Tag Archives: spending

For the Children

The people of Illinois don’t expect their government to be corrupt; they insist on it. That’s why nary an eyebrow was raised when it recently came out that two lobbyists for the Illinois Federation of Teachers were able to qualify for generous teachers’ pensions by working as substitute teachers for one day.

One man could receive up to $3.8 million if he lives to age 84. This is in addition to the 401(k) the union gives him as an employee. The Chicago Tribune reports:

Preckwinkle’s one day of subbing qualified him to become a participant in the state teachers pension fund, allowing him to pick up 16 years of previous union work and nearly five more years since he joined. He’s 59, and at age 60 he’ll be eligible for a state pension based on the four-highest consecutive years of his last 10 years of work.

His paycheck fluctuates as a union lobbyist, but pension records show his earnings in the last school year were at least $245,000. Based on his salary history so far, he could earn a pension of about $108,000 a year, more than double what the average teacher receives.

Nationwide spending on K-12 education is around $13,000 per child per year. Not all of that spending is actually for the children, contrary to popular rhetoric. Fortunately, it appears only two people took advantage of this scheme. But the real kicker is that one of the two actually helped write the legislation that made it possible.

Stimulating Language

I’ve argued for a long time that stimulus bills are poorly named; it implies that they stimulate the economy. “Spending bill” is a non-loaded term that has the added advantage of being accurate. Both parties have passed spending bills over the years in the hopes of stimulating the economy. Intentions being different than results, Democrats are finally starting to agree with me on this misuse of language, as The Hill reports:

Democrats are now being careful to frame their job-creation agenda in language excluding references to any stimulus, even though their favored policies for ending the deepest recession since the Great Depression are largely the same.

The article continues:

Recognizing the unpopularity of the 2009 package, however, Democratic leaders have revised their message with less loaded language – “job creation” instead of “stimulus” and “Make it in America” in lieu of “Recovery Act” – in hopes of tackling the jobs crisis.

Spending bills work by taking some money out of the economy and then putting it back in, minus transaction costs and political malfeasance; one can see why they don’t have much effect. The thinking is that Congress can invest money more wisely than private investors. If Solyndra is any indicator, that isn’t true.

Public opinion has soured on spending bills after some initial optimism. That same public also wants its politicians to do something, anything to get the economy going.

But the only tool available to Congress is spending. That’s why politicians insist on following the same failed policy over and over – it is their only tool. The only alternatives are doing nothing, or actively paring back spending and regulations. And those don’t look nearly as glamorous on camera.

Stimulus, spending bill, job creation bill – a rose by any other name has thorns just as sharp. And this particular rose refuses to bloom. That means it’s time to try something else. Maybe reducing spending to sustainable Clinton-era levels, which isn’t even particularly austere. Congress should also try a deregulatory stimulus sometime.

What Shrinking Government?

I have a letter to the editor in today’s Washington Post:

Richard Cohen fretted that Tea Party activists have “shrunk the government.” He need not worry. Federal spending has gone from $2.9 trillion in 2008 to $3.8 trillion in 2011. Thirty percent spending growth in three years is hardly shrinkage. Even under the Boehner plan, federal spending will continue to increase every year for at least the next decade.

Meanwhile, federal agencies continue to finalize more than 3,500 new regulations per year. They repeal almost none, no matter how loud the Tea Party’s howls.

If anything, Tea Party activists have been devastatingly ineffective at shrinking government. Mr. Cohen can rest easy.

Ryan Young, Washington

The writer is a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

They Aren’t Math Majors

Eleven people were arrested for staging a sit-in today inside the U.S. Capitol. They were protesting budget cuts. They must not have known that spending is set to increase every year for at least the next decade, even under the Boehner plan.

Take a look at this handy discretionary spending chart that Cato’s Chris Edwards put together:

There Is No More Fat to Trim from Government Budgets

Workforce Central Florida, a government agency, is spending $73,000 to give away 6,000 capes and some cardboard cutouts.

Breaking Down the Budget Debate

In this new CEI video, my colleague Lee Doren and I talk about the budget debate.

CEI Podcast for April 14, 2011: Avoiding a Government Shutdown

Have a listen here.

Warren Brookes Journalism Fellow Kathryn Ciano analyzes the Continuing Resolution passed by the House today that will keep the federal government open for another 6 months. She also looks at proposals from President Obama and Rep. Paul Ryan to reduce the budget deficit over the next decade.