Federal government spending: With all due respect Mr. President, we’re still waiting


“We will go through our federal budget — page by page, line by line — eliminating those programs we don’t need.” — President-Elect Barack Obama, November 2008.

How has that promise worked out? A newspaper advertisement placed by the Cato Institute reminds us of President Obama’s pledge — and its lack of fulfillment:

It’s been nearly two years since you made that pledge, Mr. President. Since then, you’ve signed into law an $800 billion “stimulus” package and a massive new health care entitlement — adding trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities to our grandchildren’s tab.

Our looming debt crisis threatens to destroy the American dream for future generations. Yet your administration continues piling up deficits of over a trillion dollars a year. By 2012 our national debt will be larger than the entire U.S. economy. Isn’t it past time you identified the programs you’d cut?

This is at the same time the president criticizes small-government advocates for their lack of ideas. Countering that criticism, the Cato advertisement list many ways that federal spending could be cut. A companion website, Downsizing the Federal Government, contains more. From the site:

The federal government is running massive budget deficits, spending too much, and heading toward a financial crisis. Without a change of direction in Washington, average working families will be faced with huge tax increases and a lower standard of living.

This website is designed to help policymakers and the public understand where federal funds are being spent and how to reform each government department. It describes the failings of federal agencies and identifies specific programs to cut. It also discusses the systematic reasons why government programs are often obsolete, mismanaged, or otherwise dysfunctional.

Some people have lofty visions about how government spending can help society. But the essays on this website put aside such “bedtime stories” about how government programs are supposed to work, and instead focuses on how they actually work in the real world.

Downsizing the Federal Government is a project of the Cato Institute. Scholars at Cato believe that cutting the federal budget would enlarge personal freedom, increase growth and prosperity, and leave a positive fiscal legacy to the next generation.

Yes, Mr. President, we have lots of ideas. But we’re not prescriptive — so most of our ideas center around the government doing less, leaving more freedom and liberty in the hands of the people, not government.


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