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2004 US Federal, State, and Local Government Spending Pity a Poor Democrat

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Young Democrats Just Don't Get It

by Christopher Chantrill
March 25, 2007 at 12:59 pm


OUR YOUNG LIBERAL friends seem to divide into two camps. There is the camp of enlightened progressives like Jacob Aronson that is dedicated to “Conserving and Consolidating the Progressive Liberal Tradition” and reforming government “along private-sector lines.” Then there is the angry left of Markos Moulitsas. In “The Case for the Libertarian Democrat.” Kos sees real danger ahead as corporations become more powerful than governments.

It is fine for these enthusiasts to propose, on the margin, what benevolent government should do next, but they completely miss the elephant in the room. There is one thing and one thing only for the Democratic Party to do, and that is to keep the checks coming to its millions of supporters. We are talking about big money.

To understand why this is so let us take a look at government spending in the US. Not just the federal government, but all governments.

Here is the projected spending by all levels of government on the five biggest government programs for 2007:

  • Government Pensions: $875 billion
  • Government Health Care: $850 billion
  • Government Education: $750 billion
  • National Defense: $650 billion
  • Government Welfare: $425 billion

Think of that. The primary role for government, they tell us, is to defend us from enemies foreign and domestic. But in the modern world we have to send the checks out to seniors, provide free and subsidized health care, and pay the teachers. Then we can worry about thug dictators and local street thugs.

But where do these spending numbers come from? They are provided by a new website, usgovernmentspending.com. You should bookmark it. usgovernmentspending.com brings you the facts on government spending using the latest in LAMP technology, exactly the kind recommended by the Google guys. And it provides sophisticated navigation technology so that you can drill down and look at the details, 194 spending line items in all.

usgovernmentspending.com sums up the overall spending numbers by stitching together two spreadsheets published by the federal government. The federal budget numbers come from the file Table 3.2 – Outlays by Function and Subfunction: 1962-2010 in Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2008 published by the Executive Office of the President of the United States. The historical state-and-local government spending comes from State and Local Government Finances published by the United States Census Bureau.

Think about the numbers for a moment. They start with nearly a trillion dollars a year in government pensions—and baby boomers haven’t yet started to collect their, I mean our, Social Security yet.

Then there is $850 billion in government health care, mostly Medicare and Medicaid—and baby boomers haven’t yet started to collect on our Medicare.

There is $750 billion in government education—K-12, universities, and the like. When the educators talk about underfunding education, what are they talking about?

Finally, after this important stuff, we come down to the Pentagon, the veterans, and the military-industrial complex.

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking: Enough with the military-industrial complex routine already.

I agree. That is why I built the amazing website usgovernmentspending.com which, by the way, is a sister site to Road to the Middle Class.

There is no doubt that the Pentagon and its military-industrial complex of defense contractors is a fearsome special interest that affects national defense policy in many harmful ways just as President Eisenhower warned us so many years ago. But the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex are only running a distant fourth place in the “fill-in-the-blank”-industrial complex stakes.

Let us talk about the pension-industrial complex. You can read a horror story about it every day, like this one about the underfunded pensions of the State of New Jersey. Did you know that the payment of pensions to government employees is guaranteed in the constitution of many states? First things first.

Let us talk about the medical-industrial complex. $750 billion is a lot of money for the government to spend on a highly regulated system that hits a mere #40 in the life expectancy world rankings published in The Economist’s Pocket World in Figures 2007 Edition. Some out-of-the-box commentators think that it will soon enter critical condition as people opt for health tourism.

Let us talk about the education-industrial complex. We spend $750 billion a year for that baby. Yet literacy in the United States has not significantly changed in the 160 years since centralized government education began in the United States. As I reported recently in The American Thinker: “15 percent of US adults [today are rated] as "proficient" in literacy and 13 percent "proficient" in numeracy.” That is according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy.

In the current War on Terror, or clash of civilizations, we are being reminded that the war is a failure and that the Bush administration never had a plan in Iraq. In fact our liberal friends feel that the failures in Iraq are sufficient reason to abandon the whole thing as Bush’s fault and a dreadful mistake.

Good point, liberals. So why not ditch the whole mess of government pensions, government health care, and government education, bloody messes that eat up about $2.5 trillion a year, four times the budget of the Pentagon and 25 times the $100 billion a year cost of the Iraq mess?

Jacob Aronson and Kos are missing the point. Who cares if the government could be better-managed, or if corporations are becoming too powerful? That’s kids’ stuff.

The only thing that matters for the next Democratic administration is to keep those trillions of dollars coming to the millions of faithful Democratic voters. Yes. We are talking about trillions.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Francis Fukuyama, Trust

Hugo on Genius

“Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up rather than learns... ” —Victor Hugo
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E. G. West, Education and the State

Faith & Purpose

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US Life in 1842

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presented by Christopher Chantrill

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