Sunday, July 31, 2011

Spending cuts and State Benefit ratios

I caught a bit of Meet the Press this morning when Raul Labrador the Republican House member from Idaho was making the case for spending cuts in the debt ceiling negotiations.  Whereupon Tom Brokaw asked him the follow:

“I mean, here's an example. You know, I've been looking at the numbers across the country about what states are the beneficiaries of federal aid. You're obviously a big beneficiary for a lot of reasons. You've got national forest land. The last numbers that I saw, you get a buck 28 back for every dollar you send to Washington. Now, that additional--that 28 cent premium, what would you be willing to give up? How much of it?”

Brokaw is an esteemed member of the media so it’s never easy to know quite what he’s talking about, but I take it that Brokaw believes that because Idaho is a net recipient of federal dollars Labrador’s position against spending and for smaller government requires him to give up some of that benefit.  I don’t see how this follows.

First, if you reduce everything (revenue and expenses) by a given percentage you would be moving in the direction of smaller government but Idaho’s ratio of 1.28 to 1 wouldn’t change—the pie is reduced but shape of the slices is constant.  Second, if revenue is held constant and spending is again reduced across the board Idaho’s ratio will go down without it having to find anything unique to Idaho as Brokaw’s question suggests.

But more to the point the question is completely misguided, is ass backwards.  The proper question is to ask what it is that Federal government should do.  What results from that is what results from that.  State representation doesn’t mean a war between the states for government benefits.

As it happens, before switching to Meet the Press, I saw for the third or fourth time a Pixar/Cars themed ad for not using cell phones and texting by the Dept. of Transportation.  So let’s simplify.  Let’s say the Budget is made up of expenses for national forest land and Dept. of Transportation safe driving ads.  Further, that there are only two states; Idaho which has 1.28 to 1.0 benefit ratio because of its forests, and LA/NY/CHI which produces advertising.  Follow Brokaw and you come to the conclusion that a Rep. from Idaho espousing the need to cut expenses is obliged to favor greater cuts to forestry than government ads in order to equalize things between the states.  This is absurd.  I can see a case for protecting forestry, I doubt rather seriously whether safe driving ads have any impact whatsoever.  If that means that Idaho’s ratio goes from 1.28 to 1 to something higher so be it.

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