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Wed Dec 19, 2012, 03:27 PM

'Government becomes little more than a heavily armed pension plan with a health insurer on the side'


... “This is no way to run a $3.7 trillion enterprise,” said a Columbia University economist, Jeffrey Sachs, referring to the size of the federal government. “It is President Obama’s responsibility to put forward a plan and give us a comprehensive view of what is the strategy.”

The numbers for civilian discretionary spending shrink so much under both the president’s and the House Republicans’ budget proposals that even those who wrote them seem to have a hard time believing they will come true.

... Consider the president’s budget, which by law must include projections of taxing and spending over the next decade. Loath to raise taxes on the middle class yet unwilling to cut deeply into the budgets for Social Security or Medicare, the president and his advisers proposed cutting the discretionary part of the budget devoted to everything except defense and other security agencies to 1.7 percent of economic output by 2022, down from 3.1 percent last year.

This is not irrelevant spending. It accounts for every government expenditure except entitlements, security and interest. It pays subsidies for higher education and housing assistance for the poor. It finances the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration. It pays for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and training programs for unemployed workers. Without such spending, the government becomes little more than a heavily armed pension plan with a health insurer on the side.

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