Let’s cut this!

If you had the opportunity to begin cutting the Federal Budget to reduce the deficit and balance the overall budget, what would you cut? Most of us do not have the background to make such decisions about our government and its overly complicated method of operation.

The purpose of this article, though, is to approach the task in a purely novice, average voter, fashion just to stimulate broad discussion. Suggestions here should not in any way be considered anything other than opinion expressed solely to prompt input from the reader. Nothing more.

First, let’s find out where our tax dollars go. About 20-percent each goes to Defense, Social Security, and Medicare/Medicaid, with 16-percent going to so-called “safety net” programs, and   6-percent to interest on the federal debt. The remainder is split among other programs, such as: federal retirees and veteran benefits, 7%; transportation, 3%; education, 2%; science and medical research, 2%; non-security international, 1%; and, everything else, 4%. (See the chart below or go to http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=1258We strongly suggest you go to this web site for the Center on Policy and Budget Priorities (CPBP) for a brief but more complete description of what is included in the federal budget.

According to the CPBP, safety net programs totaled about 13 percent of the federal budget in 2011, or $466 billion. This supports programs that provide aid (other than health insurance or Social Security benefits) to individuals and families facing hardship. Spending on safety net programs declined in both nominal and real terms between 2010 and 2011 as the economy continued to improve and initiatives funded by the 2009 Recovery Act began to expire. But, look at what “safety net” includes: the refundable portion of the earned-income and child tax credits, which assist low- and moderate-income working families through the tax code; programs that provide cash payments to eligible individuals or households, including Supplemental Security Income for the elderly or disabled poor and unemployment insurance; various forms of in-kind assistance for low-income families and individuals, including food stamps, school meals, low-income housing assistance, child-care assistance, and assistance in meeting home energy bills; and various other programs such as those that aid abused and neglected children.

So, what to cut?

Understanding we believe in a pay-as-you-go true cost to benefit consideration for all public expenditures, in our view, peace through strength is an important consideration for the defense budget. Even though we believe the tribes in Afghanistan will again begin a civil war as quickly as NATO troops vacate the place, prosecuting a “limited” war is difficult if not impossible to win. So, we would realize the savings in the defense budget simply by attrition, eliminating that war and the lives it ruins. If we are not in it to win it, forget it.

Next, is the department of education. Local schools are better run by local boards of education, and the states, not the federal government. The national teachers’ union would have to find something else to do. Funding for local schools, if any at all, could be in blanket grants to states, to be distributed as they see fit based upon total student population. We would therefore reduce the department of education to nothing more than a small agency dedicated to distributing unrestricted blanket state grants, and administering student college loan programs. Today, the federal government wields the club of funding, forcing schools to acquiesce to requirements they neither need or want. (By the way, we’d eliminate tenure.)

We would take on both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in one fell swoop. First, we would roll back much of the stringent Executive Order measures the Obama Administration put in place when their carbon tax program could not pass the Democrat Congress. Both the EPA and OSHA would be converted into agencies dedicated to helping businesses find ways to meet health, safety, and environmental requirements, rather than what they do now–simply running around the nation fining companies for failure to maintain those massive binders and paperwork schedules, and investigating only after the fact of an accident. Rather than just making rules, let us help show businesses how to operate safely and with environmentally friendly processes. Everyone would win.

Now, how about that “third rail of politics”, Social Security/Medicare? Both Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid need to be streamlined to eliminate fraud and corruption that is rampant in both these important programs. Doing so should result in plenty of savings over the short term while the public and political leadership works together to come up with ways to financially save both programs for the future. In the near term, we would not change benefits for either. And, by the way, Obamacare produces 126 new offices and agencies that will not exist if Congress votes to eliminate the act.

We would take a very hard look at the many duplicate programs and agency functions. Combining or doing away with these should save a bundle, although who knows just how much. Then, there are the unnecessary programs, like the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). With the exception of Armed Forces Radio, etc., serving our fighting men and women, the government does not need to be in the broadcasting or newspaper business.

This just scratches the surface, there is much more we’ve not broached here. We know full well many governmental employees will join the ranks of the unemployed as a result of any cuts. Consider, though, 250,000 federal employees have been added in the past 40 months alone, so, we’d freeze wages and hiring altogether.

I invite your own carefully considered comments, additions, or complaints.