WHAT IS BASELINE BUDGETING? IT IS A LIE WITH THE FORCE OF LAW.

Trump just submitted his budget for next year. Of course bunches people immediately trashed it. One of the complaints is all the cuts. We need to look at this complaint in particular.

Do you wonder why Congress cannot balance the budget? The answer is that our political system is now so corrupt it is almost illegal to do so. Here is how Rush Limbaugh once described the situation on his show.

CALLER: Okay. So it seems like those one-time things like TARP and bailouts and I don’t know what all, somehow got added into the annual spending, and I don’t understand that.

RUSH: Well, it’s a great question. It really is. You know, I shouldn’t say the answer is complicated because it makes sound intimidating. It really isn’t. But the reason why those one-time expenditures seemed to build on themselves is because of the budget process that’s known as “baseline budgeting,” which was begun in the 1970s, I believe. The simplest way to explain the baseline budget is the federal budget is not like your household budget.

In your household budget, if you do one (let’s hypothetically say that you do), you look at what you spent last year, you look at this current year, and you estimate as close as you can what your income is going to be. You then budget what your spending is going to be, and every year you do that starting from zero. That’s not how the federal government does it. There is a thing in the federal government called “the Current Services Baseline,” and that is the starting point every year, not zero.

There is not one government department or agency that looks at what it was given to spend every year, and then what it did spend, and is then budgeted accordingly. So let’s say that agriculture was budgeted X. I’m just gonna make up some numbers here. Let’s say the agriculture department was budgeted $100 billion and they spent $70 billion. You would think, “Okay, next year they’ll be budgeted $70 billion.”

No. Because of baseline budgeting, the more they spend, the more they will be allowed to spend or budgeted to spend the next year. The Current Services Baseline essentially — and I’m gonna cut through a bunch of legalese to explain this to you. The Current Services Baseline requires, mandates, whatever, that every line item in the federal budget be increased by anywhere from three to 10% every year, no matter what is spent on that line item.

(from here)

Think Limbaugh was joking? Check it out.

So what happens when the news media and the Democrats tell us that President Trump or some budget hawks are cutting the budget? Well, we need to know whether those honorable so and so’s are talking about a cut in comparison to last year’s budget or the “baselined” budget increase. That is, what the political class and the news media usually calls a budget cut is outright lie.

You care about the country? You care about the prosperity of your children and grandchildren? You care about honest government and a balanced budget. Then write your congressmen. We have Republican majorities in the House and Senate. We have a Republican in the White House. What is their excuse for not getting rid of the deceit perpetuated with baselined budgeting?

You can find your representative in the House at house.gov.

You can find your senators at senate.gov.

Please correct a delusion that these ladies and gentlemen seem to acquire inside the Beltway. Money does not grow on trees. Spending more and more and more just makes us poorer and poorer and poorer.

INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 2B

The post continues where INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 2A left off. Please refer to INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 1 for links to the other posts.

Here we will consider the last three of four questions.

When does it become immoral for the government to tax us? That is, where do you draw the line and say no more?

When does it become immoral for the government to tax us? That is, where do you draw the line and say no more? Well, consider what we established as the justification for taxation in INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 2A.

Therefore, because some agency has to exercise the force required to maintain order and protect everyone’s rights, forcing everyone to pay taxes to maintain a good government is one of those cases where the means is in accord with the end and therefore justified.

That is, we can justify forcing people to pay taxes because government has an indispensable purpose which requires all of us to pay for it. However, what if government starts doing other things with our tax funds? Then what justification do we have for raising taxes to pay for those additional things?

Consider what we have added. In this country we have various health, education, and welfare programs. Supposedly, because you have a right to:

  • Life = government has to provide our healthcare.
  • An education = government has to educate us.
  • Food, clothing, shelter, a job, and so forth = government has to give whatever it is we can get enough people to vote for.

Does the Constitution authorize Congress to spend our money on health, education, and welfare programs? No. So why does Congress do it? Why do some people rob banks? Because that’s where the money is. Congressmen rob the Federal treasury because that’s where the money is that they can use to buy our votes.

The purpose of government is to keep us from infringing upon each others rights, not to give us our neighbor’s property. When government starts taking some people’s property and giving it to other people, we have too much government. The answer to the next question explains why that is a problem.

How do we ensure that a government that runs our lives will exercise its power for our benefit and not someone else’s benefit?

How do we ensure that a government that runs our lives will exercise its power for our benefit and not someone else’s benefit? Well, if the government is running our lives, we already have a big problem. Consider the issue.  Government is supposed to protect the rights of All the People, not skew things to the benefit of special interest groups (We are all members of some special interest group.). Therefore, we have to keep politicians focused on protecting the rights of the People. That is, to make certain our politicians are not tempted to skew things to the benefit of some special interest group, we have to make certain they don’t have a conflict of interest.

The Conflict Of Interest

What usually causes politicians to have a conflict of interest? Instead of just expecting politicians to protect our Rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, we start expecting them to give us so-called “rights” like “free” healthcare, schooling, food, clothing, shelter, job benefits and so forth. Unfortunately, no politician can give us anything unless he starts taking what he gives us from our neighbors, and there lies the conflict of interest. When politicians start giving us stuff for “free”, we make the same people responsible protecting everyone’s Rights also responsible for taking away some people’s Rights. That’s how politicians get the stuff they use to give “other people” their “rights”. Such a system is not charity; it is just thievery on a mass scale that seems okay because everyone is doing it.

So How Should We Help The Needy?

So how should we help the needy? In an old post, THE RIGHT OF FREE ASSOCIATION, I cite what Alexis De Tocqueville observed about 1830’s America in his classic work, Democracy in America. Here is a sample. I suggest reading the entire post.

Wherever, at the head of some new undertaking, you see the government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association. I met with several kinds of associations in America, of which I confess I had no previous notion; and I have often admired the extreme skill with which the inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common object to the exertions of a great many men, and in getting them voluntarily to pursue it.

What De Tocqueville observed is that when Americans saw a need, they voluntarily banded together and did something about it. If you love your neighbor, that is what you do.

How big and powerful does the government have to be before the people have lost the ability to refuse it anything it wants?

In a constitutional republic the People instill their values into their government. In an authoritarian or totalitarian regime, government seeks to indoctrinate the People in politically correct values. What is the distinction? In a society that operates as a constitutional republic, a limited government, the People disperse control of the educational system and mass media infrastructure among many people who operate independently of each other. An authoritarian or totalitarian regime, however, seeks survival by indoctrinating the People. To that end authoritarian or totalitarian governments monopolize the educational system and the mass media infrastructure.

The Education Problem

We want our children to have a good education, one that helps us as parents to instill the right values, right? What makes us think we can depend upon politicians to help us? Who trusts politicians? Yet that is what we have done. We have put government in charge of our educational system and turned what should be a blessing into a predicament.  Instead parents being in charge of what the children they love learn, children learn whatever the dominant political party thinks important.

The Problem Of A Free Press

We want to find out what is going on in the world, right? Ideally, we would choose from a variety of independent mass media outlets. Then we would compare notes with our family, friends and neighbors and decide which outlets are the most credible and informative. But what if the mass media is dominated by the government or a relatively small number powerful men and women interested in influencing the political system (see section on Crony Capitalism)? What if much of the mass media seems more interested in dispensing propaganda than in being trusted?

An Observation From The Past

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.– Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Colonel Charles Yancey (6 January 1816) ME 14:384.

For the time being control of our educational system and mass media infrastructure is still somewhat dispersed. If we want to remain a free people — if we do not want government lackeys corrupting our children and feeding us falsehoods — we need to support school choice for parents and fight any effort to concentrate the mass media into the hands of a few wealthy men or government official officials.

What Is To Come?

Please refer to INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 1 for links to the other posts.

INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 2A

The post continues where INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 1 left off. Please refer to PART 1 for links to the other posts.

Here we will consider the first of four questions.

Why is it moral for the government to tax us?

Why is it moral for the government to tax us? This is, oddly enough, not a question most of us give much thought. Our biggest expense is taxes, but most of us just accept that fact, pay our taxes, and try to get on with our lives. Some of us even make a virtue of paying taxes, holding it up as our contribution to a great society. Since we don’t have any choice in the matter, that is an odd sort of pride. However, there are more pragmatic views. Here is something Lysander Spooner wrote just after the Civil War.

For this reason, whoever desires liberty, should understand these vital facts, viz.:

  1. That every man who puts money into the hands of a “government” (so called), puts into its hands a sword which will be used against himself, to extort more money from him, and also to keep him in subjection to its arbitrary will.
  2. That those who will take his money, without his consent, in the first place, will use it for his further robbery and enslavement, if he presumes to resist their demands in the future.
  3. That it is a perfect absurdity to suppose that any body of men would ever take a man’s money without his consent, for any such object as they profess to take it for, viz., that of protecting him; for why should they wish to protect him, if he does not wish them to do so?  To suppose that they would do so, is just as absurd as it would be to suppose that they would take his money without his consent, for the purpose of buying food or clothing for him, when he did not want it.
  4. If a man wants “protection,” he is competent to make his own bargains for it; and nobody has any occasion to rob him, in order to “protect” him against his will.
  5. That the only security men can have for their political liberty, consists in their keeping their money in their own pockets, until they have assurances, perfectly satisfactory to themselves, that it will be used as they wish it to be used, for their benefit, and not for their injury.
  6. That no government, so called, can reasonably be trusted for a moment, or reasonably be supposed to have honest purposes in view, any longer than it depends wholly upon voluntary support.

(from here)

Spooner obviously had a cynical view of government, and some classified him as an anarchist.  Since the man is long dead and not well-known, I won’t debate whether Spooner was an anarchist. The point here is that taxation does not require the consent of those taxed by the government, and not paying can have severe consequences. If we don’t pay, the authorities will come after us.

So about that question? Why is it moral for the government to tax us? What is the crucial issue? Let’s refer to an old post, PHILOSOPHICAL CONFUSION OVER ENDS AND MEANS. Here we considered the wisdom of that old proverb:

The end justifies the means. (see here and here)

As that old post explained, morality requires that the means be in accord with the end. Taxation looks an awful like stealing. How can such stealing be justified?

Here is an example of doing something wrong for an apparently high and noble purpose. Does it make sense to teach a child to tell the truth by lying about your own truthfulness?  No one should lie, right? And we don’t want to set a bad example. Yet if we lied to our children to hide our own dishonesty and then expected our children to be truthful, would it even work? No. We would eventually be found out, and our children would probably follow our bad example. Hopefully, the prospect of such a horror encourages us to be honest. That is, the proper way to teach others to honor the truth is to honor it with ones own conduct.

Lying to our children about our own dishonesty would in fact just compound the sinfulness of our lies. We would be telling our children two lies. We would be trying to deceive them into believing that we could be trusted to tell the truth and that we believed that honesty is actually important.

Still, when it serves its proper purpose, good government achieves an end which justifies the use of force to make everyone help pay for it.  What is that purpose? The founders explained the purpose of government in the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, (from here)

We can debate what the Rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness might be. Nevertheless, it is clear that the founders wanted a government that would protect the People from being deprived of their Rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Why a government? For thousands of years men have created governments. Those government have done good things and bad things.  The good things governments have done include the maintenance of order, that is, the protection of life and property. The bad things include enforcing the stratification of societies with “elites” at the top and slave classes at the bottom.

For better or worse, government is something we know how to do, and the absence of government, anarchy leading to famine and disease, is worse than a bad government. Therefore, because some agency has to exercise the force required to maintain order and protect everyone’s rights, forcing everyone to pay taxes to maintain a good government is one of those cases where the means is in accord with the end and therefore justified.

That is, we simply do not know a better way.

What Is To Come?

Answering the first of those four questions took a bit more effort than I had hoped. So this became PART 2A, and I will try to answer the other three questions in PART2B.

Please refer to PART 1 for links to the other posts.

INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 1

James Madison by John Vanderlyn, 1816 (from here)

Introducing The Subject

It is very difficult to understand another person’s point of view. It is actually difficult to comprehend our own point of view. Yet to live a satisfactory life we must try.

Consider the words of Socrates. For speaking his mind, the citizens of Athens  condemned him to death. What did Socrates desire for the citizens of Athens. He wanted them to be virtuous. He wanted them to think about what it means to be virtuous, but the citizens of Athens did not want to examine virtue too carefully. So they condemned Socrates. Here is how Socrates replied.

Some one will say: Yes, Socrates, but cannot you hold your tongue, and then you may go into a foreign city, and no one will interfere with you? Now I have great difficulty in making you understand my answer to this. For if I tell you that to do as you say would be a disobedience to the God, and therefore that I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say again that daily to discourse about virtue, and of those other things about which you hear me examining myself and others, is the greatest good of man, and that the unexamined life is not worth living, you are still less likely to believe me. Yet I say what is true, although a thing of which it is hard for me to persuade you. (from APOLOGY By Plato translated by Benjamin Jowett)

James Madison, like Socrates, was a philosopher of sorts. Instead of balking at the prospect, he and many of his countrymen carefully examined the role of virtue in government. Instead of abhorring the prospect, he and his countrymen rebelled and tried something new. Instead of continuing to regard government as something God imposed upon the People through divinely appointed kings, Madison made the following observation.

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. (from here)

In a world dominated by authoritarian monarchs, Madison observed that angels did not governed men, that because men lacked the virtue of angels the power of government had to be limited. And so in The Federalist Papers Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay promoted the ratification of the United States Constitution.

In our era, we have nearly discarded the Constitution that Madison, Hamilton, and Jay promoted in The Federalist Papers. Therefore, the Federal Government has become a leviathan, an immense beast of fantastic proportions, totally unlike the limited government the founders envisioned. The realization that our rulers have nearly undone the Constitution has engendered a political war in this nation, but the nature of the war is mysterious to most of us. How so? We don’t actually understand the thinking of the other side. Conservatives don’t understand Democrat Liberals, and Democrat Liberals don’t understand Conservatives.

Would understanding the view point of other side help Conservatives to resolve the conflict? No and yes. It would seem that Conservatives have been trying to compromise with Democrat Liberals for years. What happens with each compromise? Democrat Liberals just start working on the next compromise to further enlarge their blessed leviathan. So what should we expect to gain by trying to understand the other side? We may understand something about the assumptions that Democrat Liberals make about government and the nature of man. We may understand why Democrats Liberals do not seem to have any intention of limiting the size and the power of government.

What Is To Come?

    • Questions For Democrat Liberals — PART 2A (May 21, 2017) and Questions For Democrat Liberals — PART 2B (May 23, 2017): The subject of this post is four questions. The first question is cover in PART 2A.
      1. Why is it moral for the government to tax us?
      2. When does it become immoral for the government to tax us? That is, where do you draw the line and say no more?
      3. How do we ensure that a government that runs our lives will exercise its power for our benefit and not someone else’s benefit?
      4. How big and powerful does the government have to be before the people have lost the ability to refuse it anything it wants?

      If Conservatives want to understand Conservatism, we need to answer those four questions, and we need to understand why Democrat Liberals think those questions are just dumb.

    • A Democrat Liberal’s Reply — PART 3: The subject of this post is how a Democrat Liberal defines virtue with respect to government. Did that Democrat Liberal answer those four questions? No.
    • Restoring Our Constitutional Republic — PART 3: Is there a way to resolve the conflict? No. However, if we are prepared to fight for it, we can slowly restore our constitutional republic.