Monday, March 11, 2013

We can spare the state department, but that's it

Rand Paul is spitting into the wind. Unfortunately so from my perspective, but it's what he's doing all the same.

Pew recently released the results of a survey in which respondents were asked whether they would increase, decrease, or maintain current spending levels across 19 different expenditure categories if they were writing up the federal government's budget. The following table shows the public appetite for spending increases (decreases) by category, computed by simply taking the percentage of respondents who indicated they would increase spending in an indicated area and subtracting from it the percentage who said they'd decrease it (and letting be the percentage who wanted to keep it the same). The first numerical column shows the broader public's predilections. The three subsequent columns show results by partisan affiliation:

Spending up (down) on...TotalRepDemInd
Education50317047
Veterans' benefits47484547
Social security31184625
Combating crime27244219
Natural disaster relief2233321
Roads and infrastructure2172527
Medicare2134515
FDA inspections19(5)3817
Scientific research17(10)3717
Health care16(28)5111
Energy15(5)3413
Agriculture1422311
Anti-terrorism defenses1326181
Environmental protection11(28)4410
Military defense837(4)1
Aid to needy in the US3(40)303
Unemployment assistance(8)(47)28(12)
State department(20)(26)(13)(20)
Foreign aid(27)(63)8(33)

Statism is alive and well in the US. Combined spending for unemployment benefits, the state department, and foreign aid--the three areas for which there is more desire for attrition than accretion--constituted less than 5% of all federal government spending in 2012. While there is some aversion to sending our pooled money overseas, the masses want it gathered up and spread around by a federal apparatus at home.

Even self-identified Republicans want spending increases in more areas than they want decreases, and more importantly, in the three gargantuan spending categories--social security, defense, and medicare--they want the federal government to spend more, not less, than it's currently spending. In 1980, Reagan's platform included abolishing the department of education. Today, only one in ten Americans (and barely one in seven Republicans!) say they'd like to see federal spending on education cut, let alone abolished entirely.

Leviathan loves the tacit agreement between Demopublicans and Republicrats to allow for increases in international defense offense defense spending in return for acquiescence to increases in domestic spending back home. Consequently, the only outlay category that voters in both parties express a desire for cuts in is the state department (with a $0.030 trillion budget from the $3.746 trillion the federal government spent last year). What percentage of Americans even know what the state department does? Besides being derelict in attacks on diplomatic missions in places like Benghazi, that is. Heh, maybe that's why they aren't overly eager to give it more money.

I'm not qualified to proffer financial advice, but every day that passes sees me becoming more and more satisfied with the investment strategy I've been employing for the last few years--buying gold and silver, exclusively. In retrospect, I wish I would've started when I hit legal adulthood in 2002. Better late than never, though, I guess.

10 comments:

Dan said...

I would get a nice desirable house with a mortgage together with a fiance or wife, and a fixed mortgage.

If the dollar declines considerably, your mortgage in real terms will be much less, and you'll be doing well. It may be difficult to buy a house when interest rates are high in the future.

Anonymous said...

The education spending makes really no sense. It is evidence of uninformed respondents. Education is paid for by state and local taxes. There is no need for federal education spending to increase at all.

Anonymous said...


"If the dollar declines considerably, your mortgage in real terms will be much less, and you'll be doing well. It may be difficult to buy a house when interest rates are high in the future."


Why do you think interest rates will go up? Analysts I have read seem to think that the gov't will do anything to keep them low because an increase will cause a collapse. I would be interested to see some other predictions.

Black Death said...

"We have met the enemy, and he is us."

-Pogo (Walt Kelly)

Dan said...

"Why do you think interest rates will go up? Analysts I have read seem to think that the gov't will do anything to keep them low because an increase will cause a collapse. I would be interested to see some other predictions."

At some point the dollar comes under inflationary pressure based on the present policies.

There are two possible scenarios:

(1) Inflation + low interest rates as government holds rates low and doesn't act to control inflation

Then house prices rise and you win having bought a rising house with borrowed money.

(2) Interest rates go up as a market response to inflation risks and as a government effort to control inflation risks.

Then you also win, having financed a home at a low rate when this was possible.

Jokah Macpherson said...

It irritates me that education remains the biggest sacred cow in government spending, probably because it has one of the worst track records of showing any sign of improvement based on the money spent.

Incidentally, I discovered today that Head Start is under the Dept. of Health and Human Services rather than the Dept. of Education (maybe everyone else knew this but I did not). I guess that makes sense seeing that it functions better as a daycare and employer than as a vehicle for raising lifelong academic achievement.

Noah172 said...

So...

Most Republicans want to cut foreign aid -- while at the same time, surveys show that about 40-50% of Republicans want the US to give Israel (the largest recipient of US aid over the last 30-odd years) more support than currently, and very few want to reduce American support of that republic.

The one category of spending where indies show more sense than both sets of partisans is "anti-terrorism." I wouldn't have guessed that, but good for them.

Maybe people just don't care whether or not education spending improves academic outcomes: what really matters is more teacher jobs, which have stability and usually decent (if not above average, in union states) health coverage despite all the hassles that teachers endure.

Education spending also allows people to ignore the realities of IQ and family breakdown (caused by nontraditional sexual mores) which determine so much of students' success or failure in schools.

People want to cut the State Department, but they complain about the time needed to obtain a passport.

Last year, we spent 728 billion dollars of our national wealth in the form of the trade deficit, larger than any category of federal spending except Social Security (but not by much). Anybody favor cutting that? Mr. Obama? Mr. Rubio? Bueller?

Martel said...

Education spending is laughably inefficient, but it's a boondoggle for lefty interest groups, so we've gotta increase it.

Almost nobody knows that the more education we fund, the worse it gets. The right has done a PATHETIC job of pointing this out.

School choice is cheaper and works better, but all the big money is against it. It would be a winning issue for the GOP, which may be why they never talk about it.

Dan said...

"School choice is cheaper and works better, but all the big money is against it. It would be a winning issue for the GOP, which may be why they never talk about it."

School choice is the last thing that the elite want. The high real estate value of their neighborhoods comes from the fact that non-racist parents flee minority schools districts at almost any cost. Can you imagine the frustration when

I think school choice would be great. If the rich can't flee, they will have to face reality.

Anonymous said...

I think school choice would be great. If the rich can't flee, they will have to face reality.

No, they will start their own small private schools. Small private schools started by concerned parents proliferated in the South in the early 1970's in response to forced busing.