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February 23, 2006

It’s Just Not Good Enough

If you spend more this year than you spent last year, your budget increased. It doesn’t matter whether you spent less than you planned to spend, or that your spending increased by less than the rate of inflation, or that you were still spending the same percentage of your neighbors spending (got to keep up with the Joneses). If you spend a dollar more, you’ve spent more.

Call me unsophisticated, but when it comes to Big Government spending, if it was too much this year, a 5% increase is too much next year – even if it is less than inflation, less than was projected, and lower in comparison to the Gross Domestic Product. And any proposal that permits continued deficit spending for even a day, just isn’t good enough.

Which is why it’s distressing to open up to Cato.org, as I do frequently, and find (February 22 & 23, 2006)…

Downsizing the President’s 2007 Budget
In the latest Cato Tax and Budget Bulletin, Chris Edwards, Cato’s director of tax policy studies, examines President Bush’s budget proposal for FY 2007 and outlines a plan to cut spending and eliminate the deficit. In order to preserve the Bush tax cuts and to reduce the chance of tax increases, “spending should be cut sharply and deficits reduced to zero in coming years,” writes Edwards.
Under his proposal, $254 billion would be cut from the federal budget by 2011, including some parts of Medicare and Social Security, and Edwards recommends eliminating all farm and energy subsidies. “[T]hese cuts would make room for continued taxpayer relief and would halt the rising debt burden that current policymakers are imposing on future generations,” writes Edwards.

But the plan doesn’t cut spending. It reduces the rate of growth of spending. The Tax and Budget Bulletin is short. Check it out.

There’s a right way to look at this question, expressed best by Michael Cloud at the Center for Small Government. It’s called the Weight-watchers Test for Big Government.

Here’s how it works. Step on the scale. If you weigh more, you’re going the wrong way on the diet. A diet means real reductions. It doesn’t mean, well, I didn’t gain as much as I thought I would, or I still weigh less than my neighbor. It means you weigh less, period.

Our national budget is quite obese. And a budget plan that uses the word “Downsize” should mean real, actual cuts in spending and closing of departments and programs, not artificial econometric measurements.

THE CATO PLAN IS NOT “DOWNSIZING.” Frankly, we love imitation, but if they’re just going to co-opt our meme and our brand, then I would prefer they actually suggest eliminating government programs – like they did before Republicans became the majority party!

At Downsize DC we’re trying to create a new movement that wants real change and actual cuts. I’m sorry, but we’re trying to make Downsizing mean something. Any Blue Dog Democrat or Republican Study Committee member can sign on to Mr. Edward’s rhetoric, even if they don’t agree on all the particulars. That’s 170 or so Congressmen folks! And yet, even these modest reductions in the growth of spending won’t happen.

Congress is out of control. Something must be done about it. If you start off agreeing with their terms, you’ve already conceded the fight. And if you think that such timid work is going to inspire people to join the battle, you’re naïve. Who represents Downsizing?

I think I now understand why I still haven’t received the well-deserved complimentary copy of Downsizing Government, the Chris Edward’s book. If the 2007 budget plan he’s offered is any hint, the book just isn’t good enough.

And I wish Cato would actually return to the mid-90s, when their Handbook for Congress called for the elimination of cabinet level departments and cuts across the board. Short of that, I wish they’d stop using the word Downsizing. Cutting the rate of growth just isn’t good enough.

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