A long weekend needs a repeat – this one from a year ago that leads into some of the reforms that should be talked about through the election cycle much more than candidates wives and mistresses. Back on Wednesday with more about reform and what has to happen when (if?) grown-ups are in charge again.
“Get government off our backs!” It’s a chant we’ve heard a lot of over the last few years, usually in the deep, gruff voice of those old enough to remember the heyday of our parents and grandparents. It’s a call to a simpler time when there was less government, less taxation, and more to go around. At least, that’s the story we are told.
But an analysis of the size of our Federal Government as a share of the economy shows that while it is a shade bigger than it used to be, it’s way below its maximum. There are peaks in Federal Government size which fit not to an increase in social benefits or productive spending, but the very expensive line item that has been pricey enough to bring down governments and cultures for centuries – war.
In short, it’s time for the progressive left to embrace “smaller government” of a kind and to show that world that peace is not idealistic but practical.
Another year, another war in Iraq. Like the sunspot cycle, they seem to come ‘round about every 11 years. But this is not a natural cycle – this is caused by the instability built into a planet that is closer than ever before. Artificial “nations” created by outside powers with inherent instability, such as Iraq, are a burden on everyone.
There’s little point going into the strange history of Iraq and other nations like them because as it currently stands there are few ways to fix the problem. The climate of constant war makes redrawing boundaries in the Middle East (or, for that matter, in Ukraine) hard to imagine without making the situation worse in the short run. It usually takes years of peace and stability to contemplate a peaceful transition, such as the one that Scotland will vote on next week.
One question we can contemplate is why the burden always falls on the US. The short answer to that question is that we are by far the dominant military on the planet. But why?
Well, if you’re like most people this isn’t a joke at all. The Federal budget deficit is serious business and one of the most pressing problems facing this nation. There are a lot of myths being repeated, however, and many people will be surprised to learn that the deficit was reduced dramatically in 2013. With some growth happening it’s down to just 4% of the economy – from a high of nearly 10% in 2008. But it’s still critical to get a handle on things before the median Baby Boomers start retiring in 2017 if we’re going to realize a new era of growth.
Borrowing money isn’t bad. When it’s used to purchase something big that will last for years, like a house or a car, it often makes sense to do it now and pay the finance charge. Borrowing to buy equipment or a build to be rented is an investment – as is borrowing money to learn a good trade.
When we look at how the Federal government borrows to keep itself going we can and should be able to ask the same questions – was this an investment? Did we get anything good for the money? Unfortunately, the accounting practices used by the Feds lump capital and other investment into the same pot as operational expenses, making it impossible to tease everything out. It’s a procedure the Founding Fathers would recognize, if you wanna get all Tea Party on the practice. But it’s still a dangerously stupid way to run things – and totally counter to the way any business or state is run.
As we talk about the need for serious reform in Washingtoon, we should add this to the list.
The Minnesota state budget forecast came out with more bad news – a deficit of $1.1B for the biennium (2 year) cycle of 2014-2015. How can we have these deficits year after year?
The answer is a short and simple one: it’s actually worse than what they are telling us. But a new DFL controlled legislature will be able to work with Governor Dayton to take care of it, once and for all, without an awful lot of pain. The longer answer is that we can expect even more fundamental reform in the works.