Budget Cuts and Bribery

…or budget cuts and coercion, depending on your perspective.

The president’s budget, due for release Tuesday, will spare the two largest drivers of future spending—Medicare and Social Security—leaving trillions in cuts from other programs. That includes discretionary spending cuts to education, housing, environment programs, and foreign aid already laid out by the administration, in addition to new proposed reductions to nondiscretionary spending like food stamps, Medicaid, and federal employee-benefit programs.

What’s going to be ignored in the inevitable hoo-raw over these allegedly terrible cuts to various aspects of our nation’s “safety” net is the truly terrible downside of those aspects.

The Federal monies being sent to the States for education, housing, environment programs, food stamps, Medicaid, and on and on in the seemingly endless, yet growing, list is in large part those States’ own money.  Its income and other taxes collected from each State’s citizens and businesses (which is to say each State’s citizens), with a fraction of those collections then returned to each State (the rest is sent to other States, which does the collected-from State’s citizens no good at all), but with a cynically attached value-add: Federal strings.  Use this money the way we tell you to use it, or we’ll reduce the amount of your money we return to you.

With the proposed cuts to these programs, the States actually will be gaining: the cuts will facilitate associated tax rate cuts, leaving more money in those States—those States’ citizens’—hands.  Just as importantly, though, the strings attached to the Federal funds transfers will be greatly weakened in favor of the States’ own decision-making.

We’ll find out, too and in short order, how sincere the Republican-controlled Congress, whose members ran on and were elected to effect fiscal discipline, really are, whether they’re more interested in maintaining Federal control over States’ individual and varied economic decisions, or whether we need to just keep doing what we’ve been doing the last several Congressional election cycles: firing those who fail to perform, and replacing them.

Congressman Mark Sanford (R, SC) had such a thought:

For a budget to have any meaning, it’s essential we have realistic assumptions in terms of economic growth and in terms of spending reductions.

True enough.  It’s more essential, though, that our representatives not use such excuses to block meaningful tax reform and actual spending cuts and with that continue to exercise too much control over the 50 States.

As an aside, this brings up two elephants in the safety net herd: Social Security and Medicare.  The foregoing—all of it—applies to these two things, also.  In spades.

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