The Corner

Re: But What Shall We Do Together?

As a follow-up to Yuval’s excellent post responding to Barack Obama’s statement of entrepreneurial dependence, I thought I’d do something incredibly boring but hopefully instructive — add up the cost of all the indispensable government programs President Obama identifies, then compare that cost to our bloated federal budget. Here are all the things Obama says businesses depend on, combined with their relative share of federal spending:

“There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.” (Education spending — 2 percent of federal budget.)

“Somebody invested in roads and bridges.” (Transportation and infrastructure spending — 3 percent of federal budget.)

“The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.” (Science and medical research, plus Al Gore’s vice-presidential salary — 2 percent of federal budget.)

“There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.” (Statistically insignificant amount spent on federal firefighting.)

“That’s how we funded the GI Bill.” (Let’s give him all of national defense with this reference — 20 percent of federal budget.)

“That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hoover Dam.” (See above for infrastructure spending.)

“That’s how we invented the Internet.” (See above for research spending — no double dipping for mentioning the Internet twice.)

“That’s how we sent a man to the moon.” (NASA is somewhere in “other spending” — the entire “other” category is 4 percent.)

Now I’m no mathematician, but I add up all those percentages and get (generously) Obama referencing spending about 31 percent of the federal budget — the least controversial 31 percent. Why did he leave out the other 69 percent? Why did he leave out the 41 percent we spend on entitlement programs? Or the 6 percent we throw away on interest payments? Or the 13 percent (greater than all the non-defense spending he mentioned) on safety-net programs? 

Let’s make a deal, Mr. President. We’ll stipulate that the 31 percent of the government you referenced should be fully-funded and grow right along with the population. As for the other 69 percent — the part not sufficiently important for you to mention in your anti-business demagoguery — let’s see what we can cut. Any interest?


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