Spring Budget Cleaning
Some of Our Favorite US Budget Cuts
You’ve heard of “opium”? It’s how you pronounce OPM, which stands for “Other People’s Money”. When that’s what you get to spend, recklessness is the order of the day. This 2010 article is from The Weekly Wastebasket, Volume XV No. 12: March 26.
by Taxpayers for Common SenseIt’s time to clean budgetary house. For the last several months, both the House and Senate have been consumed in a messy healthcare debate and amidst it all, spending like wildcats and delaying the normal budget process.
When the schedule gets pushed back -- especially in an election year -- the result can be a disastrous hodgepodge of bills that load up on spending, instead of trimming the fat. On top of the annual appropriations spending, Congress has committed to respond to the sluggish economy with more jobs-oriented spending and tax legislation.
Even though recent restrictions will mean fewer earmarks (at least in the House), making headway on all 12 individual spending bills, rather than slopping them all together in one spending mess, is a tall order. With the dust beginning to settle on healthcare, Congress has to start scrubbing the budget.
To help get this cleaning party started, we’ve pulled out some of our favorite budget cuts and needed policy reforms. Many we’ve been suggesting year after year, but these line items continue to rear their ugly heads.
* Change the Oil
Repealing several long-standing oil and gas subsidies would save nearly $40 billion over the next ten years. In addition, fixing budget sweeteners for the oil and gas industries will save over $100 billion.
* Take Energy Subsidies to the Cleaners
Axing just four tax breaks for the so-called “clean” coal industry would save taxpayers $2.28 billion. Congress must also stay away from tax cuts for coal-to-liquids and ethanol.
* Shovel Out the Manure
Cutting crop insurance subsidies would save $8 billion in payments to insurance companies from 2011-2020 and reducing direct payment for wealthy farmers could save taxpayers nearly $2.3 billion by 2020.
* Restore Faith in Trust Funds
Every time you turn around, instead of fixing the system, lawmakers are dipping into the general treasury to bailout bankrupt trust funds. The Highway Trust Fund has tapped taxpayers for more than $40 billion and shippers are proposing to “fix” the inland waterway trust fund by increasing taxpayer subsidies. This has to stop.
* Stop Guaranteed Loss
Providing loan backing for high risk energy projects like new nuclear reactors or synthetic fuels could cost taxpayers billions. The Energy Department needs to scale back this giveaway.
* Watch Out for Nuclear Waste
The National Nuclear Security Administration got a 14 percent budget boost and nuclear facilities received a 25 percent increase though many projects have no completed design plans or cost estimates. At least $100 million could be trimmed in facilities alone.
* Arrest Airborne Pork
The Defense Department hasn’t asked for more C-17s or an alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter for years, but Congress has kept them alive. We shouldn’t spend billions on weapons we don’t need just to fund jobs in some lawmakers’ districts.
* Lemon Law for Fighting Vehicle
Defense watchers have called for the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle to get cut for years, but the FY2011 budget barely trims its $14 billion price tag. The vehicle breaks down repeatedly, gets derailed by roadside bombs, and has nearly doubled in price.
* Play Ball on Earmarks
Senators going along with the House ban on earmarks to for-profit companies or the House Republican earmark moratorium would free up a bunch of time for more oversight in the appropriations process.
* Real Stimulus Check-in
The stimulus has been the law of the land for 14 months, and Congress is already readying a flurry of tax breaks and other stimulus measures under the jobs moniker. It’s time to take a breath and figure out what we have done, where we are going, and what we should -- or should not -- do next.
The dog days of summer are approaching, Congress needs to get cracking and take on some of this low-hanging fiscal fruit. Then come fall, the appointed debt commission, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, is supposed to report back with major reforms to entitlement, tax and spending programs. That will require Congress and the Administration to take the next step to start moving the country toward fiscal sanity.
JJS: Since that’s never happened, it must say something about human nature, about the corrupting power to spend freely, and about a reformer’s wishing thinking. From here it seems that some day people must accept responsibility for spending revenue as they see fit and demand and end to discretionary spending by politicians and the beginning of a dividend to the citizenry.
Coming from “rents”, from all the money we spend on the nature we use, the policy is the centerpiece of geonomics. Replacing taxes and subsidies with a sharing of this commonwealth could work. Indeed, mild versions of it have worked wherever tried.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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