By Michael Reagan
Monday, July 14, 2014 at 2:01pm
I was recently asked where I would cut $100 billion from the federal budget were I miraculously given the power to do it.
It was a good question, and I immediately got a researcher at the League of American Voters to work on answering it.
After being asked the question, I thought anyone so boldly inclined to cut $100 billion from Uncle Sam would need the power to both cut the budget and change perceptions.
Washington, D.C., is in an alternate universe when it comes to spending.
So to make a cut that seems so large (it isn't actually that large — just 2.63% of the $3.8 trillion budget for 2013), the first task would be to restore the original meaning of the word “cut.”
In the rest of America, when your son comes to you and asks for an increase of $5 in his allowance, and you counter with a suggestion of only $3, the end result will be an increase in the amount of money he receives each week. In normal-speak this constitutes a raise.
But if your son were a Washington bureaucrat, he would criticize you for cutting his allowance by $2 even though you just gave him a $3-a-week raise!
In Washington the perceptions regarding money are different. Just wanting it means you deserve to have it.
Let’s say an agency has a budget of $500 million in 2013 and it requests an increase of $100 million — for a total of $600 million — in 2014. If heartless Republicans in Congress only agree to increase the budget by $50 million, agency PR flacks and their media lackeys will immediately tell the American public that Republicans cut the budget by $50 million. But that “cut” is only the difference between what they wanted for Christmas and what congressional Santas appropriated.
The fact the agency’s baseline budget increased by $50 million, so there was no cut at all, is lost in the screaming about all the orphans who will be sold into slavery due to fanatical tea party budget balancers.
So for the purposes of our exercise, cutting $100 billion will be portrayed as a much larger reduction, since the agency will also not get the increase it wanted. Therefore, let’s agree at the outset that cutting a figure that size from the budget will result in a seismic reaction from the left.
That reaction is why it makes more sense to make large cuts from a limited number of agencies, rather than take a nip and tuck across the board.
Limiting the outrage to a few segments of government should serve to prevent the entire federal bureaucracy from going into open revolt. And the sight of an agency disappearing could encourage surviving departments to remain quiet, grateful the Angel of Budget Death passed them over.
Fortunately the Cato Institute has a very handy web tool that shows how much each federal bureau has been spending for the past 43 years and where the money allegedly goes. You can find it at http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/charts/ and do your own budget surgery if you disagree with my choices.
For my cuts, I decided to let common sense and the Constitution be my guide. The Departments of Defense, Justice, State, Treasury, the executive branch, judicial branch, and the legislative branch are all constitutionally created, although some of the programs within each branch are no doubt problematic.
Among the remaining big government departments, I thought it best to target newer agencies. Which means: Department of Energy, come on down! What a pointless waste of taxpayer dollars, and it makes perfect sense that the Cabinet post was created in 1977 during the depressing presidency of Jimmy Carter.
For over 200 years the United States had absolutely no problem with finding energy, either personal or thermal. At the founding, citizens had coal, wood, and whale oil for heating and light. Then came oil, natural gas, electricity, and nuclear power — all discovered without the help of the federal government. Although a case can be made for the feds midwifing the commercial growth of nuclear energy, but that was done before the Department of Energy came on the scene.
In fact, the main thrust behind the department was evidently managing the scarcity of energy after the Arab oil embargo. But being the government, it couldn’t even do that. The United States, thanks to fracking and no thanks to the feds, is poised to once again become the world’s leading oil and gas producer.
So eliminating the Department of Inertia — whoops, Energy — will save taxpayers $7.1 billion, which is a start.
But the real money is in other departments like Housing and Urban Development. Created in 1965, during Lyndon Johnson’s War of Poverty — which, by the way, we lost — it was designed to shovel money into the ghetto to prevent riots. For more on how that worked out, see Detroit.
Prior to 1965 no one needed the government to tell them that people required shelter. There was no czar of homebuilding. Banks loaned money, people bought houses, and cities appeared without federal help.
HUD’s only real impact on the nation — and it was devastating — was its role in helping to create the housing boom and subsequent bust, from which the nation is still recovering. In a misguided effort to promote home ownership at all costs for citizens and illegals alike, HUD pressured banks to reduce lending standards and credit checks.
So there was a temporary spike in ownership followed by a huge jump in foreclosures and a collapse of the economy.
That’s why eliminating HUD and its $50.2 billion budget gets us more than halfway to our goal without hurting anyone other than subsidy feeders and crony capitalists.
The last agency to cut is another baleful legacy of the Carter years, the Department of Education. This exercise in redundancy has mostly presided over the decline of education in the United States. It takes money from local taxpayers, washes it in D.C., takes out a large chunk for overhead, and then doles it back to states run by leftists.
The Constitution clearly makes education a responsibility of the states, cities, and counties, not the federal government. A one-size-fits-all curriculum imposed by Washington is expensive, bureaucratic, and doomed to failure.
The only response the feds have to an education problem is spending more money. Since 1970 federal spending on education has increased over 300 percent, yet the call for more money never stops. And, hello, test scores continue to decline!
Instead of paying for more teachers, this money goes to more layers of bureaucracy. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Texas saw an increase in students from 1992 to 2009 of 37 percent, yet the number of administrative staff during the same time period exploded 172 percent.
“Taxpayers should be outraged public schools hired so many nonteaching personnel with such little academic improvement among students to show for it,” said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation, according to The Washington Times. “This money could have been better invested in areas that have proved to benefit children.”
Even better, the tax dollars could have been left in the states, where local people can make local decisions regarding their children’s education. Without the Department of Education, America produced Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, George Washington Carver, Jonas Salk, and too many others to count.
Eliminating this duplication will save taxpayers $65.6 billion and take us comfortably past the $100 billion goal.
It’s not hard to find the places to cut. What’s hard is finding the will and once again assuming the state and local responsibility to govern ourselves as the Constitution and the founders intended.
And, once that $100 billion is saved, where should it go? Back from whence it came, the taxpayers, in the form of tax cuts. The League of American Voters believes that spending cuts should be offset by equal or greater tax cuts.
This creates economic growth. In fact, my dad, by embracing the Kemp-Roth Tax Cut, sparked the greatest economic boom in history. We can do it again.
I strongly encourage you to join with us at the League. Your support is vital for us to continue this fight to stop Obamacare and his liberal agenda. Please take a moment and
Go Here Now to support us.
League of American Voters | 722 12th Street N.W. | 4th Floor | Washington, D.C. 20005