December 10, 2018
Here are stories you need to know this week.
President Donald Trump has set in motion a comprehensive plan to dismantle the government.
First he appointed people who stand diametrically opposed to the agencies they lead.
Then he proposed deep cuts to these agencies' budgets – $54 billion – to make it harder for them to do their jobs.
Now he's directed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to come up with a plan to kill several agencies. He's also told those agencies to "reorganize" – a corporate code word that means maximizing profits by laying off the workforce.
White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon neatly summed up the Trump administration's goal: dismantle the federal government. Bannon pointed to the cabinet picks and said they were “selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction.”
In other words, Trump’s cabinet contains the right mix of talent if your objective is to tear apart a government for the people. This should be a cause for alarm. Our government exists to create safe and thriving communities. That way, the rest of us can focus on improving our lives and raising our families without having to worry about things like polluted rivers or dangerous workplaces.
But anti-government politicians want you to think otherwise. But their narrative that 'government is bad' quickly falls apart if stacked against the facts.
Academics and researchers have long debunked politicians’ decades-old claim that 'big government' (or the federal government) hampers economic vitality. Government investment is actually good for the nation's citizens and economy.
Jon Bakija, Lane Kenworthy, Peter Lindert, and Jeff Madrick – authors of the book, How Big Should Our Government Be? – and other researchers and analysts, met to present evidence about why Congress needs to invest more, not less, in America. They argued that the U.S. can afford (and all Americans would benefit) from more government spending. Here's what they found:
1. Government Does NOT Reduce Economic Growth
Countries with bigger social budgets or higher tax rates have never suffered any loss in Gross Domestic Product. GDP is the value of goods and services produced in a particular country and a measure used to gauge its economic health.
Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, for example, had governments similar in size to the U.S. in 1960. Since then, these countries increased the size of their governments dramatically, yet they’ve seen economic growth similar to the U.S. even those their population has remained much smaller than the U.S.
“[Many people] assume that all government spending is either just transferred into the pockets of ‘them’ in Washington or actually wasted. It doesn’t work that way,” said Jon Bakija, professor of economics and chair of the Political Economy Program at the University of California, San Diego.
“If big government is bad for growth, then within the U.S., why haven’t the big social spending states like California, Connecticut, and Maryland dropped into poverty?” said Jeff Madrick, director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative at the Century Foundation.
California is in fact the sixth largest economy in the world, surpassing even France and Brazil.
2. Government Investment Leads to Lower Poverty and Inequality Rates
Many countries in Europe have proven that bigger investments in social programs raise everyone’s standard of living. Countries with higher government spending have lower poverty and inequality rates than the U.S. They also invest more in the careers of mothers and newborns childrens' development. It’s disappointing that among rich countries, the U.S. ranks last in providing paid parental leave and infant care. In fact, the U.S. is the only advanced country with no paid parental leave policy and no paid sick days.
“America has constrained itself of what needs to be done,” Madrick said. The attitude adopted by many politicians that the government should be small and limited “is not supported by evidence,” he added.
3. Government Is an Agent of Change
Government touches our lives in many ways, and it can have a profound impact on all of us as a society. Children from low-income families, for example, have a better chance of making it to the middle class if they receive early childhood education. The federal government’s pre-K and kindergarten programs lift up those at the bottom by equalizing learning and cognitive skills, which have a lasting impact throughout a child’s life.
It’s the government – not families or voluntary organizations – that have the kind of resources to effect change and move the country forward.
4. Public Social Programs Are Cheaper to Administer than Private Programs
The panel agreed that universal social benefit programs actually are less bureaucratic and less costly to administer.
For example, big universal pension systems like Social Security cost less to administer than “privatized” systems. Universal health insurance also is less bureaucratic than voluntary private health insurance. All the more reason to promote universal social benefit programs.
5. The Majority of Americans Support Social Programs
John Halpin, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said many Americans support paid leave, paid sick leave, and higher wages. In fact, poll after poll has shown that Americans, regardless of their political leanings, overwhelmingly support these social programs.
If our government is truly for the people, and by the people, why are so many lawmakers intent on keeping us from investing in ourselves? It's a question that should be asked repeatedly throughout this year's budget process.
“We have been saying all along that Congress needs to fully fund the government,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “Public servants are ready to serve. We just need to give them the resources they need to do the jobs they’ve been hired to do.”
To learn more about AFGE’s campaigns to make the government work for everyone, visit www.afge.org.
Here are stories you need to know this week.
Nearly 72,000 federal employees will begin receiving higher locality payments in January.
On Dec. 6, the House and Senate passed, and President Trump signed, a short-term stopgap bill that funds the government through Dec. 21.