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home : opinions : opinions August 23, 2017

8/4/2017 7:28:00 AM
The Trump budget
John Stossel
Columnist

Remember President Trump's "terrible" budget cuts?

"Promises Little but Pain," warned The New York Times.

"Harsh and shortsighted," cried The Washington Post.

Then Congress passed a budget. President Trump signed it. Do you notice the "pain"?

I follow the news closely, but until I researched this column, I didn't know that Congress actually raised spending on the very agencies Trump wanted to cut.

Trump called for a $4.7 billion dollar cut to the agriculture department. Congress increased the department's appropriation by $12.8 billion.

He called for a $15 billion cut to health and human services. Congress instead gave them $2.8 billion more.

Trump wanted a $6.2 billion cut to housing and urban development. Congress gave HUD a half-billion-dollar increase.

Trump wanted the commerce department's budget cut by $1.4 billion. Congress made no cut.

And so on.

Why wasn't that news? Because in Washington, and in the media's eyes, spending increases are expected. And cuts are always "terrible."

America continues on its road to bankruptcy.

What will those departments do with their new money?

The agriculture department says its mission is to "promote agricultural production that better nourishes Americans." Politicians claim we need the department to guarantee an adequate food supply.

Nonsense.

Because of the free market, agricultural entrepreneurs provide plenty of food. Fruit and vegetable farmers rarely get subsidies, but there are ample supplies of fruits and vegetables.

We don't need an agriculture department any more than we need a Hollywood movie department or iPhone department.

Most of what the department does is corporate welfare. America's richest corn and grain farmers collect most of the money.

Politicians eagerly give money to people who visit their offices and pour out tales of need.

Corn and grain farmers visit and whine because they have millions of dollars at stake.

You don't visit because each subsidy costs you just a few bucks.

So the corporate welfare continues.

Members of Congress might stop the wasteful spending if they spent their own money. But they don't. They spend ours.

Congress ignored Trump's request to cut the commerce department, too.

Commerce's biggest program is NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA pushes climate change alarmism, producing PSAs that warn Arctic ice is "thinning at an alarming rate!"

If that's a serious problem, NOAA's spending won't stop it. NOAA's bureaucrats got caught buying a $300,000 yacht - and using it to go fishing.

The department says what they do is "critical." They fund "centers in every state that consult with companies facing technological problems."

Government is good at fixing tech problems? News to me.

The department claims "every dollar of federal investment ... generates around $30" because each "$2,400 investment" creates a job.

I'm sure they help some politically savvy companies, but their claim ignores the good things your money would have done had it stayed in the private sector. That's the unseen cost of funding every department. We'll never know what our dollars might have done had they not been taken from us by government.

Maybe a new Steve Jobs would have invented a ...

I don't know. We'll never know, because government grabbed the money.

President Trump seems to understand that government wastes money, but after proposing cuts to some departments, he was eager to increase military spending. So Congress did. The military got the biggest increase.

Defense, at least, is a proper role of government. Government should keep us safe. But our current military is wasteful and involved in needless foreign entanglements.

We spend as much as the next seven countries combined - eight times more than Russia spends. Many of the missions our politicians give the military - interventions in places like Iraq, Libya and Syria - made us less safe by destabilizing the Middle East and creating new terrorists.

Congress should cut spending to the military and to the departments Trump wanted to cut.

But politicians almost never cut. Despite all those headlines about "harsh," "painful," "terrible" cuts, government increased spending again.

We are going broke. Later this year, the national debt will reach $20 trillion. Yet Congress appropriated more - a Republican-majority Congress.

Politicians sure are generous with other people's money.

One small positive note: I'm told the city government in Toronto is bringing down the price of that $65,000 staircase I wrote about last week to $10,000. Keep cutting.

John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails - But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

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