The Simpson-Bowles Commission and the Misuse of the Word “Principle”

I’ll have more to say about the report put out by the chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, but this section, found on page 6, “Our Guiding Principles and Values”, indicates the lunacy and moral bankruptcy of the commission*:

Bring spending down to 22% and eventually 21% of GDP.

How is this a principle? It’s just a fucking number.

Why can’t the Magick Number be 23 percent? Or twenty six percent? Hell, every European country with the exception of Switzerland spends more than thirty percent of its GDP on government functions.

We should spend what we need to spend, tax what we need to tax**, and not obsess over budget deficits.

Employment deficits, however, are another matter.

*I think Alan Simpson, a batshit lunatic reactionary, brings most of the crazy, while Erskine Bowles, a director of Morgan Stanley, brings most of the moral degeneracy.

**There are two reasons to tax: to reduce inflation (either general, or specific to a sector), or to penalize certain behaviors. If you have a fiat currency that is also used as a global reserve currency, that’s all you need to worry about.

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5 Responses to The Simpson-Bowles Commission and the Misuse of the Word “Principle”

  1. george.w says:

    Numbers often have principles behind them. In this case, I am pretty sure the principle is; “Squash the progressive movement”.

  2. Russell says:

    The problem with the notion of taxing simply to battle inflation, and letting the budget go where it will, is the possibility of painting ourselves into a corner where inflation is high, taxes are high, and spending is higher. Or to put it another way, it’s easier to increase spending when deflation must be fought, than to raise taxes sharply as a cure for inflation. So even accepting the reality of new monetary theory, there is still an argument for keeping an eye on long-term budget sustainability.

  3. David says:

    exactly. it’s just a number, pulled out of the air. If we had a single-payor government healthcare program the number would be bigger, but then we wouldn’t need to buy health insurance. If we had an adequate government retirement program the number would be bigger, but then we wouldn’t have to have 401k plans. If we spent less on pointless wars the number would be smaller.
    If our economy grew and we had more leisure dollars, we’d want to spend more of them on healthcare and maybe education. Then the percentage would be higher.

  4. RyanG says:

    This is just federal spending. Spending at all levels of government is over 40% in the US. I suspect that the Swiss data has the same problem, but I’ll admit I’m not sure. Comparing the 22% figure to countries without multiple levels of government is pretty useless.
    If there’s a principle involved here, I suspect that principle is State’s Rights. And it might possibly not be a euphemism this time.

  5. blf says:

    The magical number is 21 because that’s half of 42, which is known to be The Answer.
    Why only ½? That’s the number pulled out of the arse.

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