A Budget Worse than None

Ryan's new budget shouldn't pass.

For the first time in years, it looks like Congress is actually going to pass a budget, properly authorizing exactly what our tax dollars should be spent on!

This shouldn't be such a startling bit of news, but for most of Obama's presidency, the two houses of Congress were unable to agree on a proper budget.  Even under years Democrat domination, they were too busy with more pressing matters like Obamacare; since the Republicans took the House, they and the Democratic Senate hardly can agree on what room to meet in.

So, instead of budgets, we get "continuing resolutions" which more or less tell the government to pretty much keep doing what it's been doing, whatever that is.  This gives maximum power and flexibility to the executive branch of government - that is, Obama - because mostly, the money's just sitting there for his use on "whatever."

Yes, there has been some political targeting - the famous "sequester", for example, specifically slashed defense and welfare budgets.  Congress could have done more targeting as Ted Cruz and others tried to do by banning spending any money on Obamacare, but that didn't work - and anyway, Obama would never have signed such a bill.

It's bad for Congress to simply give a giant bag of money and all the power to the president, no matter which party he's from.  Checks and balances are fundamental to our form of government, but more importantly, they're fundamental to freedom.  The more power accumulates in one branch, office, or person, the harder it will be to get them to stop doing something later down the line.

Unfortunately, as bad as the "continuing resolution" approach to budgeting is, and as generally decent and conservative as is Paul Ryan who worked on this budget, it's not an improvement for a simple reason: it rolls back the only fiscally wise thing that's happened since Obama's election, the sequester.  In other words, it spends more money and raises taxes yet again.  How can any Republican support this, much less one we thought was a true-blooded conservative?

Actually, there is a way, and one which is noble and honorable in intent.  But it's a victim of conservative wishful thinking all the same.

Support Our Troops!

Remember the idea behind the sequester all those years ago?  As originally written, the sequester cuts were never supposed to actually take place.  The plan was to require cuts to programs that are so important to both Democrats and Republicans that they would never let them happen; their existence was intended to force both sides to negotiate a similar amount of cuts from other, less important programs.  That's why the sequester specifically targeted the military, beloved of Republicans, and welfare, beloved of Democrats.

As we know now, that scheme of mutual pain didn't work.  Even with the sequester threat, Republicans and Democrats couldn't agree on cutting anything else, so that's what got cut.  Then the Republicans seem to have decided that's the only way welfare will ever get cut, and the Dems likewise regarding the military, so everyone just learned to live with it.

Until now: A key element of Ryan's budget is to restore some (not all) of the sequester cuts, both to the military and to welfare, by raising taxes.  Thus the reason for some Republicans to support this scheme: for all its unpleasantness, it does give more money to our longsuffering soldiers.  And every patriotic American wants that, don't you?

Sure we do, but we're forgetting a very important fact: As much as we respect our soldiers, and as strongly as we support our military, the Department of Defense is nevertheless part of the government and is every bit as corrupt, wasteful, and inefficient as the rest of it.

But How?

Now, there is a fundamental difference between the military and many other parts of the Federal government which conservatives often target for cuts.  Whole Federal departments are tasked with doing things that simply do not need to be done, or which the Federal government has no right to do.

The Department of Education, for example, was created in 1979.  Does anyone imagine that our national education has improved since then?  Were we somehow a grossly uneducated country in, say, 1879?  In the late 1700s virtually all free white American men and nearly all their women were able to read, though admittedly that doesn't include black slaves or Indians.

Today, even the grotesquely biased and liberal Puffington Host admits that 14% of Americans can't read, and that this number has not improved in a decade.  What, exactly is the Departmend of Ed doing with the billions we waste on it?  It teaches not a single student, and clearly isn't accomplishing anything useful.  It should be eliminated entirely and the money saved.

We could go through many other similarly useless government departments, from Housing and Urban Development through large chunks of the Department of Energy, and down to agencies like the EPA.  In the recent government shutdown, a mere 6.6% of EPA employees were considered "essential", even by the EPA itself!

The military is fundamentally different.  We need a military.  We need to have trained professionals guarding our national security.  We need to have battleships and tanks, fighters and bombers, submarines and, yes, drones.  We need fuel, ammo, food, uniforms, and all the other material required to fight wars, in the hope that wars can be kept somewhere other than here.  The Constitution clearly gives the Federal government power and responsibility for national defense, and as conservatives, we believe in providing our men in uniform with the very best we can.

That said - we all know that there never was a cesspool of waste like the Pentagon.  Do we need fighter jets?  Yes we do - but we don't need to be paying $200 million apiece for fancy new jets that, half the time, aren't working.  Do we need fuel for our weapons?  Absolutely - but we don't need to be paying $59 a gallon for supposedly environmentally-correct "green fuel."

So while getting rid of the Department of Defence entirely would be idiotic and unconstitutional, cutting its budget isn't necessarily a bad idea.  Even deep cuts can be healthy ones when you consider just how insanely bloated the place is.

Plus, we need to remember that many of the workers at the Defence Department aren't like other bureaucrats: they once were serving military and were personally in harm's way.  This matters, because as we all know, the first instinct of ordinary bureaucrats is to cut the most important and visible parts of government, so as to cause maximum pain for those ungrateful taxpayers who refused to hand over quite as much in taxes as their lords and masters required.  The recent government shutdown taught this lesson to a new generation, as the National Park Service spent extra money to block off "national parks" that they didn't even own, maximizing annoyance and expense.

But when forced to make cuts, will the bureaucrats in the Pentagon actually stop feeding and clothing our soldiers?  Alas, occasionally, the answer is yes, some of them do.  Most of the time, though, they do care about their fellow men-at-arms and seek out places for cuts that won't hurt anything.

Thus, the Pentagon has gotten more hard-nosed with its contracting, demanding that expenses be cut and lower prices provided.  This is hard on the Beltway bandits but good for the nation's taxpayers, and it never would have happened without the sequester.  Your humble correspondent is personally familiar with several multiyear contracts in which the government has said, "Don't bother building in your usual annual cost increases because we won't be paying them."  Conservatives should rejoice!

When given the choice between keeping the library open and hiring another Diversity Officer, ordinary government minions will always spring for the increase in useless headcount.  When forced to choose between another paper-pusher and a container of bullets, though - the Pentagon, at least some of the time, will go for the bullets they actually need.

Sequestration forced these choices, and we're better off for it.  Why remove the pressure now?  We're still far from a balanced budget, never mind reducing our astronomical national debt; our national spending needs to be cut more, and more, and more, probably for the rest of all of our lives.

There's only one relevant question about this budget: Will it spend more than not passing it?  If the answer is yes, no conservative should support it, and it should not be passed, period, a few more dollars for the military notwithstanding.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Bureaucracy.
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