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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press How Did the Washington Post Determine that Congress Has an "Addiction to Spending?"

How Did the Washington Post Determine that Congress Has an "Addiction to Spending?"

Wednesday, 23 February 2011 06:01

That's what readers of a front page Washington Post article are undoubtedly asking after reading the first sentence:

"Is Rep. Harold Rogers the right man to break Congress's addiction to spending?"

There is nothing in the article that explains an "addiction to spending." It does describe efforts by members of Congress to get projects for their districts for which they can take credit, but it does not provide any evidence that this has been a major problem for either the federal budget or the economy. Virtually all budget experts agree that narrowly defined pork barrel spending, of the sort described in this article, is a small share of the total spending. Many projects are actually useful -- members of Congress just want to circumvent the normal appropriation process so that they can take credit for it.

It would have been more reasonable to begin a piece with a phrase like "fear of deficits" as the disease that Congress needs to overcome, since tens of millions of people are now unemployed or underemployed because Congress has a seemingly irrational fear of running larger budget deficits.

Comments (6)Add Comment
written by izzatzo, February 23, 2011 8:34
John Boehner was against spending addiction before he was for it, after deciding the Pentagon needed a second jet engine made in Ohio that it didn't want, since competition with two parallel engine sources obviously brings cost down.

On learning that funding for the engine was voted down, Boehner began bawling like a baby, which prompted Glenn Beck to file a lawsuit based on copyright infringement.
Pork, District first, or extortion scheme?
written by Corbin forever, February 23, 2011 9:16
Hal Rogers supports his district thus:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05... 14may2006

written by scottindallas, February 23, 2011 10:02
Then again, when we look at Ag policy, we may well see some very destructive policies. I support food stamps which preserve supply and demand in the hands of the consumer, not in a command economy. But, our ethanol program is but one form of pork barrel spending that is terribly destructive. Ethanol is helping to spike food prices, along with speculation thanks to QE2 and other Fed policies that are flooding banks with cheap money.

What about subsidized housing developments? Might it not be better for the Federal gov't not to support such projects, and rather use a "rent card" ala food stamps? This would allow supply and demand to drive development not manipulation of Federal programs. States and localities could direct development projects, if nothing else through zoning but in the ways that comport with their larger development goals.

Our infrastructure, where it's crumbling could be well taxed by increasing gasoline taxes. Something we haven't raised in TX since the early nineties despite substantial increase in the cost of materials to build roads.

The difference between the sensible reforms that I've posited here and that many of us might develop, and real reform is lobbying. No where, Never is the most efficient and artful solution sought. That's not how our legislative bodies work. Someone lobbies for something, and often get it. There is no effective check on the claims of the lobbyists, never are these things critically analyzed. Oh, there are a few lobbyists with good hard data that forsee the flaws in the law and who they serve, but these people have no friends in the media, nor Congressional committees. That is why, this is all bullcrap. We will wreck our economy before we fix anything. Why, because there's more money in that for Wall St. We won't totally default, just pay penalties and hickeys. Wall St. will be made whole, two times over, we'll all get screwed. I just hope I can leave the country before it gets really nasty.

We have at least a decade of reckoning coming, that is ONCE we correct our course, we haven't done a thing. Wait till all these teachers get laid off across the country. That's $250m out of the Dallas economy from just one of our school districts alone. We're so screwed.
WaPo Doesn't Understand What Congress Does
written by Paul, February 23, 2011 11:06
Surprisingly, for a newspaper that operates a couple miles from the Capitol, the WaPo does not know that Congress is constitutionally mandated to spend money. Congress is "addicted" to spending in the same way that Lady Gaga is "addicted" to entertaining: that is the job.

If Congress broke its "addiction to spending" the federal government would cease to exist. Even Fox Noise would be against that.
written by dejuan, February 23, 2011 8:05
What's the matter Dean, 2 trillion not enough for you?
written by S.D. Jeffries, February 24, 2011 12:21
ScottinDallas - take heart.

The object of the deficit hawks in legislatures and the corporate lobbyists who advise them is to so strangle the finances of government (federal, state and local) that they will resort to selling off public assets to the private sector rather than raise the taxes of the taxphobic constituents who vote to keep them in office. Constituents will only realize their mistake when every road is a toll road that's not maintained any better by its private owners than it was by the government; when rent on every government office building exceeds the government's previous costs of ownership and maintenance, and when the government no longer enjoys a profit from ownership of ports or sealanes or any other thing of value they currently own. Already private companies reap enormous profits from oil, natural gas, minerals and lumber taken from public lands (and seas), while royalties charged for the exploitation amount to a pittance.

Or maybe voters will never realize, or care, that their commons are being sold off for private profit, as long as their taxes never go up. Niall Ferguson proposes just such a sell-off of public assets to cover budget shortfalls in the latest issue of Newsweek, giving several examples of how "well" it's working where it's already been done.

So take heart. Citizens may be waking up to what's happening to the ownership of their country, and perhaps they will coordinate their efforts to fight against it. Or maybe not - in which case, be sure to plan your move to a country with honest legislators and community-minded corporations, and good luck with that.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.