For a picture window view into the official Washington mindset, check out the editorial from the Washington Post from this past Friday titled "Republican presidential candidates' reckless anti-tax crusade."
It seems that the majority of the Republican presidential candidates have signed on to the no-tax pledge of activist Grover Norquist (to "oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes"). Something must be done to stop this foolishness! So the Washington Post marshals all of its vast intellectual brain power to come up with the best argument it can for the other side. Here goes:
[The Republican candidates are] kneeling before Mr. Norquist’s make-believe anti-tax theology. Why do we say make-believe? Here are some facts for the truth-tellers. Federal spending averaged 20.1 percent of gross domestic product from 1965 to 2014. With the baby boomer generation retiring, the population aging and health costs rising, the Congressional Budget Office projects that government spending will grow to 25.3 percent of GDP by 2040.
That's right -- our opponents' views are "make-believe." Nyah, nyah! The "facts" are that government spending must grow by 5+ points of GDP. These are the facts of nature! The CBO has projected it! It's what is absolutely necessary to provide the "things Americans expect from government." And you thought that Congress and the President had to agree to that and actually vote to spend the money? You have just proved yourself to be a peasant!
Meanwhile Post columnist George Will comes back with a column (in National Review Online) the next day identifying just a few of the ridiculous things that government pays for while nobody is looking. The title is "How American Government Became Encrusted with Subsidies." Will particularly focuses on subsidies for whaling museums ($9 million per year) and mohair ($6 million per year).
You probably never knew of the federal funding of museums commemorating America’s long-gone whaling industry. The funding existed for nearly nine years, until fiscal 2011, because almost no one knew about it. A mohair subsidy continues six decades after it was deemed a military necessity in the context of the Cold War. The subsidy survives because its beneficiaries are too clever to call attention to it by proclaiming it necessary, which of course it isn’t. To understand these two matters is to understand how American government functions.
Will's column is fine so far as it goes, but really these issues are only illustrative and not even the tip of the iceberg in the big picture. Dare we mention some of the things that should be gone from the federal government down to the last dollar before anyone even considers a tax increase? How about: Department of Education, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy (except for nuclear weapons program), most of Department of Labor, agriculture subsidies, all crony capitalism, green energy subsidies, all kinds of insurance programs (flood, crop, pension, terrorism, most of bank deposit). Ex-Im Bank should be a complete no-brainer. How about NASA -- it's fun, but I've never understood why hard-working taxpayers have to pay for it. Getting rid of Obamacare will save a bundle. There's hundreds of billions to lop off before we get to anything that ought to be remotely controversial.
I guess I've marked myself as a peasant in the eyes of the Washington Post and all the really, really smart people down there in the capital.