Government spending

government consumption, investment, and transfer payments

Government spending or expenditure includes all government consumption, investment, and transfer payments.

Quotes edit

  • One of the most prevalent ideological mantras of Western capitalism is that the market should rule. But as the latest health and economic crises demonstrate, capitalists soon forget their worship of the market when times get tough. They scream for government money, and plenty of it. It turns out that "the market" is fine when it comes to whipping workers to accept lower wages, but when it comes to lower profits, the market can go hang. [...] Every student with the misfortune to have studied economics at school or university will know that "the market" is the god before which we must all kneel. Markets bring consumers and producers together to ensure an equilibrium of supply and demand, the textbooks tell us. We may all be individuals each pursuing our own private interests, but this selfish endeavour miraculously results in an optimum outcome for all. You don’t even have to step inside a classroom to have received this lesson. It’s rammed home in normal times in every newspaper, in every news bulletin on the TV, in every politician’s speech. Just listen to them. Governments can’t expand spending on Newstart because “the markets” won’t allow it. [...] The fact that governments across the OECD are now prepared to spend trillions of dollar to save the financial system from collapse only confirms that the world economy cannot be left safely in the hands of "the market". And, the situation clearly confirms that when the capitalist class and governments deem it necessary to save their system, lots of measures they once denounced as "unaffordable", not permitted by the condition of "the economy", are actually affordable and permitted. Governments can act when required. The ideological justifications of yesterday are revealed as threadbare. But nor are government interventions of this nature geared towards the interests of the working class, only the interests of the bosses.
  • Notwithstanding reports that all economists are now Keynesians and that we all support a big increase in the burden of government, we the undersigned do not believe that more government spending is a way to improve economic performance. More government spending by Hoover and Roosevelt did not pull the United States economy out of the Great Depression in the 1930s. More government spending did not solve Japan’s “lost decade” in the 1990s. As such, it is a triumph of hope over experience to believe that more government spending will help the U.S. today. To improve the economy, policymakers should focus on reforms that remove impediments to work, saving, investment and production. Lower tax rates and a reduction in the burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth.
  • The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt, the mobs should be forced to work and not depend on government for subsistence.
    • Attributed to Marcus Tullius Cicero; reported in the Congressional Record (April 25, 1968), vol. 114, p. 10635; reprinted in U.S. News & World Report (July 29, 1968), p. 15, and in The Review of the News (June 30, 1971), p. 19. Reported as unverified and "almost certainly spurious" in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989). Also Eigen's Political & Historical Quotations uses this as the classic example of a "Phantom Quote" and provides a complete analysis of why it is bogus.
  • It is the duty of those serving the people in public place closely to limit public expenditures to the actual needs of the government economically administered, because this bounds the right of the government to extract tribute from the earnings of labor or the property of the citizen, and because public extravagance begets extravagance among the people. We should never be ashamed of the simplicity and prudential economies which are best suited to the operation of a republican form of government and most compatible with the mission of the American people. Those who are selected for a limited time to manage public affairs are still of the people, and may do much by their example to encourage, consistently with the dignity of their official functions, that plain way of life which among their fellow-citizens aids integrity and promotes thrift and prosperity.
    • Grover Cleveland, first inaugural address (March 4, 1885), in George F. Parker, ed., The Writings and Speeches of Grover Cleveland (1892), p. 35.
  • The appropriation of public money always is perfectly lovely until some one is asked to pay the bill. If we are to have a billion dollars of navy, half a billion of farm relief, [etc.] … the people will have to furnish more revenue by paying more taxes. It is for them, through their Congress, to decide how far they wish to go.
    • Calvin Coolidge, syndicated column, New York Herald Tribune (August 5, 1930), p. 1.
  • I favor the policy of economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save people. The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the Government. Every dollar that we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much the more meager. Every dollar that we prudently save means that their life will be so much the more abundant. Economy is idealism in its most practical form.
    • Calvin Coolidge, inaugural address (March 4, 1925); republished by Coolidge in Foundations of the Republic (1926), p. 201.
  • Nothing is easier than spending the public money. It does not appear to belong to anybody. The temptation is overwhelming to bestow it on somebody.
    • Attributed to Calvin Coolidge, in Readers Digest (June 1960), p. 178. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money.
    • Attributed to Everett McKinley Dirksen, by John Kriegsman, confidant of Dirksen's and one-time Republican official in Illinois. Kriegsman reportedly heard this and similar statements as off-the-cuff remarks during campaigns and meetings in Illinois. Reported in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989) as not appearing in any formal address or in Dirksen's papers.
  • So that here we have, really, the compound, the overall philosophy of Lincoln: in all those things which deal with people, be liberal, be human. In all those things which deal with the people's money or their economy, or their form of government, be conservative—and don't be afraid to use the word.
    And so today, Republicans come forward with programs in which there are such words as "balanced budgets," and "cutting expenditures," and all the kind of thing that means this economy must be conservative, it must be solvent.
    But they also come forward and say we are concerned with every American's health, with a decent house for him, we are concerned that he will have a chance for health, and his children for education. We are going to see that he has power available to him. We are going to see that everything takes place that will enrich his life and let him as an individual, hard-working American citizen, have full opportunity to do for his children and his family what any decent American should want to do.
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, remarks at Lincoln Day box supper, Washington, D.C. (February 5, 1954), in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower (1954), p. 242.
  • The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public moneys.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to Shelton Gilliam (June 19, 1808), in Andrew A. Lipscomb, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1903), vol. 12, p. 73.
  • We are endeavoring, too, to reduce the government to the practice of a rigorous economy, to avoid burdening the people, and arming the magistrate with a patronage of money, which might be used to corrupt and undermine the principles of our government.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to Mr. Pictet (February 5, 1803), in Andrew A. Lipscomb, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1903), vol. 10, p. 356–57.
  • Every government program is backed up finally by men with guns. If it weren’t, no one would ask the government to do what individuals have refused to do voluntarily.
    • Quote in Liberty A to Z by Harry Browne, The Advocates for Self-Government, (2004), p. 92.
  • No; no; not a sixpence.
    • Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, letter to Timothy Pickering (October 27, 1797), relating the American response to a French request for a tribute or bribe, in State Papers and Publick Documents of the United States, 3d ed. (1819), vol. 3, p. 492. The French had seized several American ships. The wording of this quotation usually reads: "...not a penny".
  • That most delicious of all privileges—spending other people's money.
    • John Randolph of Roanoke; reported in William Cabell Bruce, John Randolph of Roanoke, 1773–1833, vol. 2, chapter 7, p. 204 (1922, reprinted 1970).
  • There is no doubt that many expensive national projects may add to our prestige or serve science. But none of them must take precedence over human needs. As long as Congress does not revise its priorities, our crisis is not just material, it is a crisis of the spirit.
    • Nelson A. Rockefeller, letter to Mayor John V. Lindsay (April 24, 1971), reported in The New York Times (April 25, 1971), p. 69. The letter concerned New York City's financial problems.
  • Lord, the money we do spend on Government and it's not one bit better than the government we got for one-third the money twenty years ago.
    • Will Rogers, in Paula McSpadden Love, The Will Rogers Book (1972), p. 20. Paula McSpadden Love was a niece of Will Rogers's and curator of the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore, Oklahoma.
  • Any Government, like any family, can for a year spend a little more than it earns. But you and I know that a continuation of that habit means the poorhouse.
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, governor of New York, radio speech discussing the national Democratic platform, July 30, 1932.—The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1928–1932, p. 663 (1938).
  • If the Nation is living within its income, its credit is good. If, in some crises, it lives beyond its income for a year or two, it can usually borrow temporarily at reasonable rates. But if, like a spendthrift, it throws discretion to the winds, and is willing to make no sacrifice at all in spending; if it extends its taxing to the limit of the people's power to pay and continues to pile up deficits, then it is on the road to bankruptcy.
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, governor of New York, campaign address on the federal budget, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 19, 1932.—The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1928–1932, p. 797 (1938).
  • There are four categories of voting on the floor of the Senate. The first are those who have been described as ones who can hear the farthest drum before the cry of a single hungry child. Then there is the group who can hear every child, whether he is hungry or not, before they can hear a single drum. Then you have a third group, who say, "Nothing can happen to the almighty dollar, so we will vote for all the children and all the drums." The time has come when we must have some priorities with respect to the way we are allocating our steadily decreasing resources, else it should be clear to everybody—that the economy of the United States could well be destroyed.

The theme of this was used earlier by Herbert Block, Herblock Gallery, p. 9 (1968): "This is particularly true of those bellicose Republican 'conservatives' and Dixiecrats who are more ready to lay down lives than prejudices and who can hear the most distant drum more clearly than the cry of a hungry child in the street."

  • Countries, therefore, when lawmaking falls exclusively to the lot of the poor cannot hope for much economy in public expenditure; expenses will always be considerable, either because taxes cannot touch those who vote for them or because they are assessed in a way to prevent that.
    • Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. J. P. Mayer, trans. George Lawrence, vol. 1, part 2, chapter 5, p. 210 (1969). Originally published in 1835–1840.
  • He smote the rock of the national resources, and abundant streams of revenue gushed forth. He touched the dead corpse of the Public Credit, and it sprung upon its feet. The fabled birth of Minerva, from the brain of Jove, was hardly more sudden or more perfect than the financial system of the United States, as it burst forth from the conceptions of Alexander Hamilton.
    • Daniel Webster, speech at a dinner in New York City (March 10, 1831), in The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster (1903), vol. 2, p. 50.

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