<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />The federal budget is too big. It's way too big. George W. Bush has called for total spending this year of $2.47 trillion. Normal people simply cannot think in terms of billions and trillions, but here's one way to imagine $2.47 trillion:
Alex Rodriguez is the highest-paid player in baseball. He earns $23 million per year in salary. Last year, he played in 162 games, averaging out to almost $142,000 per game. You get the point: Rodriguez makes a lot of money.
To earn $2.47 trillion, A-Rod would have to play for more than 100,000 seasons. At his current pace, he would retire with 20 million hits, 4.6 million home runs, and 13 million RBIs. He would get eliminated from the playoffs 50,000 times and win zero World Series. And just imagine getting hit by 1 million pitches.
But who knows how much baseball will change between now and then? After all, 100,000 years ago, man was just becoming anatomically modern, so Major League Baseball probably would have been dominated by the Gigantopithecus blackii, a 10-foot tall 1,200-pound ape that later drove itself into extinction by eating all the available bamboo in the world (you have no idea how relieved I was to learn that these things were vegetarians). Since then we've invented the printing press, the flying buttress, the lathe, and the slider. The league might look totally different in another 100,000 years. By the time A-Rod has earned his $2.4 trillion in the year 109,468, there might be guys with 45-foot-long legs who could steal second base just by doing a split.
Well, maybe that explanation was not as helpful as I had hoped it would be, but anyway that's how astronomical is $2.47 trillion, the total spending Bush has requested in this year's federal budget.
So how do we fix it? I propose we begin by eliminating corporate welfare. That's a great place to start, and here are my 10 reasons why we oughtta start there (drum roll):
10. It's Good Politics: The Democrats and the mainstream media will attack every Republican budget for starving the poor. Last year at budget time, Paul Krugman said that Bush "takes food from the mouths of babes and gives the proceeds to his millionaire friends." This charge is outrageous, in part because of the Orwellian implication that not handing out money is "taking" (this akin to the mainstream media's insistence that tax-cuts "cost" something). So the attacks will come no matter what. But at least Bush could take some of their edge off by no longer giving billions to "his millionaire friends." Time magazine estimated that in 2002 taxpayers subsidized $125 billion in corporate welfare every year.
9. It's Good Diplomacy: The <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />United States is trying to get the European Union to stop subsidizing Airbus--while at the same time subsidizing Boeing to the hilt. The Export-Import Bank, a federal agency that subsidizes exports, has dedicated the overwhelming majority of its subsidy dollars to boosting Boeing's sales in recent years. Why should Europe listen to our free-trade sermons when we're having our own dalliances with corporate socialism?
8. Get These Business Guys Back on Our Side: Here's a secret: Big business often loves higher taxes. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supported tax hikes in 1993, and Colorado and Virginia have seen businesses help the pro-tax side in recent years. Should we be surprised? Corporate welfare transforms the federal treasury into big business' piggy bank. Why would they want taxes cut? If corporate welfare is off the table, business might just stop fighting on the pro-tax side.
7. Improve the Economy: Ending corporate welfare will aid the economy. The beauty of the free market is that it responds to consumer demands. The horror of the state-managed market is that it responds to government's demands--and so resources get directed to things people don't want, like bridges to nowhere and lobbyists. This is a waste of money, which makes us poorer as a nation.
6. Save the Soil: Ethanol and Florida sugar cane both exist only because of corporate welfare. Ethanol subsidies drive up the demand for corn, which eliminates the crop diversity necessary to keep soil healthy. Sugar cane only exists in the Everglades because of federal efforts to manage the ecosystem there as well as subsidies for domestically grown sugar and trade barriers against imported sugar. The federal management of the Everglades is devastating to the unique habitat.
5. Save American Jobs: The Export-Import Bank has financed a GE plant in Mexico that helped the company lay off its workers in Indiana. Ex-Im also aided Chinese steel makers who were accused of "dumping" steel in the U.S. Also, artificially high sugar prices resulting from sugar welfare have driven U.S. candy manufacturers overseas where sugar prices are lower, since they better reflect the world market.
4. Give us Credibility on Nuclear Programs: Did I mention that the Export-Import Bank is currently offering a $5 billion subsidy to the same arm of the Chinese government that has helped Pakistan and Iran develop their nuclear weapons programs?
3. Reduce Corruption: Is it any wonder that companies spend as much on lobbyists as they do when there are billions in handouts on the Hill every year? Eliminating corporate welfare, both entitlements and earmarks, will drive some of these hired beggars away.
2. We Pay too Much in Taxes: Taxes are too high. Anything we can do to reduce taxes or forestall future tax hikes is all to the good. Cutting spending everywhere possible is necessary. And, if people get to keep more of their own money, they are more likely to buy my book, The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money , coming out from John J. Wiley and Sons this summer.
And, finally, the top reason we should eliminate corporate welfare (drum roll crescendo climaxing in cymbal crash):
1. Moral Reasons: Taking my money to spend it on something I don't like is bad enough. But taking it from me and giving it to rich people and big businesses is downright immoral. That's just what corporate welfare is.