English House of Commons, that every bill received two full readings by the Clerk of the House, and a reading of the whole contents of the bill verbatim by the Speaker of the House before the House voted on each bill.

(g) Under current Senate rules, the Senate has departed from its original practice of a full first and second reading of each bill, and of ensuring that each Senator has a printed or other verbatim copy of each bill before passage thereof, having by Rule XIV limited each reading of a bill to the reading of the bill’s title only, unless the Senate in any case shall otherwise order.

(h) Under current House rules, the House of Representatives has by Rule XVI (8) and Rule XVIII (5) embraced its original practice of full first and second readings of each bill, but has regularly departed from this practice by unanimous consent of the House, and has dispensed altogether its original practice of a verbatim third reading of each bill before passage, limiting such third reading to the reading of the title only, including the reading of the title only even when members of the House have no printed or other verbatim copy of a bill before passage.

(i) Although Section 106, Title 1, United States Code, requires a bill to be made available in written form to each member of Congress before final passage Congress has by statute conferred upon itself the power, during the last six days of a session of Congress, by concurrent resolution, to vote for passage of a bill that is not in form at the time of final passage.

(j) As a direct consequence of the Senate and the House of Representatives departure from the salutary practice of full, verbatim readings of each bill before final passage, and further, as a direct consequence of Congress, by concurrent resolution, having permitted certain appropriation and budget bills to be enacted into law without such bills being printed and presented to Congress in written form prior to final passage, Congress has: (a) imposed upon the American people excessively long bills, largely written by an unelected bureaucracy, resulting in generally incomprehensible, cumbersome, oppressive and burdensome laws, containing hidden provisions for special interests; (b) deprived the American people and their elected Senators and Representatives of a full and fair opportunity to examine the text of said bills, and all amendments thereto, prior to passage; (c) undermined the confidence of the American people by its failure to give adequate notice to the people before a vote is taken on said bills and their amendments in the bills; and (d) has called into question the integrity and reliability of the legislative processes in both houses of Congress by its failure to ensure that each member of the Senate and each member of the House has, prior to passage, either listened attentively to the reading of the full text of each bill, and its amendments, or has personally read the text thereof.

SECTION 3. READ THE BILLS BEFORE PASSAGE

(a) Chapter 2 of Title 1, United States Code, shall be amended by inserting at the end of the first sentence of Section 106, the following: “provided however, that no bill — including, but not limited to, any bill produced by conference between the two houses of Congress and any bill or resolution extending, modifying, or otherwise affecting the expiration date of a bill previously passed and enacted into law by Congress — shall pass either house of Congress: (a) without the full text of said bill, and the full text of each and every amendment thereto and — if the bill or resolution extends, modifies, or in any way affects the expiration date of a bill previously passed and enacted into law — without the full text of such bill or resolution and the full text of the bill previously passed and enacted into law having first been individually read verbatim by the Clerk of each house to the body of each house called to order and physically assembled with a quorum present throughout the time of the full textual reading of said bill, and of the full text of any bill previously passed and enacted into law, if any, that is the subject of a bill or resolution extending, modifying or in any way affecting the expiration date of such previously passed bill enacted into law; and (b) without the full text of said bill, and the full text of each and every amendment thereto, and the full text of the previously passed bill and enacted into law, if any, having been published verbatim on the official Internet web site of each house at least seven days prior to a final vote thereon in each house, together with an official notice of the date and time on which the vote on the final version of said bill and its amendments will take place.”

(b) Chapter 2, Title 1, United States Code, shall be further amended by striking the last sentence of Section 106, and substituting therefor: “With respect to each bill and each and every amendment thereto, and each bill previously passed and enacted into law, the expiration date having been extended, modified or in any way changed by a bill or resolution, each house of Congress shall cause to be recorded in its journal of proceedings: (a) that the reading, printing, and publishing requirements of this section have been met; and (b) the names of those members of the Senate and of the House present during the reading of each bill and each and every amendment thereto. Each member of the Senate and each member of the House shall execute a sworn affidavit, such affidavit being executed under penalty of perjury as provided in Section 1621, Title 18, United States Code, that the member either was present throughout the entire reading of each bill, each and every amendment thereto, and listened attentively to such reading, or, prior to any vote on passage of the bill, and each and every amendment thereto, personally read attentively each bill, and each and every amendment thereto, in their entirety. Neither house of Congress, nor Congress jointly — by concurrent resolution, or by unanimous consent, or by any other order, resolution, vote, or other means — may dispense with, or otherwise waive or modify, the printing, reading, entry, publishing, recording, or affidavit requirements set forth herein.”

(c) Chapter 2, Title 1, United States Code, shall be further amended by renumbering Sections 106a and 106b to 106b and 106c respectively and adding a new Section 106a as follows: “Enforcement Clause. No bill shall become law, nor enforced or applied as law, without Congress having complied fully with the printing, reading, entry, publishing, recording, and affidavit requirements of Section 106, Title 2, United States Code and any person against whom such a bill is enforced or applied may invoke such noncompliance as a complete defense to any action, criminal or civil, brought against him. Any person aggrieved by the enforcement of, or attempt or threat of enforcement of, a bill passed without having complied with the printing, reading, entry, publishing, recording, and affidavit requirements of Section 106, Title 2, United States Code, and any member of Congress aggrieved by the failure of the house of which he or she is a member to comply with the requirements of Section 106, and any person individually aggrieved by the failure of the elected Senator of the State in which the aggrieved person resides, or elected member of the House of the District in which the aggrieved person resides, to fulfill that Senator’s or House member’s obligations under Section 106, shall, regardless of the amount in controversy, have a cause of action under Sections 2201 and 2202, Title 28, United States Code and Rules 57 and 65, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, against the United States to seek appropriate relief, including an injunction against enforcement of any law, the passage of which did not conform to the requirements of Section 106.”

SECTION 4. SEVERABILITY CLAUSE

If any provision of this Act or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid for any reason in any court of competent jurisdiction, the invalidity does not affect other provisions or any other application of this Act which can be given effect without the invalid provison or application, and for this purpose the provisions of this Act are declared severable.

If you agree with the above, and want your Congressmen to become involved, you can locate and contact your Congressmen through the US House of Representatives website and the United States Senate website

Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan