“I have accepted a seat in the [Massachusetts] House of Representatives, and thereby have consented to my own ruin, to your ruin, and the ruin of our children. I give you this warning, that you may prepare your mind for your fate.” John Adams
Why is it so hard to cut government spending? Because there are just so many reasons we can’t. Here are top ten excuses carried on a 3X5 card by nearly every politician.
10. Police and firemen will lose their job.
Wasn’t it a grand idea to give local government grants so we could hold police and firefighter jobs hostage.
9. A single mom in Gibbon, Nebraska wrote that this cut would devastate her family.
It would be heartless to hurt this poor, emotionally-distraught woman.
8. People are entitled to benefits they paid for their entire life.
We won’t mention that these recipients voted for politicians that spent their supposed nest egg.
7. The recession is making us spend
Joblessness and misery will go through the roof if we cut spending now. We should spend more.
6. The recovery is going too well to derail it.
If we quit spending during a boom, we’ll cause a recession.
5. Our troops deserve our support.
We’ll pretend that every dime of defense spending finds its way onto the battlefield.
4. The other party won’t cooperate.
Darn the opposition. It’s all their fault.
3. We need to invest in the future.
Just wait, our astronomical spending is going to pay huge dividends in the future.
2. Almost all of our spending is mandated by law.
We won’t mention that we made those laws.
And the number one reason Congress can’t cut spending is … It won’t make any difference to the deficit anyway. If all the other excuses fail, this is the trump card. Unless the specific cut under consideration completely eliminates the deficit, it’s just not worth doing.
These are today’s Top Ten, but another reason will soon crowd one of these off the list. The interest on the national debt is over $226 billion a year and the fifth largest budget item. The co-dependent Federal Reserve Board has been enabling the government’s spending addiction by dictating exceptionally low interest rates. If the interest rate for treasuries returns to historical norms, we’re in deep trouble. The Congressional Budget Office reported that, “Borrowing to finance that deficit–in combination with an expected rise in interest rates–would lead to a fourfold increase in net interest payments over the next 10 years.” The really scary part is that the CBO used optimistic assumptions. For instance, they accepted assertions by Congress that ObamaCare would not increase government costs. If the CBO hopeful forecast is close, interest expense would become the third largest budget item, with only Social Security and Medicare drawing more from the national treasury. Then politicians will scream they can’t cut spending because they cannot allow the United States to default on its debts.
Except then it won’t be an excuse. It will be the truth.
James D. Best is the author of the Steve Dancy Tales and Tempest at Dawn, a novel about the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Look for his new book, Principled Action, Lessons from the Origins of the American Republic.