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The Republican-led House of Representatives this week will consider legislation that would effectively endorse restricting federal spending to the arbitrary level of 18 percent of gross domestic product. That would require the slashing of important and popular programs far below even the draconian levels of the 2012 budget approved by the House earlier this year. The United States would be the lowest-spending economically advanced country in the world.
The last time the United States had spending this low was in 1966. Much has changed since then, which makes a federal budget at that level both impractical and undesirable. We are an older country, with more retirees receiving the Social Security and Medicare benefits they’ve earned during their working lives. Social Security benefits have been consciously increased to improve the quality of life for retirees. Health care costs have multiplied so providing Medicare, veterans’ care, and Medicaid is much more expensive. Education has become more costly, and government fuel costs have risen along with everyone else’s.
We are a very different country than we were back then, with very different needs and with stronger economic competitors making investments in their own countries to make themselves strong. We must match those investments to remain the No. 1 economy and the most competitive nation on earth. We simply can’t put a 1966 transmission into a 2012 Mustang.
Sarah Ayres is a Research Associate and Michael Linden is Director of Tax and Budget Policy at American Progress.
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