One man’s list of $343 billion in federal spending cuts

As I’ve noted before, newly empowered Republicans will have no choice but to act fast in slashing federal spending to balance the budget. In the long run, that will require them to reform entitlements. But what about next year’s budget?

Brian Riedl at the Heritage Foundation has come up with a list to get them started: 90 specific cuts exceeding $343 billion.

He describes the principles guiding the cuts as:

  • Empowering state and local governments. Congress should focus the federal government on performing a few duties well and allow the state and local governments, which are closer to the people, to creatively address local needs in areas such as transportation, justice, job training, and economic development.
  • Consolidating duplicative programs. Past Congresses have repeatedly piled duplicative programs on top of preexisting programs, increasing administrative costs and creating a bureaucratic maze that confuses people seeking assistance.
  • Privatization. Many current government functions could be performed more efficiently by the private sector.
  • Targeting programs more precisely. Corporate welfare programs benefit those who do not need assistance in the American free enterprise system. Other programs often fail to enforce their own eligibility requirements.
  • Eliminating outdated and ineffective programs. Congress often allows the federal government to run the same programs for decades, despite many studies showing their ineffectiveness.
  • Eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse. Taxpayers will never trust the federal government to reform major entitlements if they believe that the savings will go toward “bridges to nowhere,” vacant government buildings, and Grateful Dead archives.

Some of the major cuts are:

  • $60 billion by repealing the unspent economic stimulus spending
  • $45 billion by devolving the federal highway program and most transit spending to the states
  • $20 billion by rescinding unobligated balances after 36 months
  • $15 billion by replacing farm subsidies with Farmer Savings Accounts and improved crop insurance
  • $10 billion by cutting the federal employee travel budget to $4 billion

The full list is here.

Some of these cuts seem pretty painless and, given the times we’re in, like no-brainers — making federal employees fly coach, for instance. Others will cause some shrieks from the people who were accustomed to feeding at the federal trough.

The message of the side that’s going to win this election is that, shrieks be damned, the cuts have to be made. I don’t think the voters will let them get away with backpedaling from that message.

62 comments Add your comment

godless heathen

October 29th, 2010
12:05 pm

Good start. I would add cut Defense spending by 10% across the board. Too much waste.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

October 29th, 2010
12:14 pm

I can give you several painless stimulative cuts: SEC, FTC, OSHA – all specialists in locking the barn door after the horses escape. FDA – kills more Americans every year, through delay of new medications, than it has saved in its entire history. FNMA, FHLMC, FHA – all doing private sector works, but subsidizing great bureaucrat salaries through taxpayer guarantees. EPA – doing the work that ought to be left to localities, if done at all.

bo

October 29th, 2010
12:21 pm

“Privatization. Many current government functions could be performed more efficiently by the private sector.”

Other than anecdotes, I ‘m not sure how well this concept has been proven. I’d love to see a state with a libertarian streak line (GA or Miss come to mind) do this broadly to either prove or refute the point.

carlosgvv

October 29th, 2010
12:27 pm

Newly empowered Republicans will have no choice but to do what all the rest of the Republicans do. They will have to obey the orders of their corporate sponsors or else have no money for a re-election campaign. It is really that simple and that disgraceful.

Kyle Wingfield

October 29th, 2010
12:34 pm

carlosgvv: Let the big donors revolt. The Dems and their people have out-spent the GOP and their people so far by about $180 million (roughly 56% to 44%): http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1010/44216.html

And that doesn’t seem to have mattered.

CJ

October 29th, 2010
12:39 pm

Privatization. Many current government functions could be performed more efficiently by the private sector.

I’m down with the travel budget and anything to reform farm subsidies, although $15 billion is less than one-half of one percent of the 2010 $3.6 trillion price tag. In fact, if conservatives were really concerned about reducing spending (they’re not) they’d be screaming about this welfare program for millionaires.

Additionally, if conservatives were sincerely interested in balancing the budget, they could bring us $700 billion dollars closer, next year alone, simply by seeking to allow the top two Clinton tax rates to kick in when the Bush tax cuts expire. The meager cuts indicated above, which include no attention to defense spending or health care costs (the main driver of projected budget deficits), also reinforce the fact that conservatives don’t really care about reducing spending or balancing the budget. They only care about reducing spending in areas where the poor and middle class benefit, while continuing to increase spending in areas where the wealthy benefit.

Another case in point is the suggestion above to look for areas to privatize. This process often ends up costing taxpayers a whole lot more, in part, because contractors charge the government two, three, or four times more for contract employees than government employees were compensated will no real gains to show for the additional cost (e.g., Blackwater’s services for the military, or more locally, United Water’s services for the city of Atlanta). In fact, privatization frequently benefits the executives of the private contractor, oftentimes a major contributor to those in power, while the taxpayer loses.

I have an idea to bring us $700 million

CJ

October 29th, 2010
12:41 pm

I have an idea to bring us $700 million

CJ

October 29th, 2010
12:50 pm

Kyle: “The Dems and their people have out-spent the GOP and their people so far by about $180 million (roughly 56% to 44%)

The misrepresentation in Kyle’s quote above is the “and their people” phrase. The Politico piece that he linked to said, “It’s true that conservative third-party groups are outspending their Democratic rivals. But the Democrats still have a sizable cash advantage in their party committees…”

If Kyle would look into the percentage of total spending, party committees plus third-party groups, broken out between money spent by or on behalf of Republicans vs. money spent by or on behalf of Dems, then he might have a better understanding of why many are angry and frustrated frustrated with the money-driven election process.

emo

October 29th, 2010
12:59 pm

” 90 specific cuts exceeding $343 billion.”
Yay, down to $1 Trillion! Job well done! Raises for everybody! Especially the lobbyists!

Kyle Wingfield

October 29th, 2010
1:13 pm

CJ: There are two very simple reasons the GOP committees are raising/spending a smaller percentage of the total raised/spent by or on behalf of Republicans.

1. Michael Steele has ticked off so many GOP donors by sticking his foot in his mouth repeatedly that the RNC has become far less important than it was in the past, or compared with the DNC this year.

2. A greater portion than usual of GOP money is going straight to candidates rather than through any part of the party apparatus.

And as Politico has also reported, the biggest “outside group” spending money in this election has been not Karl Rove’s group or those evil foreigners at the Chamber of Commerce but a public-sector labor union, the AFSCME: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1010/44110_Page2.html#ixzz13WDLkctk

Kyle Wingfield

October 29th, 2010
1:13 pm

emo: As I said, it’s a starting place…

Kyle Wingfield

October 29th, 2010
1:16 pm

And speaking of misrepresentations, CJ, that’s a real whopper to trivialize the proposals by suddenly comparing one of the 90 cuts to the entire federal budget.

CJ

October 29th, 2010
1:50 pm

Kyle at 1:13: Why do you continue to cherry-pick? Have you looked at the totals? (Incidentally, union contributors can vote, most Chamber of Commerce contributors [i.e., corporations] can’t—that is until Reagan/Bush/Bush Supreme Court appointees decide otherwise).

Kyle at 1:16: Not a misrepresentation…a mistake. You’re right. $3.6 trillion was the federal budget, not the subsidies. I’m having trouble finding the 2010 number, so feel free to point me in the right direction.

That said, here’s a link to recent article from the Boston Globe with the headline, “Election unlikely to change US farm subsidies,” Heritage Foundation proposals notwithstanding.

http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2010/10/15/election_unlikely_to_change_us_farm_subsidies/

Kyle Wingfield

October 29th, 2010
2:10 pm

CJ: See point 1 from my 1:13.

Outside groups, like individual candidates, are benefiting from a lack of confidence in the GOP apparatus, and the RNC under Michael Steele in particular. That’s why I think it’s appropriate to look at the total spent by party and outsiders, and not just look at party and outsiders separately.

If Steele is replaced after this election cycle, it will be instructive to look at the 2012 totals and see whether things change.

Kyle Wingfield

October 29th, 2010
2:12 pm

That said, I think the direct-to-candidates element will remain, because that’s a tea-party specialty…and one reason so many establishment GOP candidates have lost to upstarts this year.

jconservative

October 29th, 2010
2:37 pm

“…90 specific cuts exceeding $343 billion.”

Wonderful. Good start if it can get through the House and Senate and the President.

That will leave a deficit of $1 trillion. Now the real fund starts.

Is defense off the table? If it is then we are only playing make believe games. We will be pretending we are cutting spending.

And will the debt ceiling be raised in April 2011? Or will we just shut down the government?

At present I am kinda itching to shut her down for a spell.

A Hearty Cheese Sauce

October 29th, 2010
2:52 pm

Lettuce not forget the welfare programs, foodstamps, reimbursement for living/housing expenses, HUD…combine DEA/ATF, 50% cut on Obamas salary, decrease foreign aid by 35%, 50% cut on Obamas salary, decrease congresional spending accounts by 45%, did I mention cutting Obamas salary by 50%…

DEWSTARPATH

October 29th, 2010
2:55 pm

“Allow the state and local governments, which are closer to the people, to creatively address local needs in areas such as transportation, justice, job training, and economic development.”

– That won’t help Georgia. The aforementioned areas are the ones suffering most
of the problems, largely due to the fact that the state legislature suffers from a
mentality of “rural priorities and sensibilities”, making the development of a 21st
century infrastructure (with all of the potential returns on investment that could be
incurred) more of a challenge than it should be. Other states will take advantage,
while the ‘Empire State of the South’ will slip even further behind.

A Hearty Cheese Sauce

October 29th, 2010
2:59 pm

Cut out the funding to Fannie and Freddie, Congress takes a 15% pay cut, cut Obamas salary by 50%, cut the white house expense accounts for Ms Obama by 50%…no more of these traveling or party junkits.

A Hearty Cheese Sauce

October 29th, 2010
3:01 pm

Force the IRS to do its job in pursuing and prosecuting tax scofflaws, cut Obamas salary by 50%, combine the justice dept and the FBI, privatize the USPS, cut Obamas salary by 50%.

DEWSTARPATH

October 29th, 2010
3:25 pm

- Give the CEOs of corporations that outsource jobs
to overseas vendors a ‘flat’ income tax – of 35%.

- Turn over the ‘virtual border’ responsibilities of the U.S.
Border Patrol to the U.S. military. Limit the job of U.S.
Customs to ports of entry.

Dr. Pangloss

October 29th, 2010
3:32 pm

“Privatization. Many current government functions could be performed more efficiently by the private sector.”

Bill Clements followed this dogma when he was governor of Texas. Wound up paying more to private contractors than the state would have paid to state employees. It doesn’t save money to have the work done by more expensive people.

Dr. Pangloss

October 29th, 2010
3:34 pm

Cut Obama’s salary by 50%, Cheese Sauce? That would save $200,000.00. Compared to the CEO of an insurance company, the president is working for free.

Jefferson

October 29th, 2010
3:37 pm

It is becomeing more evident that revenue will have to increase now doesn’t it. Some of these cuts will just raise your state and local taxes. Hey, but its a start — think about this — sometimes its hard for you and the wife to decide on where to eat, just think how it would be to get 536 congress people to actually pull this off ? It won’t be easy, but a good start along with the revenue increases, the GOP won’t cut medicare too bad and leave the elderly to die sick in the cold. Truth is they want to kill it, because they don’t think it effects them.

carlosgvv

October 29th, 2010
3:38 pm

Kyle, the news reports I’ve seen have the Republicans way ahead on spending. So, who do you beleive? I will agree that in the current political climate truth is as scarce as hens teeth.

Linda

October 29th, 2010
3:38 pm

Eliminate the entire Dept. of Education.

Jefferson

October 29th, 2010
3:39 pm

Oh yea, I forgot to tell you last time the GOP said they would do one thing, they did the other, but I guess you forgot that.

Not So Casual Observer

October 29th, 2010
3:47 pm

Defense cuts should start with our bases in Europe and specifically with those nations who continue to trash the US and look the other way when military support is required. Germany is the first to come to mind.

Foreign aid would be next. We send $$$$$$$$$$$ to countries whose leaders spread the money to their buddies rather than for the use intended (sort of sounds like the Obama administration). There are many deserving of aid but we also have needs within our borders for aid to starving families and children who need adoptive parents and assistance. Start in the US and when the needs here are met we can look elsewhere.

Not So Casual Observer

October 29th, 2010
3:54 pm

CJ @ 12:39 loves to trash conservatives but not one word in his post regarding the loons who created this $3.6 Trillion budget.

CJ should tour with PA Governor Ed Rendel who I have heard repeat ad nauseum on talk shows the CBO calculated ObamaCare would save money in the first 2 decades – and that was their initial report. Unfortunately for Rendel the most recent finding is ObamaCare will increase, not decrease, the deficit for those 20 years.

The CBO makes no assumptions, the bills are scored based upon the parameters provided by the authors, and thus if the authors provide garbage then the findings by the CBO are also garbage.

Jefferson

October 29th, 2010
3:59 pm

If the profit was taken out of health care, you may have a chance to save the salaries of the workers (Drs, nurses, etc) who have schooled theirselves for a profession. Other wise medicare is doomed to cost more and more.

Not So Casual Observer

October 29th, 2010
4:01 pm

Jefferson,

Your incessant carping for revenue increases is boring. If the tax rates were doubled for everyone there would still be a deficit, even if by some miracle our economy could survive such an idiotic stunt and perform at current (depressed) levels.

Revenue is not the problem. Corrupt politicians on both sides of the aisle, wasteful federal bureaucracy and the attempts by the current administration to drive us into bankruptcy with more and more spending are the largest problems.

If those elected on Nov. 2 do not attack and begin to eliminate those problems then the entire House and the 30 Senators on the ticket in 2012 should be fired, along with the current administration.

Jefferson

October 29th, 2010
4:06 pm

So where did the deficit come from, it the tax cuts are so great? It will take increases in revenue and cuts, but like I have said the republicans are pretty sure they know everything, let them surf on their record. Bush SR saw the red ink, JR blew it, Obama has spent too but it is nothing new since 2000.

Not So Casual Observer

October 29th, 2010
4:07 pm

Jefferson @ 3:59pm,

Only a Marxist/Socialist, one or the other or both, would make such an inane suggestion. Without profit there is no money to pay anyone, much less Doctors and Nurses who have schooled THEMselves.

Jefferson

October 29th, 2010
4:08 pm

Salaries are cost items before profits are calculated. Sales – Cost = profit.

Jefferson

October 29th, 2010
4:09 pm

BTW the name calling was a nice touch, preciat’e it — even though you are wrong.

Dusty

October 29th, 2010
4:15 pm

Who said Republicans don’t have a plan? This sounds like a good one to me.

Well, a pork project addendum might be added. No funds for any “pork” added to any proposition

One worry that I have comes from watching how the French have responded to Pres. Sarkozy’s new restrictions to make their budget fiscally sound. French citizens have responded with protests strikes and rejection.

I hope American citizens really do realize how much we are in debt. The only way to decrease it is to stop so much spending. Everybody seems to know that until it “hits home”.

Someone trying to make changes will have to be very persuasive.

Not So Casual Observer

October 29th, 2010
4:21 pm

Jefferson @ 3:39,,

“Oh yea, I forgot to tell you last time the GOP said they would do one thing, they did the other, but I guess you forgot that.”

There are far too many to list for the Lib hero Barack Obama, but how about “all bills will be debated on C-Span” and “all bills will be available on the internet for 72 hours prior to a vote”. There are dozens more documented but then he has only had about 2 years so the number will more than double by 2012.

Left wing management

October 29th, 2010
4:25 pm

But all this talk about costs … costs, costs, and more costs!

I’ll tell you, Kyle, I’m not that worried about costs per se. This country’s a big boy and can handle some extra ballast.

What about PROCESS, Kyle ? What about the loopholes in Wall St ? This president has failed to give us a meaningful Wall St perp walk and I don’t see anything here that gestures in that direction.

Where’s the Wall St CEO frog march, Obama? Where’s the perp walk, Kyle?

Not So Casual Observer

October 29th, 2010
4:28 pm

Jefferson @ 4:08,

Sort of a “small picture guy” are you not.

Without profit there will not be anyone to offer the service. Are you suggesting that the entire US economy should be based on non-profit entities? Or even the entire health care sector should be offered by non-profit entities? Who, pray tell, is going to make the initial investment required to bring the necessary elements to the market place? Who will be motivated to invest in research and development to find new treatments and cures?

@ 4:09 There was no name calling, just an observation based upon simple facts and wrong, in this exchange, I am not!

Left wing management

October 29th, 2010
4:34 pm

Not So Casual Observer: “Or even the entire health care sector should be offered by non-profit entities? Who, pray tell, is going to make the initial investment required to bring the necessary elements to the market place? Who will be motivated to invest in research and development to find new treatments and cures?”

Well that’s an easy one: the government, as always.

CJ

October 29th, 2010
4:36 pm

Unfortunately for Rendel the most recent finding is ObamaCare will increase, not decrease, the deficit for those 20 years.

Which conservative organization put out this “most recent finding”? The Heritage Foundation? The Cato Institute? Because the CBO hasn’t changed their minds—over a $1 trillion dollars in deficit reduction.

That’s a good start, but more needs to be done to reduce the growth of health care costs. Unfortunately, Republicans in Washington offer little or nothing (other than, ironically, interfering with states’ rights to regulate health insurers and states’ rights to regulate damages arising out of medical malpractice).

Jefferson

October 29th, 2010
4:36 pm

Not, look at the UK and Germany (health care), then make it better, otherwise …too bad for the grandkids… from the small minded guy.

Jefferson

October 29th, 2010
4:37 pm

uh, picture that would be, but mind too if it suits you all.

Not So Casual Observer

October 29th, 2010
4:40 pm

Linda @ 3:38,

The Department of Education should be eliminated along with the Department of Energy and the hundreds of new bureaus and departments created by the ObamaCare act.

Someone mentioned FHA – another god deletion. Ditto Fannie and Freddie, the FDA and all the welfare programs. The welfare programs are rightly a responsibility of state and local government and the local community.

Return the federal government to the constraints of the Constitution and most of this “eliminate” debate will be… eliminated!

NoWayNoHow

October 29th, 2010
4:44 pm

Enter your comments here

NoWayNoHow

October 29th, 2010
4:47 pm

Ain’t gonna happen, no way no how. Republicans talk the talk and never walk the walk. The only thing they know how to do is cut taxes and that takes no courage.

Not So Casual Observer

October 29th, 2010
4:50 pm

L W management @ 4:34,

So then we would have deficit several times the current projection. Easy if all you care about is having the government take care of you but if freedom and private enterprise are important then the “easy answer” is the worst answer.

But then I am acutely aware of Jefferson’s feelings of more and more and more government.

Not So Casual Observer

October 29th, 2010
4:57 pm

NoWayNoHow,

Change that to Republicans and Democrats and you have a point. Republicans would have you believe the free market will solve the problems and Democrats would have you believe government and higher taxes will solve the problems – as long as there is plenty of “other people’s money”. But how do the rich have plenty of money without free markets?

Interestingly, I believe the first non-war deficit was during the Kennedy administration and there were no deficits until there was a Federal Reserve and the Income Tax.

Left wing management

October 29th, 2010
4:58 pm

Not so casual: 4:50

As I said, it’s been the case historically that R & D-heavy industries do not get off the ground without massive – and I mean, massive – support upfront by government. This has been the case from the railroads down to the internet, and is currently the case, esp. in places like China, with green technologies. If as you say, this automatically results in runaway deficits then surely every major western country would have gone broke decades, if not a century, ago.

“Easy if all you care about is having the government take care of you but if freedom and private enterprise are important”

Oops, I call right wing straw man. What does this have to do with paternalistic government. On the contrary, this is about getting industries up to a point where maybe we can talk about them being self-sustaining, and thus job-supporting for swaths of the working population, which translates into more opportunities for self-sufficiency for more people.

Sure “freedom” and “private enterprise” have their place, but the two have no real meaningful connection to each other, as far as I can see.

Not So Casual Observer

October 29th, 2010
5:01 pm

NoWayNoHow,

On the topic of courage, how much courage is required by Democrats to pander to those who pay no or very little tax? Democrats have promoted wealth envy and social envy as their platform since FDR (70+ years) and the beneficiaries of the largesse have remained poor and envious for the entire period.