Matthew Yglesias notes that US federal spending has leapt to European levels as a result of the stimulus, but that it should drop back to normal US levels in the future. But then he notes:
Some of the money really will just dry up. But there’s some good stuff in that stimulus, especially on education and on high-speed rail, that it’d be a shame to see go “poof.” I doubt we’ll see overall spending plateau at FY 2009 levels, but over the medium term we could see some of the stimulus programs crowd out state spending or federal spending on other, less worthy (the military, farm subsidies, etc.) priorities.
I can almost vaguely imagine cutting farm subsidies at some point, but how exactly is the US supposed to start cutting defense spending? Where does the political consensus to do that come from? I agree wholeheartedly that we should cut defense spending drastically, but not a single American politician seems to have the guts to try it. And given that the DoD is the bastioned redoubt of American socialism — state-supported monopoly firms building staggeringly expensive products that often enough aren’t even desired by their tiny number of “consumers”, and are just built to provide jobs in legislators’ districts — I don’t see how that changes.
And without cutting defense spending, I don’t see how we get the money for upgrading our public infrastructure to compete with Europe, Japan and China. To a first approximation, it seems to me that the reason the US doesn’t have this:
…is that it has this:
But almost no one is allowed to ride on the latter stuff, and the justifications that are being offered for having them at this point are extremely unpersuasive.
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