Get Spicer On This One

16 March 2005

Do you relate your own tax bill to the budgets provided by city, county, state and Federal agencies? Do you understand the correlation between government spending, budgets and the amount of money in your paycheck? Craig Cantoni does!

Sixty-two percent of federal budget is theft
By Craig J. Cantoni
March 16, 2005

President Bush’s proposed federal budget for fiscal 2006 is $2.479 trillion, or a whopping $21,600 per household. According to my research, at least $1.537 trillion of that, or 62 percent, is money that is taken from some people for the benefit of other people (theft) instead of for the true common good. The $1.537 trillion of theft comes to an astonishing $13,392 per household.

These figures do not include state and local spending, which, in my hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona, averages $8,608 per household. Nor do the figures include the indirect cost of regulations, which reliable sources estimate to be $8,000 per household. When total federal spending is added to state and local spending, the total direct cost of government is $30,208 per Scottsdale household. The cost is higher in higher-cost parts of the country.

It took a half-day of research to come up with the figure of 62 percent for the amount of theft in the federal budget. It took that long because, to my knowledge, no federal agency, think tank, economist, or media outlet has analyzed the federal budget from the perspective of theft. The standard analysis is to separate discretionary spending from mandatory spending, or in some cases, to calculate the amount of “transfer payments,” which is an establishment euphemism for “theft.” Unfortunately, the standard method of calculating transfer payments does not include all forms of theft. As a result, transfer payments are estimated to be 40 percent of the federal budget, or 22 percentage points lower than my calculation of theft.

An aside: Transfer payments were only two percent of the federal budget 100 years ago. Unless spending on Social Security and Medicare is curtailed, transfer payments will account for over 60 percent of the federal budget in 20 years

Some libertarians say that all taxes are theft, since they are taken from citizens at the point of a gun and through the tyranny of the majority. And some left-liberals say that taxes for social programs are not theft, because they benefit the disadvantaged and help to achieve social justice. I disagree with both.

I’ve written in-depth philosophical essays on government theft and on moral alternatives to helping the poor. Moreover, there is a chapter on these subjects in my upcoming book (Breaking from the Herd: Political Essays for Independent Thinkers by a Maverick Columnist). But for the purposes of my analysis of the federal budget, I defined “theft” in brief as follows: Theft is the taking of money from some citizens for the direct benefit of other citizens instead of for the benefit of everyone equally or as equally as practical.

To take an example using that definition, taxes for national defense and homeland security are not theft, because they benefit all citizens equally or as equally as practical. Of course, a considerable amount of spending on national defense and homeland security is distributed to politically-favored groups, locales and companies in the form of pork-barrel spending, but it was beyond the scope of my analysis to uncover such waste.

To take another example, I did not count the budgets of such agencies as the Federal Aviation Administration as theft, although I believe that the FAA and others should be privatized. The FAA is financed largely through user fees, and the air traffic control system benefits all Americans equally or as equally as practical.

On the other hand, I counted Social Security and Medicare payments as theft, because current workers and future workers (today’s children) pay the bills of current retirees. It certainly does not benefit my 14-year-old son to be stuck with the medical and retirement bills of my generation

A partial list of the budget items that I counted as theft is below. Please note that the focus of my analysis was on theft, not on whether an agency or program is constitutional, necessary or should be provided by the private sector. Clearly, much of what is done by the Department of Education and Department of Commerce is unconstitutional, much of what is done by Health and Human Services should be done by private charity, and much of what is done by NASA and the National Science Foundation should be done by private industry. But those are subjects for another time and place.

In closing, here is the partial list:

PARTIAL LIST OF THEFT IN THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT BUDGET,
FISCAL YEAR 2006

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

  • $176 billion in farm assistance
  • $359 million in loans to companies that install broadband in rural areas
  • $5.5 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children
  • 214 million for USDA-financed multifamily housing
  • 33.1 billion for the Food Stamp Program

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

  • $3.7 billion for the Strengthening America’s Communities Grant Program, including the Minority Business Development Agency the Advisory Commission on Asians and Pacific Islanders, and the International Trade Administration
  • $47 million for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

  • $13.3 billion in Title I spending
  • $1.1 billion for Reading First and Early Reading First
  • $412 million to help states test students under No Child Left Behind
  • $500 million for Teacher Incentive Fund
  • $2.9 billion for Teacher Quality States Grant program
  • $40 million for the Adjunct Teacher Corps
  • $50 million for the Choice Incentive Fund
  • $219 million for Charter Schools Grants
  • $37 million for Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities
  • $1.2 billion for High School Intervention Initiative
  • $250 million for High School Assessments
  • $175 million for Striving Readers program
  • $269 million for Math-Science Partnerships
  • $12 million for State Scholars Program
  • $12.2 billion for all IDEA programs
  • $4.3 billion to retire Pell Grant shortfall
  • $17.9 billion in Pell Grants
  • $125 million to improve access to community colleges
  • $299 million for Historically Black Colleges and Graduate Institutions

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

  • $56 million for Nuclear Power Initiative 2010 (public-private partnerships)
  • $286 million for President’s Coal Research Initiative
  • $1.2 billion Hydrogen Fuel Initiative
  • $3.6 billion in tax incentives for renewable energy and hybrid and fuel cell vehicles
  • $96 million to modernize electric transmission and distribution systems
  • $230 million for the Weatherization Assistance Program

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

  • $67.2 billion in discretionary spending and $642 billion in mandatory spending, for Medicare, Medicaid, State Children’s Health Insurance Program, health information technology and other programs

DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT

  • $161.5 million for the American Dream Down-payment Initiative
  • $40 million for housing counseling
  • $2.5 billion for the Single Family Home Ownership Tax Credit
  • $4 billion for homeless programs and grants
  • Unspecified amount for Housing Opportunities for Persons with Aids (HOPWA)
  • $74 million for Prisoner Re-entry Initiative
  • $20.8 billion in rental assistance
  • $5.7 billion for public housing
  • $583 million for Native American Block Grant

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

  • $4 billion for job training

SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION

  • The entire budget of $593 million is theft

SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

  • $9.5 billion in discretionary spending and $564 billion in mandatory spending

THE CORPORATION FOR NATIONAL AND COMMUNITY SERVICE

  • The entire budget of $921 million is theft

NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS

  • The entire budget of $121 million is theft

NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES

  • The entire budget of $138 million is theft

REGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES

  • The entire budget of $78 million is theft

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Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (www.haalt.org). He can be reached at either ccan2@aol.com or haalt1@aol.com.

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