When More Spending Means Less And Up Is Down and Down Is Up (Only in Washington)

by FRANK HILL June 8, 2017

Quick Test for Math Competence:

Are these numbers below increasing or decreasing in absolute gross total amounts?
(please be careful because any rational discussion of the US federal budget depends on whether you are capable of doing the most basic of all human functions, meaning 'counting')

$3,853,000,000,000
$4,062,000,000,000
$4,094,000,000,000
$4,340,000,000,000
$4,470,000,000,000
$4,617,000,000,000
$4,832,000,000,000
$4,933,000,000,000
$5,073,000,000,000
$5,306,000,000,000
$5,527,000,000,000
$5,708,000,000,000

If you said 'Increasing, of course, you silly!', you win! Ding-ding-ding!

Because you will have mastered the art of understanding basic accounting and financial management unlike 99% of the media and apparently most of the liberal Democrats now in Congress and the US Senate and more than a few Republicans, sadly.

These numbers...are the projections...for the next 10 years.....in the Trump budget just put forth by OMB and explained really well by OMB Director Mick Mulvaney (who grew up in Charlotte, by the way before moving across state lines to get elected to Congress from Rock Hill, South Carolina before going to OMB)

Year-by-year, even the most elementary of all elementary students can see that these numbers are going up, not down, even if they have to take off 9 zeros at the end to make them more comprehensible to smaller minds.

And yet, the media and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are screaming bloody murder and waving bloody shirts and flags as if this budget was a declaration of war.

Why is it that in our hallowed halls of Congress, in the highest elected government offices in the land, many to most elected leaders treat numbers and budgets as if they are in an episode of 'The Matrix' where up is down and down is up and inside is outside and outside is inside?

It is because they do not want you to know the truth or understand the federal budget. The more they can obfuscate, dissect, paper-over and distance the real truth from you, the voting public, the more they can manipulate your emotions and feelings when it comes election time.

And the press is no better. If they were 'better' at understanding numbers and budgets, they would shut down the screamers and wavers of bloody shirts each time simply by saying: 'Are you out of your mind? These numbers are not 'cuts'; they are INCREASES!'

But the press can't even admit common sense and basic arithmetic anymore since so many of them have abandoned any pretense of 'impartiality' and thrown their fortunes in with one political party or the other.

That is not 'journalism' in the purest light of American freedom of speech and the press. That is 'propaganda promotion' which is as dangerous to our freedom as suppression of free speech anywhere.

The problem is that crafty budget staffers and press secretaries to powerful budget chairmen in Congress came up with the concept of a 'baseline budget' in the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 which really needs to be removed and replaced with some form of zero-based budgeting requirement.

The idea was to 'project' into the future what federal programs would cost if basically indexed for inflation and population growth and really not much else. Gone are any requirements to dig into the programs and budgets and see if they are actually WORKING to achieve a solid public policy purpose or not; they basically go on autopilot and grow forever.

If anyone dares to reduce or try to rein in spending from one of those 'projected' higher levels of spending in these federal budgets, that is called a 'cut' for some reason. It is as if those projections are etched into stone by the finger of God on Mount Sinai or something and mere mortals are not supposed to ever change them at all.

That is like saying we are heading towards a cliff in a car and with each passing day we are going to go 7% faster...and never let up on the accelerator. It is almost cause for an intervention to be honest.

Ronald Reagan once famously said in his iconic 'A Time For Choosing' speech on October 27, 1964 in a final pitch for GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater:

"A government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth."

Test your own nerves by taking a look at the following list of 66 programs (below) President Trump has proposed not for just reduction but total elimination.

Keep in mind that the purpose of having federal programs in the first place is to provide services that affect and help ALL of the citizens in this country and not just a few here and there. Such universal service we all need include national defense, homeland security, interstate highways, airports and perhaps a few other select programs.

  • If a state or local government can do the job better and more efficiently, then the federal government probably should not be involved.
  • If the private sector can provide the same service for less cost and higher quality, let the private sector do it.

(Please don't use the argument that PBS is an 'essential national service' any longer when virtually any child in America now has access to the internet either through a mobile device in his or her little hands or computer and thereby has access to thousands of media channel outlets, many of which are educational in their own right such as National Geographic or the History Channel. The private sector can and has done many of the educational things PBS was originally set up to do when there were only 3 major TV outlets in the country: CBS, NBC and ABC.)

  • If charitable and eleemosynary organizations can address problems, let them do it first. 

Each of us can point out 1, maybe 2 programs on this list we consider 'essential' to keep. But not all of them.

We have come to our own 'Time To Choose' to adopt Ronald Reagan's phrase above and it is how are we going to A) balance our budget; B) pay off our $20 trillion+ (and growing) national debt; C) grow our economy back up to 3%+ annually while D) providing for only the essential public services this nation needs.

When elected leaders failed to balance the budget on an annual basis starting back in the 1960s really but especially since 2001 (so both the Bush 43 and Obama White Houses are culpable as well as every Congressman and Senator who served during those times and failed to do anything to prevent the onslaught of federal deficit-spending that has gotten us into this mess we are in today), they effectively painted us into an actual real corner fiscally.

  1. We have to raise taxes to pay for all this spending...which ain't gonna happen in a million Sundays.
  2. We have to cut spending across-the-board in every program in an non-discriminate manner.
  3. We have to cut discretionary spending severely if we don't touch any entitlement program (since they represent close to 77% of the budget now when added to defense and interest expense)
  4. We have to start to wean wealthy seniors off of social welfare programs such as Social Security and Medicare mainly because both programs were designed to help 'poor seniors' in their golden ages, not wealthy people.

That is the 'Time for Choosing' we face today. More on the Trump budget later, although you might as well start reading it now.
And keep this stamped on your the front of your brain: 

'THERE IS NO OVERALL SPENDING 'REDUCTION' IN THIS BUDGET! IT IS INCREASING EVERY SINGLE YEAR!'

Some budget hawks actually might get mad that the federal government would still grow at about a 5%/year clip under this Trump budget instead of about 7% or more per year if nothing is done to curtail our out-of-control spending from Washington.

Programs targeted for elimination:

Agriculture Department - $855 million

·       McGovern-Dole International Food for Education

·       Rural Business-Cooperative Service

·       Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program Account

·       Single Family Housing Direct Loans


Commerce Department - $633 million

·       Economic Development Administration

·       Manufacturing Extension Partnership

·       Minority Business Development Agency

·       National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Grants and Education


Education Department - $4.976 billion

·       21st Century Community Learning Centers

·       Comprehensive Literacy Development Grants

·       Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants

·       Impact Aid Payments for Federal Property

·       International Education

·       Strengthening Institutions

·       Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants

·       Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants

·       Teacher Quality Partnership

Energy Department - $398 million

·       Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy

·       Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program and Title 17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program

·       Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility

Health and Human Services - $4.834 billion

·       Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

·       Community Services Block Grant

·       Health Professions and Nursing Training Programs

·       Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

Homeland Security - $235 million

·       Flood Hazard Mapping and Risk Analysis Program

·       Transportation Security Administration Law Enforcement Grants

Housing and Urban Development - $4.123 billion

·       Choice Neighborhoods

·       Community Development Block

·       HOME Investment Partnerships Program

·       Self-Help and Assisted Homeownership Opportunity Program Account

Interior Department - $122 million

·       Abandoned Mine Land Grants

·       Heritage Partnership Program

·       National Wildlife Refuge Fund

Justice Department - $210 million

·       State Criminal Alien Assistance Program


Labor Department - $527 million

·       Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Training

·       OSHA Training Grants

·       Senior Community Service Employment Program


State Department and USAID - $4.256 billion

·       Development Assistance

Earmarked Appropriations for Non-Profit Organizations

·       The Asia Foundation

·       East-West Center

·       P.L. 480 Title II Food Aid

State Department, USAID, and Treasury Department - $1.59 billion

·       Green Climate Fund and Global Climate Change Initiative

 Transportation Department - $499 million

·       National Infrastructure Investments (TIGER)

Treasury Department - $43 million

·       Global Agriculture and Food Security Program

Environmental Protection Agency - $493 million

·       Energy Star and Voluntary Climate Programs

·       Geographic Programs

National Aeronautics and Space Administration - $269 million

·       Five Earth Science Missions

·       Office of Education

Other Independent Agencies - $2.683 billion

·       Chemical Safety Board

·       Corporation for National and Community Service

·       Corporation for Public Broadcasting

·       Institute of Museum and Library Services

International Development Foundations

·       African Development Foundation

·       Inter-American Foundation

·       Legal Services Corporation

·       National Endowment for the Arts

·       National Endowment for the Humanities

·       Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation

·       Overseas Private Investment Corporation

Regional Commissions

·       Appalachian Regional Commission

·       Delta Regional Authority

·       Denali Commission

·       Northern Border Regional Commission

·       U.S. Institute of Peace

·       U.S. Trade and Development Agency

·       Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars    

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Contributing Editor Frank Hill ran for Congress at the age of 28 and served as chief of staff for former Congressman Alex McMillan (NC-9) and Senator Elizabeth Dole (NC). He was a budget associate on the House Budget Committee for 4 years and worked on the 1994 Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform. He now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina where he does some consulting and lots of worrying about federal spending issues.


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