Thursday, March 03, 2005

I don't want to keep repeating the same theme...

...but so many things about the current state of American government is what Bastiat warned about in "What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen." Wednesday, the House of Representatives Transportation Committee "cleared the road for action on a six-year, $284 billion highway and mass transit bill, a major jobs and infrastructure initiative that stalled last year over a money dispute between the White House and Congress."

"A major jobs and infrastructure initiative"? It's the same principle I've been talking about, Bastiat pointing out that employing soldiers (any employee of the state) necessarily deprives the taxpayers of that same amount of money.

I wish the dispute were because someone finally said, "Enough! We're spending far too much money for things beyond our Constitutional powers." The dispute is never over making serious spending cuts, but how to spend a whole lot of the taxpayers' money. The previous plan, signed into law six years ago, was $218 billion in size. Last year the White House claimed the proposal was too expensive, and that President Bush wouldn't sign a transportation bill if it added to the federal deficit. Well, it seems a sure thing that Bush will sign this $284 billion bill. That's 30% growth over six years. That's average growth of 4.5% per year, roughly double that of inflation!

If the White House intends to keep its promise, President Bush will veto the whole bill, or like the movie "Dave," he'll find ways to cut a matching $284 billion out of the federal budget. Larry Kudlow is optimistic that 2005 tax revenues will increase from a broadened base and greatly reduce the federal deficit from initial projections. I share that general optimism, but signing the transportation bill will clearly add to the deficit unless we have a $284 billion surplus. So to keep his administration's promise, President Bush has two choices: veto the entire bill, or cut $284 billion elsewhere.

With 3315 separate projects in the proposed legislation, that's an average of 7.6 projects per Representative. Pushed, of course, by lobbyists and other groups like the Associated General Contractors of America (likely a union).

The late Sen. Everett Dirksen is oft quoted as saying, "A million here, a million there, pretty soon you're talking real money." Nowadays it's billions, and most of us are so jaded to the concept of big government that we don't even flinch at this astronomical government spending.

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