The Fatal Flaw of "Starve the Beast"

Yesterday’s budget-cutting action by the Senate highlights the major problem faced by those who want to cut government spending: it is deeply unpopular to do so.

The ‘starve the beast’ notion that cutting taxes leads to large deficits, which in turn forces spending cuts, has already been completely and repeatedly debunked. But the difficulty with which the solid Republican majorities in both houses passed tiny, tiny spending cuts ($8 billion per year out of a budget of $2,500 billion per year) is remarkable. The vote in the House was 212-206, while the vote in the Senate was 51-50. This highlights the fact that ‘starving the beast’ simply won’t reduce the size of government, because even Republican representatives are reluctant to cut spending.

The reason is, of course, that the American people by and large like the size of the federal government. They like the things that it spends money on. And because members of Congress know that cutting spending will be unpopular and hurt their chances for reelection, they won’t really do it in any meaningful way, no matter how large deficits become.

One last note, which is really a quibble with the Washington Post. Their lead paragraph read:

Senate Republicans, by the narrowest margin yesterday, pushed through a major budget measure that would trim federal spending by nearly $40 billion over five years, but they were stymied by Democrats in their effort to open Alaska’s wilderness to oil drilling.

“Major” budget measure??? I don’t know any metric by which a change in spending of 0.3% should be called major…


UPDATE: Extra zero in the last sentence removed.