Low government spending? The hypocrisy

For a couple of years, I lived in Southwest Colorado.   One of the places I used to go on various service calls was a small little resort town called Pagosa Springs.  It’s a pretty place, at the western bottom of Wolf Creek Pass.   It has a year-round population of about 1600, with a lot of “second homes” in the area.  A typical resort town, in many ways.  On the other side of the Rockies, there’s a major city – Colorado Springs  It has over 400,000 people, and a fairly stable and vibrant economy.   It’s the home base of a lot of conservative organizations, a haven for low-tax and small government advocates.    Which is rather interesting, because Colorado Springs and Pagosa Springs wouldn’t be that much different, if it weren’t for one thing:  Government spending.

You see, the real change happened at the beginning of World War 2.  That’s when the Colorado Springs bought the land that would become Fort Carson.  An airfield eventually became Peterson Air Force Base.  Then the Air Force Academy was built there, along with NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain facility.   So the resort town that was having economic problems became a large city with a steady economy, thanks to the government building military facilities around it.  Besides the direct employment, there’s also the employment from companies that service those bases, as well as other companies who moved in because of the economy there.    The absolute linchpin of the city’s economy, in fact, the reason it is a large city today, is because of government spending.

Which is what makes the presence of so many small government, low tax types there an exercise in irony.  They literally don’t see it, there’s a massive perceptual disconnection.  I said in my previous post that many of the conservatives are more against other people’s government spending, not theirs.   Imagine if the BRAC  Commissions had decided that Peterson and Carson had to close.  The city today wouldn’t be where it is.  Even more, if they’d never existed, the city today would be mostly like Pagosa Springs.   A nice little resort town.

If it was just Colorado Springs suffering from this perceptual disconnection, it’d be amusing.   What isn’t amusing is when you start looking at many of the so-called “Red states.”  The ones that are homes to the Tea Party Movement and provide so many of the national Republican and conservative figures.  If you look at the figures, something stands out.  Many of the Red States are the ones which receive more in federal funds than they pay.  It’s something to keep in mind  when you hear someone like Rand Paul ranting about how much Kentucky pays in taxes, considering that Kentucky has received every year for the past 30+ years more money from the federal government than it paid in federal taxes.

Which is going to make it very interesting in 2012, if some of the Republican cuts get made.  You see, a lot of those supporters really don’t think that the cuts will impact them, or their states.  When it actually does, their reactions may not be what the conservative politicians think it will be.   We’ve already seen some rumbles about it as some of the Teapublican governors ended up giving back government funding.  Which might be “brave” of them – never mind that the projects to be funded were desired by businesses and well thought out – but it didn’t make them very popular with their electorates.  Their having to deal with a loss of federal funding, and their electorates losing things they thought were “safe”?  It’s going to make them scramble, to put it mildly.   I think that’s going to be when the hypocrisy of what they’ve been doing becomes clear:  They’re against government spending, unless it’s on them.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Low government spending? The hypocrisy

  1. majii

    I’ve lived in GA all of my life, and since GA has become a haven for the tea party folks and the hardest of hardened GOP members, I have noticed just how much hypocrisy they’re capable of displaying. My dad worked at Warner Robins AFB for 30+ years. WRAFB is a major employer in the area, and the home of a Strategic Air Command ( SAC) unit in the southeast. People on the right here in Middle GA diss the federal government and scream about the deficit and government spending at the tops of their voices everywhere you go whenever the conversation turns to the federal government under the Obama Administration. They quickly forget these things when they think BRAC may decide to close the base. The last time they thought this would happen, they were outraged, and organized several buses of people from the area to go to D.C. to protest the closing.

    You’re right again, Norbrook. These types of individuals’ words don’t match their actions when it gets personal. I,too, believe that many who have supported the GOP in the last few elections may end up getting a much-needed dose of reality at a very personal level if Boehner and his caucus members have their way with these budget cuts. I agree that spending needs to be cut. There’s a “smart” way and a “stupid” way to cut items in the budget, and it appears that the republicans have chosen the latter. One way to trim the budget would be to cut defense spending–something the republicans refuse to consider. I also read today that one of the republicans’ benefactors, Goldman Sachs, is predicting that the GOP cuts will have a very negative impact on economic recovery and GDP. In another article I read Eric Cantor is already fully engaged in projecting the blame for a potential shutdown of the government onto the democrats in response to one of Senator Reid’s spokespersons stating that Senator Reid will not buy into a series of votes every 2 weeks on bills relating to the budget. I don’t blame Senator Reid for stating his position. I’ve never in almost 40 years of observing national politics seen a national budget handled in such a haphazard manner as Boehner, Ryan, and Cantor are currently suggesting.

    • I think they’re going to get a real dose of reality as well. What I’ve seen over the years is that there’s a real blind spot when it comes to this. If you ask people in many of these areas, like Colorado Springs, they’ll tell you they’re self-sufficient, hard-working entrepreneurial types who don’t need big government, and don’t like government spending. They’ll totally ignore that the only reason their businesses and jobs exist is because of the large government facilities pumping money into the local economy.

      Sometimes it takes a rude shock to wake those people up. I know that when the Tea Party favorite, Doug Hoffman, was running for Congress, what absolutely killed him was his stance on earmarks and government spending. That’s because the biggest employer in the district is Fort Drum. The people in the district had an object lesson when Plattsburgh and Rome NY lost their Air Force bases due to BRAC. So while they’re “conservative,” they’re not crazy. They fully realize what government spending means in terms of their local economies, and any candidate who runs on cutting it back here is just asking to lose. 😀

  2. fleetadmiralj

    Maybe some democrat should put forward a spending reform bill that flattens out how much each state gets in proportion to what it pays. Maybe not make it equal, but flattens the curve, so states that pay more than what they get, like New York and California, get a bit more, and states that pay more than they receive, get less.

    And maybe one could lower that bar more than raise the other one, so the net is a reduction in spending. Let’s see how many Republicans will be fore making considerable funding cuts to their own states, eh?

    • 😆 Definitely would cause a lot of hysteria in various Red states.

    • Nathan Katungi

      What an excellent idea fleetadmiralj! I really think that Democrats should go on offense and propose cuts in government funding that go to sates that voted for these so called anti-government spending teabag Republicans. I wonder why Democrats cannot creatively put together a list of government funding that benefits right wing districts that should be cut? Proposing spending cuts that benefit right wing districts is the surest way of exposing right wing hypocrisy.

  3. Alan Scott

    Norbrook,

    I believe you have made a serious mistake in logic. You look at locations that benefit from government spending and then you use this fact to marginalize tea party people and others who believe that government over spending is serious .

    The government taxes one group and sends the money somewhere else. That somewhere else benefits . That does not mean that the society as a whole benefited . It may have if the money was well spent, but it could just as easily been misspent. Either way somewhere else benefits . You can tax the rich and tax business, then redistribute the money to others. Society as a whole will suffer but the others will benefit .

    • Your mistake in logic stands out right in your last paragraph, and sums up the Tea Party and your mistake: “somewhere else.” In other words, it’s objectionable because it’s being spent on someone else, and you don’t see a direct benefit. At the same time, I’d also point out that the everyone – you, me, everyone – right now are paying the lowest in federal taxes in a very, very long time. That includes the rich and businesses, and they have benefited far more from those cuts than you or I ever will. Now, society as a whole does benefit, and just because the Tea Party has a very narrow view of that is is not a mistake in logic.

  4. Alan Scott

    Norbrook,

    The productive class is looked upon as a crop to be harvested by the ruling class. Classic capitalism says that those with the money got it by serving some economic need in society. Granted theory is not always reality. However, I like to use the states as a laboratory to test economic theories.

    I have stated this many times on other boards. The states that believe in your philosophy are the ones in the biggest trouble. Even though they have natural advantages over their brother states. California is the easiest example of a rich state with resources and advantages and has been run into the ground by tax and spend and screw the rich guy policies. New York State is the other obvious example .

    • The problem is that “classic capitalism” as you mean it hasn’t existed in quite some time. Consider the people who are getting the most money. Inherited wealth, moving money around in a shell game, and moving funding overseas. Consider something: With all the tax cuts given to the wealthy and to businesses over the past 30 years, and even more, the past 10, just how much of that was reinvested in this country to create new businesses or expand their existing business in this country? Damn little, really. The biggest hole in your thesis is this: The very states you’re touting right now are there because they’re being subsidized by the states you’re decrying. In other words, South Carolina, Georgia, and Kentucky, just to name a few, are only able to maintain their current tax rates and “business friendly” environments because of heavy subsidization by the federal government. In other words my federal tax dollars aren’t being spent in my state, they’re being spent elsewhere. That’s why I find them to be be immensely hypocritical.
      California’s problem is not “tax and spend.” California’s problem is that it can’t tax. Oh, and New York isn’t in that bad a shape. You might want to look elsewhere.

  5. Alan Scott

    Norbrook,

    I reject everything you say. I do not doubt that some states get more than they send to Washington. To say that is why their tax rates are lower because of that is beyond my understanding.

    To say that California’s problem is that it cannot tax is amusing. That state is run for the benefit of it’s government workers. The Bell, California case of Government hogs eating at the public trough is extreme, but it is illustrative of the mentality of the ruling class in the most left wing of the 57 States that President Obama has visited.

    • California’s major problem is that it has Proposition 13, which severely limited it’s tax rates and ability to raise them. At the same time, you have the same proposition system that enables the electorate to require the state to do certain things. That’s been – and is – a recipe for disaster, as the state is considered now to be virtually ungovernable.

      I did not say that the reason the states that get more money from Washington than they send to it only have low tax rates because of it. I said that they are hypocrites for demanding cuts in government spending while at the same time relying on federal spending for much of what they do. As I pointed out in this article, Colorado Springs is a poster child. They’re very big on low taxes and “small government,” but the whole reason the city is actually a city with a relatively stable economy is because of the massive federal government presence in the surrounding area. If we were to cut back spending – say, close Fort Carson and Peterson AFB – that city would be in serious trouble.

      You might also, while you’re busy ranting about that, want to take a look at Texas’ budget problems. They’re not “liberal” by any means, but you know what? They’ve got a pretty big budget gap.

  6. Alan Scott

    Nor brook,

    I need to add something to my post, especially in light of your statement that New York is not in that bad of shape. I cite the NY Times because in no way can it be called a right wing shill. This article contradicts what you say. It also confirms what I said as to the causes of the States fiscal calamities.

    I yield the floor.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/opinion/06sun1.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hpw