In a new article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Grasping budget’s billions and trillions: Incomprehensibly huge numbers mask real burdens,” Independent Institute Research Fellow Emily Skarbek (Director of the Government Cost Calculator) discusses the meaning and absurdity of the $3.8 trillion federal budget and the meaningless reforms being proposed.
Taxpayers might have strong feelings about government spending, but most have no idea what the huge, abstract numbers in the federal budget mean to them personally. So most of us pay our taxes, vote on occasion, and let the politicians deal with the dollars.
Was the recent compromise trimming this year’s $3.8 trillion federal budget by approximately $38.5 billion a good deal for taxpayers? How about the proposal by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) to reduce spending by some $6.2 trillion over the next 10 years? Or President Obama’s $4 trillion counterproposal?
It’s hard to say. Numbers followed by nine or more zeros—billions and trillions—are effectively meaningless to most of us. . . .