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What's Left 3: What if We Had $4.5 Trillion a Year To Spend on Ordinary People?

Ted Rall on

The $1.6 trillion we waste each year on the Pentagon is an irresistible target for leftists looking for funds to appropriate to the human wants and needs that are currently going un- and under-addressed. Let's redirect those funds to something more worthwhile than slaughtering innocent people around the planet -- i.e., anything else. But why stop there?

The U.S. federal budget is full of poor spending choices and waste caused by bureaucratic inefficiency.

One item you might not immediately think of as flexible or fungible is interest on the national debt, which came to $659 billion in the 2023 fiscal year. That derives from past spending. We don't have a time machine, so what can be done about that?

Quite a lot, actually. That figure reflects an increase of $184 billion, or 39%, from the previous year and is nearly double that for fiscal year 2020. The culprit for that massive spending spike is the Federal Reserve Bank's optional, unnecessary, totally reversible decision to repeatedly raise interest rates following the COVID-19 lockdown, including on government-issued Treasury bonds and notes that finance the debt, in order to fight a spike in inflation that probably would have eased without any action by monetary regulators. And it's only going to get worse. The Congressional Budget Office projects that interest on the debt, which currently amounts to 2% of GDP, will rise to 6% by 2030.

In other words, American taxpayers would have saved $184 billion had the Fed chosen not to increase interest rates. Which, if our society valued labor more than capital, it would not have. Not only is the Fed's obsessive fear of inflation a paranoid and anachronistic vestige of a 1970s economy that no longer exists and in any event was not nearly as bad for workers as we've been told, it repeatedly leads them to risk recession because, in the worst-case scenario from business' vantage point, layoffs and wage cuts rein in the power of labor, which amounts to about two-thirds of the expenses of a generic U.S. corporation.

The federal government issues about $250 billion per year to individuals and corporations that objectively do not qualify for the subsidies, including $1 billion a year to dead people.

 

Nearly $2 billion per year goes to maintaining 77,000 empty buildings.

Then there's the revenue side -- or lack thereof. In 2021, the last year for which statistics are officially available, the Internal Revenue Service failed to collect $688 billion in unpaid taxes because it didn't bother to send dunning letters or to conduct audits of wealthy individuals or corporations.

And that's not even touching the fact that income taxes can and should be increased on high-income individuals and corporations.

For this exercise, we are omitting other expenses that are arguably wasteful, like most of the budget of the Department of Homeland Security, the $70 billion a year foreign-aid budget and outlandish headline-grabbing projects like federally supported studies of how Russian cats walk, and how the fur color of Labrador retrievers affects their internal body temperatures. Taxpayer money should never be wasted. But here we are looking for the biggest reservoir of foolishly spent money, not the latest Bridge to Nowhere.

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