Cato Institute:Spending is our problem Part 5

Uploaded by on Feb 15, 2011

Dan Mitchell, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, speaks at Moving Forward on Entitlements: Practical Steps to Reform, NTUF’s entitlement reform event at CPAC, on Feb. 11, 2011.

People think that we need to raise more revenue but I say we need to cut spending. Take a look at a portion of this article from the Cato Institute:

The Damaging Rise in Federal Spending and Debt

by Chris Edwards

Joint Economic Committee
United States Congress

Joint Economic CommitteeUnited States Congress

Added to on September 20, 2011

This testimony was delivered on September 20, 2011.

Rising Spending Reduces Growth

Let’s take a look at how federal spending damages the economy over the long-run. Federal spending is financed by extracting resources from current and future taxpayers. The resources consumed by the government cannot be used to produce goods in the private marketplace. For example, the engineers needed to build a $10 billion government high-speed rail project are taken away from building other products in the economy. The $10 billion rail project creates government-connected jobs, but it also kills $10 billion worth of private activities.

Indeed, the private sector would actually lose more than $10 billion in this example. That is because government spending and taxing creates “deadweight losses,” which result from distortions to working, investment, and other activities. The CBO says that deadweight loss estimates “range from 20 cents to 60 cents over and above the revenue raised.”19 Harvard University’s Martin Feldstein thinks that deadweight losses “may exceed one dollar per dollar of revenue raised, making the cost of incremental governmental spending more than two dollars for each dollar of government spending.”20 Thus, a $10 billion high-speed rail line would cost the private economy $20 billion or more.

The government uses a “leaky bucket” when it tries to help the economy. Stanford University’s Michael Boskin, explains: “The cost to the economy of each additional tax dollar is about $1.40 to $1.50. Now that tax dollar … is put into a bucket. Some of it leaks out in overhead, waste, and so on. In a well-managed program, the government may spend 80 or 90 cents of that dollar on achieving its goals. Inefficient programs would be much lower, $.30 or $.40 on the dollar.”21 Texas A&M University’s Edgar Browning comes to similar conclusions about the magnitude of the government’s leaky bucket: “It costs taxpayers $3 to provide a benefit worth $1 to recipients.”22

The larger the government grows, the leakier the bucket becomes. On the revenue side, tax distortions rise rapidly as marginal tax rates rise.23 On the spending side, funding is allocated to activities with ever lower returns as the government expands. Figure 4 illustrates the consequences of the leaky bucket. On the left-hand side, tax rates are low and the government delivers useful public goods such as crime reduction. Those activities create high returns, so per-capita income initially rises as the government grows.

As the government expands further, it engages in less productive activities. The marginal return from government spending falls and then turns negative. On the right-hand side of the figure, average income falls as the government expands. Government in the United States — at 41 percent of GDP — is almost certainly on the right-hand side of this figure. In a 2008 book on federal fiscal policy, Professor Browning concludes that today’s welfare state reduces GDP — or average U.S. incomes — by about 25 percent.24 That would place us substantially to the right in Figure 4, and it suggests that major federal spending cuts would boost incomes over time.

19 Congressional Budget Office, “Budget Options,” February 2001, p. 381.
20 Martin Feldstein, “How Big Should Government Be?” National Tax Journal, vol. 50, no. 2, June 1997, pp. 197-213.
21 Michael Boskin, “A Framework for the Tax Reform Debate,” in Frontiers of Tax Reform, ed. Michael Boskin (Stanford: Hoover Institution, 1996), p. 14.
22 Edgar K. Browning, Stealing From Ourselves: How the Welfare State Robs Americans of Money and Spirit (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2008), p. 179.
23 Deadweight losses rise more than proportionally as tax rates rise.
24 See Edgar K. Browning, Stealing From Ourselves: How the Welfare State Robs Americans of Money and Spirit (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2008), p. 188

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: