Monday, November 15, 2010

Balancing the Budget: Perhaps We Can Get Blumer To Try It, Too

James Pethokoukis seems to have done the impossible. And all it took him was a simulator and not being obligated to this rail or that rail of American Politics. Are you paying attention Congress? Here, let me pass this along:
Here is what I did:

1. Eliminated earmarks ($14 billion)

2. Cut the pay of civilian workers by 5 percent ($17 billion)

3. Reduced the federal workforce by 10 percent ($15 billion)

4. Reduced nuclear arsenal and space spending ($38 billion)

5. Reduce military to pre-Iraq War size and further reduce troops in Asia and Europe ($49 billion)

6. Reduce Navy and Air Force fleets ($24 billion)

7. Cancel or delay some weapons programs ($18 billion)

8. Reduce the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to 60,000 by 2015 ($149 billion)

9. Enact medical malpractice reform ($13 billion)

10. Increase the Medicare eligibility age to 68 ($56 billion)

11. Reduce the tax break for employer-provided health insurance ($157 billion)

12. Cap Medicare growth starting in 2013 ($562 billion)

13. Raise the Social Security retirement age to 70 ($247 billion)

14. Reduce Social Security benefits for those with high incomes ($54 billion)

15. Tighten eligibility for disability ($17 billion)

16. Use an alternate measure for inflation ($82 billion)

In the end, my budget would have a minuscule 2015 deficit of $80 billion and a 2030 surplus of $187 billion. Now I would have preferred an option for deeper domestic spending cuts.

Heritage has some ideas too:
Table 1 sets forth $343 billion in available spending cuts for the new Congress to consider when it takes up the federal budget for FY 2012. Many of the cuts fall into six areas:

* 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.[5]

Table 1: Spending Cuts for FY 2012

(in millions of dollars)



Replace farm subsidies with Farmer Savings Accounts and improved crop insurance.


Eliminate the Foreign Agriculture Service.


Merge all four agriculture outreach and research agencies and cut their budget in half.


Fund the Food Safety and Inspection Service with user fees.



Eliminate business subsidies from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Community Development


Eliminate the Community Development Block Grant program.


Eliminate the Rural Utilities Service.


Eliminate the Economic Development Administration.


Eliminate NeighborWorks America (formerly the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation).


Consolidate the Rural Housing and Development Programs and convert them into block grants.


Eliminate the Appalachian Regional Commission.


Eliminate the Denali Commission.


Eliminate the Minority Development Business Agency.


Eliminate the Delta Regional Authority.



Return Pell Grants to their 2009 funding level of $24 billion, which is still double the 2007 level.


Trim Head Start by $2 billion and convert it into vouchers.


Scale back the Education Department bureaucracy.


Eliminate dozens of small and duplicative education grants.


Eliminate state grants for Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities.

Energy and the Environment


Reduce energy subsidies for commercialization and some research activities.


Block grant and devolve Environmental Protection Agency grant programs.


Restructure the Power Marketing Administrations to charge market-based rates.


Eliminate the Science to Achieve Results Program.

Government Reform


Halve federal program payment errors by 2012, especially by reducing Medicare errors and earned income tax credit errors.
Tighten oversight by spending $5 billion on new resources, such as updated computer systems, and then recover $49 billion in payment errors.


Rescind unobligated balances after 36 months.


Halve the $25 billion spent to maintain vacant federal properties.


Cut the federal employee travel budget to $4 billion (half of FY 2000 spending).


Freeze federal pay until it can be reformed.


Suspend acquisition of federal office space.


Trim the federal vehicle fleet by 20 percent (a reduction of 100,000 vehicles).


Cut the House and Senate budgets back to the 2008 level of $2.2 billion.


Eliminate the Presidential Election Campaign Fund.


Tighten controls on federal employee credit cards and cut down on delinquencies.


Require federal employees to fly coach on domestic flights.

Health Care


Reform Medigap.


Repeal Obamacare (larger savings in later years).


Require Medicare home health co-payments.


Eliminate the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant.


Eliminate Health Professions grants.


Eliminate Title X Family Planning.


Eliminate the National Health Service Corps.


Repeal Rural Health Outreach and Flexibility grants.

Homeland Security


Eliminate most homeland security grants to states and allow states to finance their own programs.

Income Security


Better enforce eligibility requirements for food stamps.



Open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to leasing.
(The savings are leasing revenues, which are classified as negative spending in the federal budget.)


Suspend federal land purchases.



Eliminate the Development Assistance Program.


Eliminate the State Department’s education and cultural exchange programs.


Eliminate the International Trade Administration’s trade promotion activities or charge the beneficiaries.


Eliminate the Democracy Fund.


Eliminate the International Trade Commission and transfer oversight of intellectual property rights to the Treasury Department.


Eliminate the Trade and Development Agency.


Eliminate the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.


Eliminate the East–West Center.


Eliminate the United States Institute of Peace.


Eliminate the Japan–United States Friendship Commission.



Eliminate all Justice Department grants except those from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Institute of Justice,
thereby empowering states to finance their own justice programs.


Eliminate the Legal Services Corporation.


Eliminate the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service.


Eliminate the duplicative Office of National Drug Control Policy.


Reduce funding for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division by 20 percent
because of its policy against race-neutral enforcement of the law.


Eliminate the State Justice Institute.



Eliminate failed federal job training programs.


Eliminate the ineffective Job Corps.


Eliminate the Senior Community Service Employment Program.

National Science Foundation


Reduce National Science Foundation funding to 2008 levels.


Eliminate National Science Foundation spending on elementary and secondary education.



Devolve the federal highway program and most transit spending to the states.


Privatize Amtrak.


Eliminate grants to large and medium-sized hub airports.


Eliminate the Maritime Administration.


Eliminate the Essential Air Service Program.



Eliminate the additional child refundable credit.


Eliminate the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund.



Cap increases in Department of Veterans Affairs health care spending.


Reduce Veterans’ Disability Compensation to account for Social Security Disability Insurance payments.

Cross-Agency and Other


Repeal unspent stimulus spending.


Switch to using the “Superlative CPI” in funding calculations.


Repeal the Davis–Bacon Act.


Eliminate Federal Communications Commission funding for school Internet service.


Ban project labor agreements on all federally funded construction projects.


Eliminate the Small Business Administration, which unnecessarily intervenes in free markets.


Eliminate the National Community Service programs, such as AmeriCorps.


Eliminate the Institute of Museum Services and Library Services.


Eliminate the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts.


Eliminate Army Corps of Engineers funding for beach replenishment projects.


Eliminate the Commission of Fine Arts.


Eliminate the National Capital Planning Commission.


Eliminate the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.


$343,207 million

Gee, just think what a little bit of political courage and unction toward the good of the nation could do?