Another political question, so don’t click past the cut if you don’t care.
So there are a lot of questions marks about how the federal government will spend our tax dollars. I’ve seen a lot of people talking or complaining or worrying about their personal pet cat and whether or not it retains its full level of funding.
Most of you know that I’m a fiscal conservative. So, what I’m going to suggest we do here is have whoever wants to respond tell us one thing that the federal government should spend money on and at what level. To make this easier, please limit each response to one pet cat so that it will generate its own thread, and rather than placing a specific level of funding, just simply say either: significantly increase, significantly decrease, or stay about the same.
The point of all of this is to think where we can, in fact, cut federal spending. There is no doubt that we have to. We cannot, we simply cannot, continue to raise taxes. Any economist will tell you that there’s a point where the tax rate is so high that overall revenues will fall. This is not a huge number, actually, and this is part of the problem that California faces as it slides into, effectively, bankruptcy. If we cannot increase revenues, then we have to decrease spending because we cannot continue our blithe deficit spending. Right now, I believe we pay something like $160billion per year simply on interest. That, even at the federal level, is serious money. So, something has to be done.
I’m going to give you two pet cats to start the discussion off with.
Pet Cat 1: The Military
Funding: At least the same, preferably a significant increase
Why: The first, and most important thing to know about humanity is that peace is the exception, not the norm. If you have ever heard someone suggest that if only we could return to those peaceful days when humans lived in harmony before countries and money and civilization and technology, you should immediately dismiss that idea as having any validity. Humans, at whatever civilization, are a competitive and warlike species. Debate whether that is a good thing or not at your leisure, but never let a desire for peace blind oneself to that reality.
Peace requires two to tango, actually it requires all to tango. If only one possible party wishes to not have peace, then there is no peace. If a country, or an organization, or a person wishes to declare war on the United States, then it, he, or she can and can do great harm. The only way to end a war is to convince the foe to stop fighting. The best, the absolute best, way to convince a foe to stop fighting is to convince him that starting the fight in the first place is a bad idea. This does not mean he *will* not declare war on you, however, so you must retain your strength. And if someone does start a fight, it is best to have the power to end it quickly.
I’ve seen people throw out the idea that America has brought all of this upon itself, and that many people only want to attack America because of our faults. That if we were to stop meddling, they would leave us alone. Hogwash. I am not at all going to try to justify all of America’s activities, but that idea is still hogwash. The reason why is that the United States is a rich and powerful nation. If you are rich, people envy you. On the national level, one only has to look at the recent discussion on tax rates for the wealthy to see Americans envious of those more well off. On the international stage, read some UN resolutions. As long as we are a rich nation, people will want to attack or threaten us to get what we have.
And we cannot assume that we can use that wealth in any other way to eliminate or truly lessen that threat. Kipling was absolutely correct, if you pay Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane. The only way that England was able to withstand the Scandinavian incursions in the 900s was to dramatically increase its military expenditures. It’s just as true 1100 years later and if we reduce our expenditures much farther, we will no longer be able to properly defend against the Danes.
I’ve seen the suggestion that we are overextended, that we should not have carriers in every ocean, that we should withdraw back to North America. This is unwise for two reasons. One, the idea that America can isolate itself behind the two oceans has never really been true, and we proved that in 1917 and 1941. The increase in communication and transportation technology means that is more, not less, true than at those points.
If isolation is not possible, and it is not, then we have to consider where to involve ourselves. For a variety of reasons, strategic, moral, and economic, we should answer this question: “As broadly as possible.” Strategically speaking, it behooves us to fight any battles on enemies’ turf, morally speaking it behooves us to have a force capable of defending the rights of people and assisting in emergencies everywhere, and economically speaking it behooves us to defend and be ready to defend our investments around the world, especially since the United States economy was global in nature starting, oh, around 1783.
For us to have a strong military, and for the reasons I have stated and others I believe we should, we need to have this funded by the federal government. Indeed, the Constitution specifically says that the federal government is responsible for our military. No single state can support the expense of developing top-flight weapons and one of our great advantages is the cohesion and training of individual units within the military, cohesion and training that would be harmed were the primary military forces be raised at the state level.
In summary, the military is needed, despite our best wishes, and it is needed at a global level. The only way this can be done is through the federal government. I would love to see vast changes in the way that the military spends its money, but that is a different argument.
Pet Cat 2: The IRS
Funding: Significantly less
Why: This actually is a two-part discussion and starts with the tax code. I have for some time felt that the best taxation method is a graduated flat tax. I get that flat taxes tend to be regressive, and I get that exceptions can be a good thing, but our tax code is way too complicated. You have to have serious training simply to understand portions of it, and the IRS is huge in part because of the need to audit so many people. If one is untrained in the tax code, one simply cannot understand all of its ins and outs, no matter how smart or educated you are. I dislike taxes in general, but can accept that they are necessary to pay. TANSTAAFL and all that. However, I think that it is the responsibility of the government that if it is going to require us to pay them, that it should provide a readily understandable method to do so.
Overall I think our government has gotten too bloated, too unwieldy, too bureaucratic. We spend billions to prevent any abuse of the system when, often times, such abuses amount in the millions. One of the best ways to cut federal expenditures is to make various portions of the bureaucracy more efficient. If everyone could actually understand their taxes, and could easily pay the proper amount, the IRS would only need to focus on those people who are actually trying to evade paying their proper share, not the average American who makes a mistake.
So there you go. What are your pet cats? Why should the federal government pay for them? How much? Remember, we cannot continue to pay for everything at the level that we currently do. What are we going to cut and keep?