This is an archive of the old Stones Cry Out site. For the current site, click here.

« ABV | Main | Feds Plan Temporary Cities for Evacuees »

September 16, 2005

How to pay for the Katrina programs

Rick and I had a bit of a back-and-forth about raising taxes vs reducing spending to deal with the budget deficit in general and paying for the Katrina rebuilding specifically. Last night, Bush proposed a number of programs, and today he's said how he wants to pay for them:

President Bush on Friday ruled out raising taxes to pay for Gulf Coast reconstruction, saying other government spending must be cut. "You bet it will cost money, but I'm confident we can handle it," he said.

"It's going to cost whatever it's going to cost, and we're going to be wise about the money we spend," Bush said a day after laying out an expensive plan for rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast without spelling out how he would pay for it.


Also Friday, White House officials said taxpayers at home will pay the bill for the massive reconstruction program and that this will mean a deeper budget deficit.

Bush said it's important that government quickly fix the region's infrastructure to give people hope. Asked who would pay for the work and how it would impact the nation's rising debt, Bush said he was confident the United States could pay for reconstruction "and our other priorities."

He said that means "cutting unnecessary spending" and maintaining economic growth, "which means we should not raise taxes."

Deficits are (or should be) for emergencies, and this is certainly one. However, I think Dubya should take this opportunity to both avoid increasing it by too much and at the same time cut the waste and making some departments actually look for ways to cut back. Now is the opportunity to cut the fat (and prove DeLay wrong).

And let's make these cuts permanent. It would be the smallest of starts, but a start it would be.

Posted by Doug at September 16, 2005 04:41 PM

Trackback Pings


Here's an idea for where to cut: turn the Interstate highway system back to the states.

While we're at it, we could privatize the FAA and think about eliminating the entire Department of Transportation. The federal government has no business regulating interstate transportation, and the highway budget has been an egregious exercise in porkbarrel politics for as long as everyone here has been alive.

Posted by: s9 at September 16, 2005 04:50 PM

s9, very sensible proposition. However, as you point out, the Transportation Bill sustains representatives. Why would they ever agree to give up the one legislative arena that allows them to placate their constituencies?

That's like cutting off the hand that feeds their constituents. I doubt that there would ever be a consensus in Congress to do something that is completely against their self-interest. That would be irrational from a poltical economy perspective.

I work for some of the most conservative local cities in southern california. Let me tell you, they LOVE it when their Republican congressman brings home the pork. Love it! Love it! Love it!

Why wouldn't they? Everyone else is getting some. If they didn't get in on it as well, then their just getting ripped off. Plus their pork is only a drop in the bucket compared to all the pork out there.

It's a fiscal Tragedy of the Commons. Hardin is the man. Only way to overcome the tragedy is to re-arrange the institutional arrangement that causes the failure. I.E., dump the first past the post, single member district system of elections.

Good luck.

Posted by: Rick at September 16, 2005 05:00 PM

What I find interesting is that s9 wants to strip the government of specifically enumerated responsibilities and powers. Misused as it might be, the federal government has jurisdiction when moving things from one state to another, hence the Interstate Commerce clause. At the same time, he wants to keep the Education Department, which isn't mentioned in the Consitution at all.

He's a troll. Get not thyself sucked in.

Posted by: Doug Payton at September 16, 2005 05:07 PM

p1. I proposed eliminating the entire Transportation Department, not just rolling back the most recently passed and egregious authorization.

p2. I am ready to concede that the entire federal government should be eliminated. Yes, Doug, that includes the Department of Education.

I'm done trying to defend the U.S. federal government from the attacks of so-called conservatives who want to "eliminate entire departments" to save money. Seriously. I used to be a believer in American-style federalism. Not any more.

Conservatives have finally persuaded me of the merits in "eliminating entire departments" of the federal government. In fact, I can't think of a single department that couldn't be better operated by privatizing its function. We could turn the entire Treasury department into a simple PHP script on a web server in Kansas, and I'd probably be happy. We could just sell off the entire Defense Department to the highest bidder, in whole or piecemeal, I don't care. I see no reason we need to have a federal court system— and if we get rid of the activist justices and overturn Marbury v. Madison, we could have the Supreme Court meet once a year for a half day and never care what they do. We could save a whole lot of money if we get serious about eviscerating the federal government.

Now, all of a sudden, I've got conservatives telling me I'm insane, and that— really— the federal government really does need to be large and spend huge sums of money. This is extremely confusing.

What exactly is the talking point of the day here?

Posted by: s9 at September 17, 2005 12:13 PM

My talking point on politics is, and has always been, the Constitution. It's all nicely spelled out there.

And wouldn't you know, it's Constitution Day today! Celebrate it by reading it.

Thank you for playing. We have some nice parting gifts for you.

Posted by: Doug Payton at September 17, 2005 01:47 PM

On Sep 15, Doug said of the deficit, "remember that we didn't get into this mess in the course of 4 or 8 years. Liberal policies, buttressed by the media, have given us a culture that expects this sort of irresponsibility."

Amazing. The legislative and executive branches of our federal government are controlled by conservatives, who pushed for the two largest sources of our record federal deficit: The Iraq War and federal tax cuts. Yet you, Doug, blame "liberal policies" for America's fiscal problems. No offense, but black is not white, and up is not down.

Rick is right. Both parties spend too much on pork, but expecting massive reductions in such pet projects is unrealistic. As Dan Trebue has argued at SCO, progressives and conservatives should work together to pressure our government to reduce such spending. But we should also realize our deficit is neither sustainable nor a burden to dump on our children.

Bush's tax cuts overwhelmingly favor the wealthy. The state of our economy is a reflection of this. The tax cuts may have helped boost GDP, but average wages have actually decreased, more people have no health care and more peope have slipped into poverty since conservatives have had free reign to exercise their form of economic self-empowerment. Together with the Bankruptcy Law and proposed reductions in Medicaid - both of which favor businesses over individuals - the tax cuts hit the poor a lot harder than you will get hit by being taxed. The poor are most reliant on state and local programs, which are being cut to offset reductions in federal aid - due to the deficit.

Yet you don't care about the deficit as long as your taxes remain as low as possible. Your argument is common: why should I have to support government programs I don't like? First of all, because our country is committed to being a land of opportunity for everyone. The words at the base of the Statue of Liberty may not be written in the Constitution, but they resonate in our consciences as Americans for a reason. American government has a history of helping the less fortunate because it is understood that many people need assistance that private groups can't provide. Bankruptcy protection and adequate health care are prime examples. And second, because in civil society everything isn't always about an individual's needs. Even with regard to this second point you are strangely selective about government spending you don't want to pay for. You don't want your money going to public assistance and other programs, yet you want the rest of us to pay for the Iraq War and all the waste in no-bid overspending by Halliburton. Consider that the Dept of Education - anathema to you - represented only 4% of the federal budget last year. In contrast, Defense represented 30%. You equate cutting pork for the latter to preventing the U.S. from being able to fight a just war like WWII. But most liberals (sorry Dan) are not advocating eliminating Defense, just trimming it. In summary, your argument seems hypocritical to me.

Furthermore, deficit spending cedes more control of our economy to the Chinese and Japanese who together own over a trillion dollars of our national debt. That gives them extraordinary influence over our economy and should be a serious concern to all Americans.

Restoring taxes to their previous levels will become necessary to reduce the deficit in the future. It is the only responsible thing to do for the indigent and for our children, who disproportionately bear the burden of deficit spending despite having little or no voice in the process.

Posted by: dem at September 17, 2005 02:14 PM

dem, re: "Bush's tax cuts overwhelmingly favor the wealthy. The state of our economy is a reflection of this."

I make $50K/yr and one year ago, it was $40K. I am married and have two children.

At $40K per year, I was a "low income" household in San Diego according to the State of California. Now I am a "moderate income" household at $50K. Yet, I haven't paid federal income taxes since Bush's tax cuts due to his newly created 10% bracket, and due to his increased child tax credits.

How do you justify your statement above?

Posted by: Rick at September 17, 2005 02:30 PM

OK, for the umpteenth (and hopefully last) time, I do care about the deficit. You obviously read my exchange with Rick, so I can only assume that you are purposely ignoring my call for spending cuts, presumably because they don't fit your narrative.

You seem to think that we had no national debt until we went into Iraq. And consider that since the tax cuts, revenues to the feds have increased. In addition, the largest chunk of change in the FY2005 budges isn't military, it's Social Security, a liberal pyramid scheme about to collapse under its own weight. And before 's9' comes back with a witty riposte about slicing off pensions tomorrow or other such nonsense, let me state what should be obvious; I know we can't do that. We made promises, and we're stuck with them, but SS hasn't been nearly the promise it was originally sold as, and it, along with other government hand-outs, has developed a dependent, "what's the government going to do for me" mentality in our culture that developed over decades. As I said, 4 or 8 years isn't nearly enough time to climb out of that hole; it was easier to dig it.

Obligatory and pre-emptive disclaimer: I do believe we should take care of our elders and needy, but with more efficiency and more personal involvement. Letting the feds do that is neither, by any means. How in the world is spending only 25 cents of every dollar given for those in need "compassionate", while not having my money taxed but instead giving it to the Salvation Army, where the poor get >80 cents of it, "greedy"?

We have a deficit in part because of the vast amount of money it takes to feed this bureaucratic monster, while it dribbles out aid. I care about both the deficit and the poor, so that I want to ultimately get rid of a wasteful bureaucracy and get more actual aid to the poor via more efficient private organizations and churches. You seem to think that if the feds don't do it, nobody will, and since I don't think the feds should do it, I somehow want to strip folks of opportunity or I don't want to help the less fortunate. That's patently false, and you ought to know that. Again, you're ignoring my stated intentions so you can set up some straw man to poke at.

But take a look around and you find boatloads of conservatives, many of them right here, who are disappointed with Bush. He's lost his veto pen, and Republicans in Congress have done just what they used to say only Democrats did. I'm with you on that count. I'm with you on the handover of power to nations holding the notes. (By the way, if the Chinese and Japanese have inordinate control over us due to them holding the notes, the same could be said about an increasingly money-hungry federal government holding our own money; the more they have, the more they own you.) But it looks like that might be changing, as the original post above discussed. Both parties now have a chance to really make a difference, and hopefully a permanent difference, and not return to "tax & spend" business as usual.

Now let's see if liberals and conservatives can agree on this.

(P.S. Fellas, I'm really over have to state and re-state and re-re-state my positions, only to have them continually ignored or misrepresented. For this thread, I'm done. If this topic comes up again in another post, as I'm sure it will, I'll be ready to discuss it again. But for now, it's become a chore.)

Posted by: Doug Payton at September 17, 2005 03:13 PM