Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Progressives’ Worst Nightmare

Progressives, the trendy word for (mostly Democratic) politicians in D.C. who want to create programs and policies to help people, are in big trouble.

The problem is that while interest in their policies has come back into vogue, any ability to fund them is disappearing quickly.

The budget action last week in Congress … establishes a pretty simple pattern: Squeeze money out of the military, but also squeeze money out of all varieties of domestic social programs the federal government runs …

Meanwhile, the even bigger entitlement programs that really drive the deficit—Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid—are left nearly untouched.

One way to think about this pattern is that it leaves wealthy retirees living in gated golf-course communities with benefits that are unscathed, while Head Start programs for kids, or research by scientists in university laboratories, for that matter, take a hit.

That notion ought to give shivers to those who like programs in which the government does something other than just write checks…

This has been coming for a long time:

According to data from the Congressional Budget Office, the money spent on nonmilitary discretionary programs … declined to 4% of the nation's gross domestic product last year from 5.2% in 1980. …

… Even in the longer-term budget resolution just passed by the Senate during the weekend—that would be the Democrats' master plan for spending—nonmilitary discretionary spending would fall as a share of GDP to 2.5% in 2023 from 3.7% this year.

This is a bit off-topic, but I wonder about the politics of Obama’s positions on this. He spends a huge amount of time and energy campaigning for a renaissance of the progressives palette of programs — and yet these can’t have much future. I find this odd: it’s kind of like a football coach putting in a run-centered game plan after you’ve fallen behind by 20 points at halftime. It’s in the realm of not only “won’t work” but also “won’t even be remembered”. Weird. 

Read “Liberals Find Themselves In a Spending Trap” by Gerald Seib in The Wall Street Journal.

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