A budget proposal never to be heard
December 14, 2013
Last weekend I complained about the ineffectual efforts of Washington, D.C. to come up with a meaningful budget plan. The reply was, "Do you have a better idea?" That is a fair question. Not long ago, I watched a John Stossel show where he asked people on the street what they would cut from the budget. Most had no answer.
Never fear, I have some ideas. I can assure you they won't be popular with a certain segment of the population, but here they are anyway.
First, I would eliminate federal agencies that have outlived their original intent. This includes the Departments of Commerce, Labor, Education and Energy, plus the EPA. Commerce, Labor and Energy were developed for specific reasons. The Department of Energy, for example, was created by President Carter to deal with the energy mess his administration created.
The Department of Education has in my opinion set American public education back several years. Its greatest accomplishment has been to implement unfunded and underfunded mandates to state and local school systems (more on that in a future column), and to allow the National Education Association to dictate education policy. EPA is in the mode of creating new regulations since their original mission has basically been accomplished. They are now nothing more than an impediment to free enterprise. Most of the environmental regulations are implemented at the state level anyway.
Next, I would turn the management but not ownership of public lands over to the states with the obvious exceptions of military installations and tribal lands. This would cut the budgets of the Departments of Interior and Agriculture substantially. Just think, no more Bureau of Land Mismanagement. Oh, and I would get the food stamp program out of Agriculture and into Health and Human Services to make duplication of benefits easier to find.
OK, so much for targeted cuts. What is left is the largest part of the spending obligation which includes defense and entitlement programs. Medicare should be turned over to state management similar to Medicaid. This would remove sweetheart deals from medical suppliers to Medicare. This would hopefully remove some of the waste. Oh, and for all government contracts I suggest that no-bid awards be banned.
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Implementing drastic cuts could disrupt not only government operations but also private enterprise. I suggest a phased plan of cuts to all remaining agencies. My proposal is a five year plan that freezes spending for the first year. That means no more can be spent than was actually spent the year previous. I then would implement a two percent cut from the previous year's actual expenses for a period of five years. Considering projected increases and then cutting those back would not be allowed. This would implement cuts of slightly under ten percent over five years.
It would be up to each department head to decide where the cuts would be made. Likewise, they would be fully accountable for the performance of their department. If that performance lags, they would lose their job and forfeit all benefits. Come to think of it, each agency head should be subject to the same accountability. They would have the choice to keep staff at the expense of program implementation or vice versa, and sole responsibility for the outcome.
One more thing that I'll bet you were thinking I forgot. Obamacare needs to be defunded. This is a Ponzi scheme of epic proportions that hijacks one-sixth of the U.S. economy. This is less of a budget cut than prevention of a budget breaker. It could be replaced with one of the dozen or so alternative, primarily free-market, Republican or bipartisan proposals that the American media chooses to ignore its existence.
With few exceptions Washington on both sides of the aisle, Democrat and Republican, is entrenched in a power mode that won't allow any serious consideration of fiscal reform. The federal budget is too large of a campaign fund for both parties to give up. How many senators and congressmen have you heard lately touting all the goodies they didn't bring home to their districts? Make no mistake, legislation packed with pork is a campaign tactic both sides use. That is why an incumbent is rarely defeated.
There you go. This is one proposal to get our fiscal house back in order. The chance of any iteration of this ever being seriously considered by Congress is on a par with that of a snowball in Death Valley in July. I can dream, can't I?
Tom Riggins is a Fallon columnist.