After the Civil War Men became less Manly and the Federal Government became more Progressive

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 25th, 2014

History 101

(Originally published February 12th, 2013)

Prior to 1900 the Role of the Federal Government was primarily to Provide for the Common Defense

In 1800 the new federal government didn’t do a lot.  It spent only about $11 million (in nominal dollars).  With 55% going to defense.  About 31% went to pay interest on the war debt.  About 2% went to the postal service.  And about 12% went to other stuff.  Defense spending and interest on the war debt added up to about 86% of all federal outlays (see Government Spending Details).

In 1860, just before the Civil War, spending increased to $78 million (in nominal dollars).  Defense spending fell to 37%.  Interest spending fell to 4%.  And postal service spending rose to 19%.  While spending on other stuff rose to 40%.  Just over 60 years from the founding the federal government had changed.  It was less limited than the Founding Fathers designed it to be.

In 1900 spending increased to $628.6 million (in nominal dollars).  With defense spending coming in at 53%.  The postal service at 17%.  Interest went up to 6.4%.  And other spending fell to 24%.  Again, defense spending consumed over half of all federal spending.  For the role of the federal government was still primarily providing for the common defense.  Running the postal service.  Treating with other nations.  And trading with them.  As well as collecting duties and tariffs at our ports which paid for the federal government.  There was a lot of graft and patronage.  And long lines for government jobs.  Primarily because government was still somewhat limited.  With a limited number of government jobs to reward campaign contributors.  But that was about to change.

The Progressives expanded the Role of the Federal Government in our Lives and made it more Motherly

The American Civil War killed about 625,000 men.  With an 1860 population of 31,443,321 those deaths amounted to about 2% of the prewar population.  To put that into perspective if 2% of the U.S. population died in a war today that would be approximately 6.2 million people.  And to put that into perspective the total population of the state of Missouri is about 6 million people.  So the American Civil War claimed a very large percentage of the population.  Leaving a lot of children to grow up without a father.  Which had a profound impact on the size of the federal government.

Prior to this generation American men were some of the manliest men in the world.  Tough and rugged.  Who could live off of the land.  Completely self-sufficient.  These are the men that made America.  Men who fought and won our independence.  Who explored and settled the frontier.  Farmers who worked all day in the field.  Men who dug canals by hand.  And built our railroads.  Men who endured hardships and never complained.  Then came the Civil War generation.  Sons who lost their fathers.  And wives who lost their husbands, brothers, fathers and uncles.  Who lost all the men in their lives in that horrible war.  These women hated that war.  And manly displays of aggression.  For it was manly displays of aggression that led to fighting.  And war.  Having lost so much already they didn’t want to lose the only men they had left.  Their sons.  So they protected and nurtured them.  Taught them to shun violence.  To be kinder and softer.  To be not so tough or rugged.  To be less manly.  And when these men grew up they went into politics and started the progressive movement.

The federal government was no longer just to provide for the common defense.  To run the postal service.  To treat with other nations.  To trade with other nations.  Run our custom houses.  No.  Now the federal government grew to be kinder, softer and more motherly.  The progressives expanded the role of the federal government in our lives.  Woodrow Wilson wanted to turn the country into a quasi monarchy.  With a very strong executive branch that could rule against the wishes of Congress.  The Federal Reserve (America’s central bank) came into existence during Wilson’s presidency.  Which was going to end recessions forever.  Then came the Great Depression.  A crisis so good that FDR did not let it go to waste.  FDR expanded the size of the federal government.  Putting it on a path of permanent growth.  And it’s been growing ever since.

They decreased Defense Spending and increased Borrowings to increase Non-Defense Spending

The federal government grew beyond its Constitutional limits.  And the intent of the Founding Fathers.  Just as Thomas Jefferson feared.  It consolidated power just as all monarchies did.  And that was Jefferson’s fear.  Consolidation.  Seeing the states absorbed by a leviathan federal government.  Becoming the very thing the American colonists fought for independence from.  So that’s where the federal government changed.  In the early 20th Century.  Before that it spent money mostly for defense and a postal service.  Now it spends money for every social program under the sun.  There is great debate now in Washington about reducing the deficit.  With the Democrats blaming the deficit problems on too much defense spending.  And too little taxation on the rich.  But if you look at the history of federal spending since 1940 the numbers say otherwise (see Table 3.1—OUTLAYS BY SUPERFUNCTION AND FUNCTION: 1940–2017 and A History of Debt In The United States).

Federal Spending and Debt

As defense spending (including Veterans Benefits and Services) rose during World War II non-defense spending (Education, Training, Employment, Social Services, Health, Income Security, Social Security, Energy, Natural Resources, Environment, Commerce, Housing Credit, Transportation, Community and Regional Development, International Affairs, General Science, Space, Technology, Agriculture, Administration of Justice and General Government) fell as a percentage of total federal outlays.  And the federal debt rose (federal debt is in constant 2012 dollars).  After the war defense spending fell to 50% while the percentage of non-defense spending rose.  And the federal debt dropped slightly and remained relatively constant for about 30 years.

This tug of war between defense spending and non-defense spending is also called the guns vs. butter debate.  Where those in favor of spending money on guns at the federal level are more constructionists.  They want to follow the Constitution as the Founding Fathers wrote it.  While those who favor spending money on butter at the federal level want to want to buy more votes by giving away free stuff.

Defense spending ramped back up for the Korean War and the Cold War during the Fifties.  After the armistice ended hostilities in Korea defense spending began a long decline back to about 50% of all federal outlays.  Where it flattened out and rose slightly for the Vietnam War.  After America exited the Vietnam War defense spending entered a long decline where it dropped below 30% of all federal outlays.  Reagan’s defense spending raised defense spending back up to 30%.  After Reagan won the Cold War Clinton enjoyed the peace dividend and cut defense spending down to just below 20%.  After 9/11 Bush increased defense spending just above 20% of all federal outlays where it remains today.

During this time non-defense spending was basically the mirror of defense spending.  Showing that they decreased defense spending over time to increase non-defense spending.  But there wasn’t enough defense spending to cut so borrowing took off during the Reagan administration.  It leveled off during the Clinton administration as he enjoyed the peace dividend after the defeat of the Soviet Union in the Cold War.  Non-defense spending soared over 70% of all federal outlays during the Bush administration.  Requiring additional borrowings.  Then President Obama increased non-defense spending so great it resulted in record deficits.  Taking the federal debt to record highs.

So is defense spending the cause of our deficits?  No.  Defense spending as a percentage of all federal outlays is near a historical low.  While non-defense spending has soared to a record high.  As did our federal debt.  Clearly showing that the driving force behind our deficits and debt is non-defense spending.  Not defense spending.  Nor is it because we’re not taxing people enough.  We’re just spending too much.  In about 50 years non-defense spending rose from around 22% of all federal outlays to 74%.  An increase of 223%.  While defense spending fell from 76% to 22%.  A decline of 245%.  While the federal debt rose 619%.  And interest on the debt soared 24,904%.  The cost of favoring butter in the guns vs. butter debate.  The federal government has been gutting the main responsibility of the federal government, defense, to pay for something that didn’t enter the federal government until the 20th Century.  All that non-defense spending.  Which doesn’t even include the postal service today.

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FT158: “Journalists are more partisan than wise.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 22nd, 2013

Fundamental Truth

The Mainstream Media sacrifice their Journalistic Integrity to help the Obama Administration Advance their Agenda

The president has warned that the $85 billion in spending cuts of the sequester will gut government programs leaving Americans at great peril.  This despite baseline budgeting automatically increases spending every year.  From 1974 (after Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold and the government adopted baseline budgeting) through 2008 (before the spending orgy of the Obama administration) federal spending increased approximately 7.5% each year.  Crunching the numbers for the spending increase from 2012 to 2013 we get $284.7 billion.  Applying the cuts of the sequester reduces this increase in spending to $199.7 billion.  We will spend more in 2013 than we did in 2012.  Even AFTER the sequester cuts.  So all the peril the president is warning us about is not real.  He’s lying for political gain.

Yet the mainstream media is discussing this issue as if there are real cuts in spending.  That we will reduce spending in the numerous government programs the president warns about if we let the sequester happen.  Less food inspection.  Less airport security.  Fewer police officers.  Fewer firefighters.  Fewer teachers.  Fewer flu vaccinations.  And less childcare.  In their reports they discuss these as a matter of fact.  When they are just not true.  And it’s no secret.  Anyone can do what we did and look at federal outlays and see the automatic spending increases each year.  And see that we will still spend more in 2013 after the sequester cuts than we did in 2012.  You’d think a journalist would study the facts.  The historical record.  And then question the president and his administration.  Ask them why they are lying.  But they don’t.  Why?

Because they are partisan.  Committed to the leftist agenda the president is trying to pass.  So they either help spread the lie.  Being complicit in the lie.  Or they spread the lie because they are victims of the lie.  They are so committed to the leftist agenda that they don’t question anything coming from the liberal left.  Because they want to believe.  They sacrifice their journalistic integrity to help the administration advance their agenda.  More a propaganda arm of the administration than a free press.  The kind of journalism they practice in Venezuela.  Cuba.  China.  North Korea.  And the kind of journalism they practiced in East Germany.  The Soviet Union.  And Nazi Germany.  Where there was no free press.  Only state propaganda.  Propaganda in a totalitarian regime is one thing.  They already oppress their people and their news is more for the benefit of outsiders.  Where they lie about record harvests.  And record gains in industrial production.  Things their people have long stopped believing as they suffer through the misery of the reality.  But it’s different in a free country.  For it lends legitimacy for illegitimate actions of government.  And allows them to overstep the restraints of their constitutional authority.

The Mainstream Media helped Downplay the Resurgent al Qaeda in Benghazi to help President Obama win Reelection

In 2010 the greatest cause of accidental deaths for children age 5-15 was motor vehicle accidents.  In 2010 there were 806 deaths.  Representing 49.1% of all deaths.  The number two cause was drowning with 251 deaths.  Or 15.3% of the total.  Next came fire/burn at 135 deaths.  Then death by suffocation at 79 deaths.  Then death by other land transportation at 68 deaths.  Then poisoning at 54 deaths.  Then came firearms at 37 deaths.  Yet many in the mainstream media actively support the Obama administration in their push for gun control.  Especially a ban on assault weapons.  Even if (as they say so often) it saves only one child.  But guns aren’t the leading cause of death for children.  In fact, as horrific as scenes like the Newtown shooting are they are very rare occurrences.  Far more children die in automobile accidents each year.  No doubt because we are driving smaller cars to save the planet (lighter cars means greater gas mileage and less pollution).  But the journalists don’t report this fact.  Because they endorse the leftist agenda of saving the planet.  And more gun control.  Even if saving the planet means the death of more children from driving in smaller and less safe cars.  While more gun control probably won’t save a single child.

The Obama administration’s foreign policy record has been a poor one.  The greatest threat to peace and stability in the Mideast and North Africa is Iran.  Yet the Obama administration did not support the Green Revolution protesting the 2009 Iranian election results that most felt were unfair.  There are few bigger enemies of the United States.  The Iranian supported insurgency killed or wounded a lot of U.S. military in Iraq.  Our strongest allies in the region (Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia) all feared growing Iranian influence in the region.  But given an opportunity to support an uprising that could overthrow a great enemy to peace and stability the Obama administration did nothing.  But when the Arab Spring swept through Egypt the president abandoned one of America’s most stalwart allies and the anchor to stability in the region.  Hosni Mubarak.  Now the Iranian influence in Egypt is stronger than ever.  When the Arab Spring spread to Libya the Obama administration supported that movement, too.  Despite Colonel Muammar Gaddafi having denounced terrorism and supported the Americans in the war against al Qaeda.  When the Arab Spring spread to Syria the president did not support that protest.  Despite Syria being Iran’s strongest ally in the region.  A sponsor of terrorism.  And a nation with a chemical arsenal likely manufactured by Iraq (those weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein had used on his people but had disappeared when the Americans arrived on the scene, likely having skedaddled across the border into Syria).  As bad as the ruling regime was in Syria we did nothing to help Syrians overthrow their oppressor.

Now civil war engulfs Syria.  Elements of al Qaeda have joined the opposition.  Making sure Iran wins however things turn out there.  And the Iranian influence is stronger than ever in Libya.  When al Qaeda killed the American diplomat in Benghazi the Obama administration made up a story about a YouTube video causing spontaneous protests that led to the ambassador’s death along with three other Americans.  To downplay a resurgent al Qaeda during the 2012 election campaign.  As they had refused to beef up security in Benghazi as the ambassador requested.  Because it would look bad in the 2012 election.  Yet the mainstream media did not question these very poor decisions the Obama administration made for political reasons.  Instead accepting their position that there was nothing newsworthy in Benghazi.  Which they wholeheartedly reported.  Refusing to even ask questions.  Such as why did they refuse the ambassador’s request for more security?  Who edited the talking points for Ambassador Rice used for the Sunday morning shows?  Or why is al Qaeda now stronger in the Middle East, North Africa and West Africa after 4 years of the Obama administration that they were during 8 years of the Bush administration?  No.  They showed no journalistic curiosity.  Or integrity.  Simply accepting the administration’s statements as fact.  While the Middle East and Africa become more dangerous places.

The Mainstream Media is no longer a Free Press for the People but a Propaganda Arm of the Obama Administration

Obamacare is the most sweeping change to the American economy since LBJ’s Great Society.  Which was the most sweeping change since FDR’s New Deal.  The American Left has always wanted a national health care system.  Just like what they have in the United Kingdom.  The Left likes to point to their National Health Service (NHS) as the right way to do health care.  As does the mainstream media.  Yet if you read the British papers their NHS is not all the American Left says it is.  Britain’s aging population has caused health care spending to explode.  The UK is in the midst of massive budget cuts to bring down health care spending.  While the NHS has long tried to deal with chronic problems of long wait times.  Rationing.  A shortage of doctors and nurses.  Even ambulances.  Their emergency rooms are overflowing with people with non-emergencies as the NHS closed their neighborhood clinics to reduce costs.  And the quality of care has been falling in their hospitals.  The problems in the NHS are no secret.  All you have to do is pick up a British paper and read about them.  For they are ongoing.  Yet the mainstream media never reported these problems during the Obamacare debate.  Or what passed for a debate.  No.  They never asked how Obamacare was going to avoid all the problems they were having in the NHS.  Which they should have.  As the US has an aging population, too.  Worse, they have about five times the population the UK has.  Guaranteeing any problems they have will be five times worse in the US.  Serious questions a good journalist should have asked.  But no.  They didn’t.  Because they support the liberal agenda more than they believe in journalistic integrity.  So they only report what helps the administration.  While avoiding anything that is critical of them.  Or their agenda.

When it comes to economics the mainstream media are all supporters of Keynesian economics.  Despite their record of failure.  When Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold in 1971 it allowed the government to go all in with Keynesian economics.  And they did.  Printing so much money that it led to excessive inflation, high unemployment and economic stagnation.  Ronald Reagan reversed those Keynesian policies.  His administration stopped printing money.  And got the government out of the private sector economy.  Cutting regulations.  As well as tax rates.  And economic activity exploded.  There was so much economic activity that tax revenue nearly doubled.  Even at those lower tax rates.  But the mainstream media doesn’t report this.  Instead, they revise history.  Always supporting Keynesian economic policies as they allow government to expand.  So they can implement their leftist agenda.  Which is anti-business.  Pushing higher regulations.  And higher taxes.  And whenever anyone talks about Reaganomics they say those cuts in tax rates only increased the deficit.  When the historical record clearly shows tax receipts increased.  Which they could easily look up (see Table 2.1—RECEIPTS BY SOURCE: 1934–2017).  But they don’t.  Or chose not to.  Preferring to support the liberal agenda.  Instead of having journalistic integrity.

The mainstream media today is no longer a free press for the people.  They are an extension of the Democrat Party.  At least the liberal wing of the Democrat Party.  More of a propaganda arm of the Obama administration.  That is more interested in changing the country than keeping our politicians honest.  Or reporting the facts.  They are fiercely partisan.  Or they are just not very smart.  Either woefully ignorant of the material they report on.  Or so in the bag for the Obama administration that they will report falsehoods as truth.  The kind of thing that isn’t a big deal in a totalitarian regime.  But a pretty big deal in a free country with a government that continues to try to exceed its constitutional authority.  For a free press is the vanguard of a free country.  Keeping the politicians honest so they can’t exceed their constitutional authority.  And if the journalists aren’t going to do their job by the time we find out what our politicians are doing it will be too late.  As we now have Obamacare as law.  Which passed on partisan lines.  With enough moderates and independents voting for Obamacare as few in America knew of all the problems the British were having with their national health care.  Today it’s Obamacare.  Tomorrow it may be gun control.  Or a war in the Middle East thanks to a resurgent al Qaeda.  And a growing Iranian influence.  Thanks to such a poor job in foreign policy that if the mainstream media had reported it honestly President Obama may not have won reelection.  And four Americans may not have died in Benghazi.

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Baseline Budgeting, Sequestration and Lies

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 21st, 2013

Politics 101

The Sequester Automatic Spending Cuts equal about 2% of Current Federal Spending

If you heard the president speak recently we’re all doomed.  The automatic spending cuts in the sequestration he proposed and signed into law will take food away from children.  And lead to the collapse of society as we know it.  Ushering in the end of the world.  For he warned…

Border Patrol agents will see their hours reduced. FBI agents will be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go. Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country. Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off. Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find child care for their kids. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings.

President Obama gave this speech in front of some first responders.  Police officers.  And firefighters.  Always the first they threaten with layoffs when the government can’t raise taxes.

Amazing what $85 billion can buy today.  And if it can buy all that you’d think we wouldn’t have to spend $3.8 trillion at the federal level.  For if we can get all of that for a little over 2% of all federal spending it makes you wonder what else that 98% is buying.  What’s even more remarkable is that the federal government doesn’t even pay police officers, fire fighters or teachers.  We pay for these with property taxes.  At the city and county level.  Which the federal government cannot cut.  Because they don’t pay for these.  Yet the president says the sequester will even cut these.  Remarkable.

The Important Thing to understand about Baseline Budgeting is that Spending Cuts don’t Cut Spending

To understand sequestration you have to first understand baseline budgeting.  Which goes back to the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.  When we stopped being responsible.  And set government outlays to forever increase.  The baseline is the starting point for the following year’s budget.  And the baseline is last year’s outlays.  This year’s spending will be last year’s spending plus an additional amount based on inflation and population growth.

So spending always increases from year to year.  Automatically.  No one has to request an increase in appropriations.  And no one has to cut spending elsewhere for new spending someplace else.  Because all of last year’s spending is approved.  No matter how wasteful and pointless it may have been.  And on top of that spending there is new spending.  Always.  Guaranteeing that federal spending will always grow greater.  There will always be deficits.  And always a growing federal debt.

Now the important thing to understand about baseline budgeting is the meaning of ‘spending cuts’.  In a household if a family decides to cancel the family vacation because things are a little tight that is a spending cut in the real world.  Because it results in less spending.  But a cut in baseline budgeting doesn’t result in less spending.  For the only thing they cut is the amount they will increase future spending by.  For example, if spending for ‘X’ is scheduled to increase by $100 million but will only increase by $75 million that is a $25 million spending cut.  Even though spending will still increase by $75 million.

The President’s Sole Objective now is to destroy the Republican Party

President Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold in 1971.  Taking American off the gold standard.  Unleashing the inflation monster.  Allowing government to spend more.  As they paid for that additional spending by printing money.  And with the addition of baseline budgeting added in 1974 they spent more.  A lot more.  Total federal outlays from 1974 to 2008 increased on average 7.5% each year.  Total federal outlays in 2012 were approximately $3.8 trillion.  So the scheduled increase in spending (thanks to baseline budgeting) for 2013 is approximately $284.7 billion.

The spending cuts of the sequester are $85 billion.  Which President Obama says will usher in the end of the world as we know it.  But these ‘cuts’ are not cuts per se.  They are not like the cuts a household makes when they cancel the family vacation.  These are cuts that reduce the increase in future spending.  So instead of increasing future spending by $284.7 billion they will only increase by $199.7 billion.  Which is 2.3 times greater than the amount of the sequester.  Now President Obama said the sequester cuts would be the end of the world as we know it.  Even though total federal outlays will actually increase by an amount 2.3 times the sequester.  So one cannot but ask the question how will this sequester usher in the end of the world as we know it when we are actually increasing spending?

Because it is not the end of the world.  The president is lying.  Everything that we can pay for today we can still have after the sequester.  Because there are no real spending cuts.  We’re just increasing spending less than the original baseline projection.  Which means all the jobs we will lose will be future jobs.  But talking about losing future jobs doesn’t put the fear of God into people like telling them they won’t have any police or fire protection anymore.  Or telling them that their children’s teachers will lose their jobs.  You see, the president’s sole objective now is to destroy the Republican Party.  The only thing standing between the country and the liberal agenda he wants to impose on the country is the Republican opposition.  Which is why the sequester that he proposed and signed into law is now the fault of the Republicans.  This is the reason for all of this theater.  To get people to hate Republicans.  For why else would the president call a spending increase a spending cut?  If it wasn’t to demonize the people who keep demanding spending cuts?

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State of the Union, Benghazi, Sequestration and the Politics of Spending

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 14th, 2013

Politics 101

President Obama’s Idea of Compromise and Bipartisanship is Unconditional Surrender

President Obama’s State of the Union Address was a little light on details.  But the general gist is no spending cuts.  And more taxes.  Which makes the sequestration about to hit a crisis in the making for the president.  For it was sort of his idea.  And he did sign it into law.  But to him it was more like playing a game of chicken.  Confident that the Republicans would cave and roll over.  Giving him whatever additional tax increases he wanted to prevent cuts in defense spending.  But the Republicans aren’t blinking.  Because this is the only way they’re going to get any spending cuts.  Even if it means gutting defense spending.  Something the president didn’t consider.

Despite being an architect of the sequestration he called it a stupid idea during the State of the Union.  He doesn’t care about the cuts in defense spending.  He is, after all, a leftist liberal.  And they hate defense spending.  He even denied Ambassador Stevens’ request to beef up security in Benghazi.  Which led to Ambassador Stevens’ death.  Along with three other Americans.  But it’s the equal cuts in things he does care about that has him worried.  That social spending.  The kinds of things that buy votes.  And makes people dependent on government.  Helping to endear the Democrat Party to the American people.  While making them hate the Republican Party.  Who want to take away the great things the Democrats so generously give them.  Even if the government can’t afford to give these things to the American people.

President Obama may talk about compromise and bipartisanship but he doesn’t mean it.  His idea of bipartisanship is unconditional surrender.  He has no interest in meeting Republicans halfway.  He wants to destroy the Republican Party.  And undo the Reagan Revolution.  And bring back the Big Government of the Sixties and Seventies.  When the Democrats ruled supreme.  And you do that with spending money.  Not cutting spending.  Which is why the sequestration bothers him so much.

Running Deficits is OK if it provides for Senior Citizens, Our Children and Clean Stuff

Leading Democrats are saying we don’t have a spending problem.  We’re just not paying enough for the stuff we want.  Which also happens to be the stuff that buys votes.  So the excess spending to buy votes is not the problem.  The problem is that we’re not raising taxes enough to pay for this orgy of spending that is the problem.  We’re not taxing rich people enough.  Or corporations.  And once we do then we won’t be taxing the middle class enough.  And once we do that it probably won’t matter what we do as the country will be so deep in debt that no amount of new taxes will help.  Unless they figure out a way to tax away more than 100% of a person’s earnings.

So low tax revenue is the problem.  Well, that, and spending money on the wrong things.  On things that don’t buy votes.  Things that weren’t on the laundry list President Obama rattled off during the State of the Union that we need to spend more on.  Defense spending.  And…, well, defense spending.  Which is the only thing the Obama administration is willing to consider cutting.  Because we can get a lot of free things by gutting defense.  New programs that won’t add a single dime to the deficit.  Something he said more than once during the state of the union.  Obamacare, for example, will be deficit neutral.  Because the money we were going to spend on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will pay for it.  So even though the spending will still add to the deficit it’s now Obamacare spending.  Not defense spending.  Which is OK.

You see, running deficits is OK if it provides for senior citizens.  Our children.  If it gives us clean water.  And air.  Invests in clean energy.  And in those jobs of the future.  If it builds roads and bridges.  For less face it, we would be nothing without our government-provided roads and bridges.  Which we simply could not have it if it weren’t for government.  (Then again railroads build and maintain their own roads and bridges.  With funds they earn operating their railroads.  But I digress.)   In fact, any deficit reduction that comes from cutting this spending is just about the worst thing in the world we could do.  According to those on the left.  So we should tax rich people and corporations more.  And cut defense spending more.  Because we spend way too much on defense spending anyway.  And for what?  It’s not like we’re going to use it for anything.  Such as protecting our ambassadors in hostile lands.

Defense Spending is the only Spending growing at a Rate less than Total Federal Outlays

If you listened to the State of the Union (and didn’t fall asleep during it) you’ve learned that we don’t spend enough on our social spending.  And too much on defense spending.  That’s what the president said.  But what do the numbers say?  To find out let’s look at federal outlays (see Table 3.1—OUTLAYS BY SUPERFUNCTION AND FUNCTION: 1940–2017).  The following chart graphs the historical data from 1958 to 2011 and the projection for 2012.  We look at 4 areas of spending: defense; education, training, employment and social services; Medicare; and Social Security.  We calculate the spending as a percentage of total spending and graph the results.

Percent of Total Federal Outlays

The one area we spend too much on that the Obama administration is willing to cut is the one area that has seen the greatest decline in spending.  Defense spending.  Which as a percentage of total outlays has fallen while non-defense has trended up or held steady.  This tells us the government has pulled money from defense to pay for these other things.  But this chart doesn’t tell the whole story.  For although Medicare and Social Security have trended up they haven’t taken as big a piece of total spending as defense gave up.  And education spending has been pretty flat.  Perhaps giving credence to President Obama’s claim that we’re not spending enough on education.  But if you look at the year-to-year growth in spending you see a different picture.

Federal Outlays as a Percentage of 1958 Outlays

Here we divide each year’s spending by the spending in 1958 (or 1966 for Medicare).  Showing the increase in spending over time.  This chart also includes total federal outlays.  Which tells a startling story.  Not only is defense spending being gutted to pay for other spending it is the only spending growing less than the growth rate of total federal spending.  While the other three areas are growing at greater rates.  In 2011 Social Security spending was 8,892% of the spending in 1958.  Medicare, which came into existence in 1965, grew at an even greater rate.  In 2011 it was 17,673% of the spending in 1966.  More than twice the growth in less time.  And education spending tracked pretty close to Medicare spending.  In 2011 it was 15,744% of the spending in 1958.  While defense spending in 2011 was only 1,509% of the spending in 1958.

Note that the general trend of increased spending holds regardless of who is in power.  That’s because of baseline budgeting.  Which provides for automatic increases in spending.  When government talks about spending cuts it not really spending cuts.  It a cut in the rate spending increases.  You can see some dips in the graphs and where they may have cut the rate of growth.  But nowhere is there really a cut that results in reducing net spending.  Except for defense.

Increases in spending on education (and training, employment and social services) has grown at a rate greater than most other spending.  And what can we learn by throwing money at education?  Well, based on the president’s remarks, it doesn’t work.  It doesn’t increase the quality of education.  At least based on the great increases year after year that only give us the need to spend more money.  And this spending doesn’t even include the bulk of education spending.  That generated from property taxes.  Which can mean only one thing.  If we’re paying more and need to spend even more the quality of education is not as good as it should be.  Or all that money is going to teachers’ salaries, pensions and health care benefits.

Of all this spending the only sustainable spending is defense spending. For it is the only one growing at a rate less than total federal outlays.  While increases in the other spending is going off the chart.  With the slopes of these graphs getting ever steeper.  And the closer they get to vertical the more impossible it will be able to pay for these programs.  That’s why Medicare is near crisis mode.  With the cost of our aging population pushing that graph closer and closer to vertical.  Where our spending obligations will approach infinity.  Which is, of course, impossible to sustain.

Of all this spending the only sustainable spending is defense spending. For it is the only one growing at a rate less than total federal outlays.  While increases in the other spending is going off the chart.  Contrary to what the president said we are increasing spending in these areas so much that we won’t be able to sustain it.  For there just won’t be enough money to tax away from the people.  Unless we figure out a way to tax away more than 100% of their earnings.

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After the Civil War Men became less Manly and the Federal Government became more Progressive

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 12th, 2013

History 101

Prior to 1900 the Role of the Federal Government was primarily to Provide for the Common Defense

In 1800 the new federal government didn’t do a lot.  It spent only about $11 million (in nominal dollars).  With 55% going to defense.  About 31% went to pay interest on the war debt.  About 2% went to the postal service.  And about 12% went to other stuff.  Defense spending and interest on the war debt added up to about 86% of all federal outlays (see Government Spending Details).

In 1860, just before the Civil War, spending increased to $78 million (in nominal dollars).  Defense spending fell to 37%.  Interest spending fell to 4%.  And postal service spending rose to 19%.  While spending on other stuff rose to 40%.  Just over 60 years from the founding the federal government had changed.  It was less limited than the Founding Fathers designed it to be.

In 1900 spending increased to $628.6 million (in nominal dollars).  With defense spending coming in at 53%.  The postal service at 17%.  Interest went up to 6.4%.  And other spending fell to 24%.  Again, defense spending consumed over half of all federal spending.  For the role of the federal government was still primarily providing for the common defense.  Running the postal service.  Treating with other nations.  And trading with them.  As well as collecting duties and tariffs at our ports which paid for the federal government.  There was a lot of graft and patronage.  And long lines for government jobs.  Primarily because government was still somewhat limited.  With a limited number of government jobs to reward campaign contributors.  But that was about to change.

The Progressives expanded the Role of the Federal Government in our Lives and made it more Motherly

The American Civil War killed about 625,000 men.  With an 1860 population of 31,443,321 those deaths amounted to about 2% of the prewar population.  To put that into perspective if 2% of the U.S. population died in a war today that would be approximately 6.2 million people.  And to put that into perspective the total population of the state of Missouri is about 6 million people.  So the American Civil War claimed a very large percentage of the population.  Leaving a lot of children to grow up without a father.  Which had a profound impact on the size of the federal government.

Prior to this generation American men were some of the manliest men in the world.  Tough and rugged.  Who could live off of the land.  Completely self-sufficient.  These are the men that made America.  Men who fought and won our independence.  Who explored and settled the frontier.  Farmers who worked all day in the field.  Men who dug canals by hand.  And built our railroads.  Men who endured hardships and never complained.  Then came the Civil War generation.  Sons who lost their fathers.  And wives who lost their husbands, brothers, fathers and uncles.  Who lost all the men in their lives in that horrible war.  These women hated that war.  And manly displays of aggression.  For it was manly displays of aggression that led to fighting.  And war.  Having lost so much already they didn’t want to lose the only men they had left.  Their sons.  So they protected and nurtured them.  Taught them to shun violence.  To be kinder and softer.  To be not so tough or rugged.  To be less manly.  And when these men grew up they went into politics and started the progressive movement.

The federal government was no longer just to provide for the common defense.  To run the postal service.  To treat with other nations.  To trade with other nations.  Run our custom houses.  No.  Now the federal government grew to be kinder, softer and more motherly.  The progressives expanded the role of the federal government in our lives.  Woodrow Wilson wanted to turn the country into a quasi monarchy.  With a very strong executive branch that could rule against the wishes of Congress.  The Federal Reserve (America’s central bank) came into existence during Wilson’s presidency.  Which was going to end recessions forever.  Then came the Great Depression.  A crisis so good that FDR did not let it go to waste.  FDR expanded the size of the federal government.  Putting it on a path of permanent growth.  And it’s been growing ever since.

They decreased Defense Spending and increased Borrowings to increase Non-Defense Spending

The federal government grew beyond its Constitutional limits.  And the intent of the Founding Fathers.  Just as Thomas Jefferson feared.  It consolidated power just as all monarchies did.  And that was Jefferson’s fear.  Consolidation.  Seeing the states absorbed by a leviathan federal government.  Becoming the very thing the American colonists fought for independence from.  So that’s when the federal government changed.  In the early 20th Century.  Before that it spent money mostly for defense and a postal service.  Now it spends money for every social program under the sun.  There is great debate now in Washington about reducing the deficit.  With the Democrats blaming the deficit problems on too much defense spending.  And too little taxation on the rich.  But if you look at the history of federal spending since 1940 the numbers say otherwise (see Table 3.1—OUTLAYS BY SUPERFUNCTION AND FUNCTION: 1940–2017 and A History of Debt In The United States).

Federal Spending and Debt

As defense spending (including Veterans Benefits and Services) rose during World War II non-defense spending (Education, Training, Employment, Social Services, Health, Income Security, Social Security, Energy, Natural Resources, Environment, Commerce, Housing Credit, Transportation, Community and Regional Development, International Affairs, General Science, Space, Technology, Agriculture, Administration of Justice and General Government) fell as a percentage of total federal outlays.  And the federal debt rose (federal debt is in constant 2012 dollars).  After the war defense spending fell to 50% while the percentage of non-defense spending rose.  And the federal debt dropped slightly and remained relatively constant for about 30 years.

This tug of war between defense spending and non-defense spending is also called the guns vs. butter debate.  Where those in favor of spending money on guns at the federal level are more constructionists.  They want to follow the Constitution as the Founding Fathers wrote it.  While those who favor spending money on butter at the federal level want to buy more votes by giving away free stuff.

Defense spending ramped back up for the Korean War and the Cold War during the Fifties.  After the armistice ended hostilities in Korea defense spending began a long decline back to about 50% of all federal outlays.  Where it flattened out and rose slightly for the Vietnam War.  After America exited the Vietnam War defense spending entered a long decline where it dropped below 30% of all federal outlays.  Reagan’s defense spending raised defense spending back up to 30%.  After Reagan won the Cold War Clinton enjoyed the peace dividend and cut defense spending down to just below 20%.  After 9/11 Bush increased defense spending just above 20% of all federal outlays where it remains today.

During this time non-defense spending was basically the mirror of defense spending.  Showing that they decreased defense spending over time to increase non-defense spending.  But there wasn’t enough defense spending to cut so borrowing took off during the Reagan administration.  It leveled off during the Clinton administration as he enjoyed the peace dividend after the defeat of the Soviet Union in the Cold War.  Non-defense spending soared over 70% of all federal outlays during the Bush administration.  Requiring additional borrowings.  Then President Obama increased non-defense spending so great it resulted in record deficits.  Taking the federal debt to record highs.

So is defense spending the cause of our deficits?  No.  Defense spending as a percentage of all federal outlays is near a historical low.  While non-defense spending has soared to a record high.  As has our federal debt.  Clearly showing that the driving force behind our deficits and debt is non-defense spending.  Not defense spending.  Nor is it because we’re not taxing people enough.  We’re just spending too much.  In about 50 years non-defense spending rose from around 22% of all federal outlays to 74%.  An increase of 223%.  While defense spending fell from 76% to 22%.  A decline of 245%.  While the federal debt rose 619%.  And interest on the debt soared 24,904%.  The cost of favoring butter in the guns vs. butter debate.  The federal government has been gutting the main responsibility of the federal government, defense, to pay for something that didn’t enter the federal government until the 20th Century.  All that non-defense spending.  Which doesn’t even include the postal service today.

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