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You can always trust the government to pull an Orwell and regularly use words that mean the opposite of their political meaning. Take “Non-Discretionary Spending,” for example. What is, by its nature, the most discretionary part of our budget, social programs like Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, are called “non-discretionary.” The money that funds what our government is meant to do, that is, the courts, regulatory agencies and military, on the other hand, are “discretionary spending.”
Were the irony not so tragic, it would be funny.
I could go into the intricacies of why these discretionary funds are called “non-discretionary,” but it boils down to this: The embedded constituencies, that is, the people who benefit from the spending which makes up two thirds of our budget, are too numerous and too powerful for a politician to ever consider cutting funding.
It is my sincere desire to cut this part of our Federal budget. At roughly two and a half trillion dollars, the source of our massive deficits is clear. Worse yet, this money hardly buys anything. Most of it is “transfer payments,” or money that is taxed from one group and paid out to another group. The only thing being bought is votes.
Meanwhile, Leftists claim that our military and bureaucracy are the sources of our deficits, and if we just spend more on transfer payments and less on the military, the accounts will balance.
Uh-huh. If anyone were to try this in the private sector, they’d go to jail. In fact, they have.
Unfortunately, the embedded constituencies, combined with the hard-Left (“progressive” Democrats) and the weak-Right (big-government Republicans) make it nearly impossible to cut.
So here’s my compromise: We conservatives think of the military budget as sacro-sanct. Indeed, I don’t want to cut one dime from our war-fighting capability. It is too important that we have the best equiped, best trained and most capable military on Earth. But there is waste in the system. There are programs that are spending too much money for too little result. Weapons systems that are expensive to maintain and which could be replaced, over time, with less expensive systems. Bases that no longer make sense in the strategic environment, or which could be manned by skeleton crews until needed.
We make a deal with the Democrats: We’ll cut some of these unnecessary military programs. You cut some of the transfer payments. We hold them to the deal. No bill gets passed, no cuts made without a tit-for-tat cut. And since the “non-discretionary spending” is so much larger than the military budget, the cuts there have to be an equivalent amount larger.
Unfortunately, it will never happen. Whether it is military built in a Congressman’s home district or a protected class being the base of a Senator’s power, spending to buy votes has become the norm in Washington. Unless we can convince people to vote against the free-spenders and vote-buyers, things will never change.
Ah, but it’s nice to dream.