Find The Money

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Disasters, Economy & Jobs & DeficitLeave a Comment

With Bush proposing upwards of $200 billion to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, many fiscal conservatives are understandably edgy.  Likening Bush’s proposal to Roosevelt’s New Deal programs (which is, to them, a bad thing), they wonder where the money is going to come from.

Of course, some  conservatives are being blatently stupid about the effort.  This moron notes that the spending amounts to about $400,000 per family.  And while that may be true, it is a rather meaningless statistic, since the lion’s share of the rebuilding will involve revitalizing public buildings and infrastructure.

But will the conservatives suggest rolling back the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans?  Or shelve their efforts and doing away with the estate tax

Hell, no.  They apparently think that it can be paid for by cutting down on pork.  Not the pig kind, but the kind where government’s wasteful spending is curtailed.

Michelle Malkin is hawking the idea.  Glenn Reynolds, too.  And they’ve even set up a website, Porkbusters, where readers can contribute egregious (and largely misinformed) examples of "pork".  For example, these moron contributors think that that spending federal dollars to improve infrastructure is necessarily a bad idea . . . without giving much thought to the notion that when you improve a region’s infrastructure, it creates more incentives for businesses and jobs to be created, thereby increasing the tax base.  That sort of thinking is too, uh, nuanced, I guess.

Of course, there is a legitimate pork problem, and I am not suggesting otherwise.  But it is not going to cover the cost of the post-Katrina rebuilding.  Besides, when you call cutting medicare an example of getting rid of pork, then you are engaging in outright dishonesty.  Or, as one blogger wrote in his "let me get this straight" post:

we take on an optional war in Iraq, and it is fine to put that on a credit card for the past three years and for years to come; but the minute we need to launch a two-year rebuild of a major region of the United States, we have to find budget offsets such as delaying/gutting the new Medicare drug benefit?

UPDATEKevin Drum has a better analysis, complete with graphs and stuff:

The bottom line is simple: as much as we’re all in favor of cutting unnecessary spending, spending is just not a big problem right now. The simple fact is that total federal spending is about 20% of GDP, the same as it was 30 years ago.

Thanks to George Bush’s tax cuts, however, revenues are lower than they’ve been since the 1950s. So if you’re really serious about paying for Katrina reconstruction, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has the answer: repeal of a pair of tax cuts scheduled to go into effect in January that are aimed exclusively at families with high incomes (97% of the benefit goes to families with incomes over $200,000). What’s more, this windfall is solely a creature of Congress. President Bush never asked for it.

Well off families have already gotten plenty of tax cuts in the past four years. They can do without another one, and repealing these two measures would save an estimated $197 billion. It’s not a tax increase, since it would leave current law just as it is, and it would save enough to pay for Katrina without blowing an even bigger hole in the budget than we already have. Responsible conservatives should give this their blessing.