Congress is squabbling over how many trillions of taxpayer dollars to waste. Some progressive lawmakers want a $3.5 trillion—$24,400 per federal taxpayer—spending package, while the more “moderate” faction only wants $1-2 trillion. (Only in Washington, DC are the “moderates” the ones who want to spend $2 trillion!) In a recent defense of the full $3.5 trillion spending proposal, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi defiantly asked what parts of the bonanza could possibly be trimmed.
“It's not about a price tag or anything,” Pelosi said. “It's about values, not dollars. And we come to agreements on what people are for or what they would cut if they want to do less. What would you cut?”
.@SpeakerPelosi: "This is not about price tag. This is about what's in the bill... it's not about a price tag or anything. It's about values, not dollars." https://t.co/rEIWtxoeOK pic.twitter.com/OKXSrY8K8Q— The Hill (@thehill) September 23, 2021
1. Funding for “Free” Community College
The draft proposal includes more than $100 billion in taxpayer money to fund two years of tuition-free community college for Americans. Yet community college—in stark contrast to 4-year colleges—is actually quite affordable for people to pay their own way. Under the status quo, existing grants and financial aid cover most expenses for many community college students and tuition rates are more than low enough for part-time workers to cover the costs themselves.
The real problems facing community colleges are low graduation rates and poor academic outcomes. Eliminating students’ financial “skin in the game” will inevitably worsen these problems. The “free” community college plan is a terrible idea and throws away $100 billion in taxpayer money, making it an easy initiative to cut.
2. Massive Subsidies for Electric Vehicles & 'Green' Energy Companies
The proposal includes a large expansion of existing subsidies for purchasing electric vehicles. Ostensibly meant to combat climate change, these subsidies would overwhelmingly flow to rich Americans.
After all, a vast majority of existing subsidies for electric vehicles flow to the affluent. And the proposed expansion wouldn’t actually make a significant dent in carbon emissions. According to the Cato Institute, all US passenger vehicles are responsible for just 2.4 percent of carbon emissions. Even abolishing all these emissions—which this subsidy regime wouldn’t come close to doing—would hardly make a difference in global climate change.
The enormous “green” energy subsidies in this legislation could easily be done away with, saving taxpayers tens of billions to hundreds of billions with no meaningful benefits lost out on.
3. Expanded Obamacare Subsidies for the Wealthy
This plan includes billions to make an expansion of Obamacare subsidies passed during COVID-19 permanent—with no income cut-offs. According to the Wall Street Journal, “A family of five with a 60-year-old head of household in Prescott, Ariz., for instance, could earn $350,000 a year and still qualify for an ObamaCare subsidy of $21,309. Even at $500,000 of income, that family would still get $8,559 in federal healthcare dollars.”
Massive amounts of taxpayer money could be saved by stripping healthcare subsidies for the rich from this bloated package.
4. Enormous Expansion of Medicare
The plan includes an expansion of Medicare, the government healthcare program for senior citizens, to include dental, hearing, and vision coverage. This is a mind-boggling prospect, seeing as Medicare is already set to hit insolvency in just 5 years. Moreover, many of the people that would receive this coverage are more than capable of paying for their supplemental healthcare themselves. Congress could scrap this from its plans entirely and avoid funneling billions more in taxpayer money into the black hole of healthcare entitlements.
Just the Tip of the Iceberg
These are just a handful of examples of costly spending programs that can and should easily be eliminated from Congress’s spending proposal. The truth is, most of what’s in the bill is similarly wasteful and unnecessary. So, if Speaker Pelosi can’t find anything in a $3.5 trillion bill to cut, she’s just not looking very hard.
Let People Make Their Own Judgements on 'Values'
Moreover, Pelosi is wrong to suggest that “dollars” and “values” can be separate—they can’t. Resources are limited and trade-offs are inescapable. Spending a dollar on one thing instead of another means valuing one thing over another. So, every dollar the government spends is an imposition of its values over the values of the American people, because it’s one less dollar in private citizens’ pockets to spend as they see fit.
The best way to ensure that $3.5 trillion is spent in alignment with the public’s values is not to filter it through the value judgments of Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues in Congress. It’s to let people spend it themselves in a free market and let their choices reflect their true values, not what politicians presume them to be.
Like this story? Click here to sign up for the FEE Daily and get free-market news and analysis like this from Policy Correspondent Brad Polumbo in your inbox every weekday.