Thursday, May 06, 2010

Federal Spending 2020

The Congressional Budget Office makes this projection. The CBO is projecting then, that in 2020 the federal government will be spending 47 cents of every dollar it spends on social security, medicare, and medicaid combined.

From a constitutional perspective, isn't this rather remarkable? After all, Congress is supposed to have only those powers explicitly enumerated in Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution, and not one of these three programs is thus enumerated.

With respect to social security, the projection is that in 2020 22 cents of every dollar the national government spends will involve the redistribution of income from those who are working in 2020 to people who are among the retired.

I think we can consider social security, medicare, and medicaid as redistribution programs. If so, then this projection is that about 1/2 of every government dollar spent in 2020 will involve redistribution. Again, constitutionally remarkable since the Constitution seems to me to have created a limited government, mostly a "protective state" government, not a "redistributive state" government.

My son is not yet old enough to vote, but he will be in 2020. He may or may not be paying income taxes to the federal government then, both because he may be in college instead of the workforce and because a large percentage of people pay no taxes to the federal government today (I expect the same in the future). But, if he is paying income taxes then, note that 14 cents of every dollar spent by the national government will amount to him being required to make payments for loans taken out by others now and in the past. Assuming he is working, then 22 cents on the dollar will represent taking money from his paycheck to give to people who are retired and no longer a member of the workforce. Perhaps we can toss medicare and medicaid in with respect to these sorts of considerations as well. In any case, his income and productive abilities in the year 2020 as well as the years beyond have already been encumbered by federal government policies and programs, and he cannot yet vote.

As Hayek wrote, it seems to me the case that "the basic principles on which this civilization was built have been falling into increasing disregard and oblivion." The government I know today, and the government projected in the CBO's picture, seems impossibly different from the government I read about in the words of the Constitution.

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