As usual, Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog has an interesting series of graphs that show the power of the federal government in granular detail. Today’s installment, courtesy of the White House, provides a state-by-state assessment of how the coming budget sequester will impact a range of federally-funded, state-run programs.
These include popular spending on initiatives such as teachers and schools, work-study jobs, Head Start, job-search assistance, military readiness, law enforcement, child care, vaccines for children, public health, nutrition assistance for seniors, STOP Violence Against Women Program, and clean air and water.
But while the White House is putting out these details to (ostensibly) convince the public that 10 percent across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending will be devastating to popular programs, there’s also a bit of subtle public shaming thrown in as well. Reading through the graphs it becomes painfully obvious just how much of modern American life is subsidized by federal tax dollars (and in some cases, also supported by state taxes). Getting confronted with that reality isn’t comfortable; especially when many people have come to rely on this kind of help.
And yet, something has to change. We simply can’t raise enough taxes to cover the cost of every liberal social experiment, or even to pay for every good idea. Instead, we as a country need political and other leaders to think carefully about how to modify the social contract we’ve been under since the New Deal so that the generations to come will not be cheated out of their inheritance.
Much like how they react to any reasonable reform ideas to Medicare (see any number of ‘Medi-scare’ tactics), liberals can’t lead on this modification project because they refuse to acknowledge that America has a spending problem in the first place. It thus falls to conservatives to improve on what we have, preserving what’s good and making it better.
Part of the reason I’m optimistic about the future is that I don’t believe that details about our nation’s financial problems will shame a majority of citizens into zero-sum taxation. Rather, I think that once people become aware of how overextended is our current welfare state, they will reward politicians who can show how to scale back the public sector so that the private sector can flourish.