Thursday, September 30, 2010

 

Political Mayhem Thursday: So... What would you cut?


Recently, the Cato Institute (which is one of my favorite think tanks) placed newspaper ads with an intriguing premise-- they backed up their claims for wanting a smaller federal government with a very specific list of what programs they would cut.

My challenge to my readers is to do the same-- what would you cut out of the federal government? If you believe that the federal government is too big, I think there is a moral imperative to say what would go, but I suspect that nearly everyone can identify something that could go.

For my part, I would cut the size of the military significantly, and end the money-sucking and politicized system for military procurement we currently maintain. Our military does an excellent job with the tasks we give them, but we simply cannot afford to maintain the kind of foreign presence that treats two simultaneous wars as normal. The benefits just don't come close to the overwhelming costs.

I would also reduce and focus the role of federal law enforcement, and I would scale way back on the role of the federal government in education. I would also end price supports and subsidies for agriculture, and end tax breaks to energy companies.

How about you?

Comments:
That's a pretty good list... I think there are many cabinet agencies that could be drastically reduced, cut, or merged with each other to cut excess that way.

I'd probably disagree with you on the importance of cutting military size/spending. No doubt two long-term wars are unsustainable and there is excess that can be trimmed in the Defense Dept just as everywhere else. However, military and defense spending is paltry compared to entitlement spending.

Between Social Security and Medicare we face over $100 trillion of unfunded liability, or about the cost of 125 Iraq Wars. Until this is addressed in a serious manner, the debt will stay high and the government will either stay at or (more likely) grow beyond its current size.

Fortunately, there are two ways to deal with the entitlement crisis and both of them are soooo politically popular. We can raise everyone's taxes by about 80% to cover the cost, or we can massively cut benefits. Both of those options are sure to go over well.
 
The answer is not to cut funds but to raise revenues. Here are my ideas to generate some quick cash:

-White House Backyard Wrestling dvds
-Congressional football league
- Senate Subcommittee on the Judiciary Bikini Carwash
- Install solar panels on top of all federal buildings, sell electricity
- steal meat from the Washington DC Publix and sell it out of the trunk of your car at the liquor store
- Nancy Pelosi dunking booth
- "Most Dangerous Game"-style Guantanamo detainee hunt for highest taxpayers
- Charge $5 to pet one of those pandas at the DC zoo.
- Use nation's top identity thieves to steal another country's identity and open some credit cards in their name
- Marine Corps Band candy sales drive
- Supreme Court bake sale (I hear Kagan makes some killer challah!)
- Enter the international cockfighting arena using genetically engineered super-mutant fighting roosters

These are just a few of the ideas I have. Vote Tapp in 2024!
 
Eliminate most subsidies for agro, energy and the like.

To raise money switch to income proportionate fines (with a floor amount set). This way fines are a greater deterrent for those who can easily pay, and both federal and state get more money.
 
Corn subsidies.

Subsidizing corn has a lot of pernicious effects - it's fed to cows, who are kept in pens rather than grazing on their natural feed (grass), who then get sick, and who then are shot up with anti-biotics, all the while creating massive concentrations of cow dung that is toxic and useless because it doesn't fertilize land like it would if the cows were grazing naturally.
 
This is a great question. No immediate answer.

How about this variation? What if we instituted personal earmarks? That is, you as an individual would be responsible for your regular tax liability, but you could decide where your tax dollars went. So, if you only wanted to fund defense spending and border control, you could check defense spending and border control 100 percent. If you really felt strongly that your tax dollars ought to go to subsidizing Planned Parenthood facilities, then you could send a big chunk of your money in that direction. In fact, I think it would actually over-fund some of the most controversial and offensive (to conservatives) "liberal" government programs like that and money for the arts, etc.

How about that for a plan?
 
_B_- not to mention making high fructose corn syrup ubiquitous and cheap. There's something fundamentally wrong about the fact that you can get a double cheeseburger for cheaper than you can buy a head of organic lettuce.
 
KG-- I suppose I was viewing social security as a separate issue, but I realize it is related. I think we need to address that on the benefit side.

Waco Farmer-- Major cop out! Your plan is ridiculous. You would end up with a government that did abortions and invasions, for the most part. But, I think you knew that. Seriously... what would you do?
 
Justin,

Exactly.
 
Cut back military spending, completely end the two wars we are in, for starters. Then, end some the pricier military programs we have planned, which Sec. Gates has done a good job of.

Use that money to reduce our national debt.

Set spending caps for Congress on discrete areas of spending, where they simply can't spend more than what was capped unless they have bicameralism and presentment.

Basically, austerity.
 
Personal Inome Flat tax - with no credits, deductions allowed...ever. Congress would be simply tasked with setting a rate.
This would drastically reduce the size of the IRS except for auditors who are tasked with making sure people report all of their income.

I would also end many subsidies and tax breaks for many businesses from oil, farming, and solar power absent an identifiable need for security. (We should always have manufacturing capability and the ability to grown our own food in the case of war even if it means we have to subsidize some industry,though not to the extent we currently do) Use some of that money to fund research and advancements through universities so that the costs of these industries come down rather than giving them an incentive to keep the status quo.

Reduce the military drastically size wise over the course of a number of years. This limits your expeditures for things like veterans benefits etc as well.

reconfigure entitlement programs. Unemployment and such should be returned to Clinton/Gingrich levels to start then reduced further. SS should be reduced and limited to people who actually need it. I'm fine paying out for people who have worked their entire lives and live on fixed income as elderly members of society (but not everyone else who draws SS).

Rather than creating insurance exchanges for the general populace, reduce the costs of insurance for doctors with exchanges for them and make cost reductions in health care mandatory.

Legalize Marijuana and tax the hell out of it to pay for drug interdiction on drugs like cocaine and heroin, in addition to drug rehab.

Limit college scholarships/grants/loans to people who do a year of military service or non-profit work (ala Habitat). Eliminate the Department of Education and return the money to the states.

All open for debate!
 
Legalize Marijuana and tax it heavily. Legalize opiates and uppers, but with severe restrictions, and use part of the taxes to fund rehab programs. This would solve major problems in Mexico, Afganistan, and South America by taking the profits out of the drug trade. This would also reduce the border problems by a large factor - just concentrating on illegal aliens would be a huge drop in funding. This would also kill the DEA and return drug use control to the medical field where it belongs.

End subsidies on agriculture. Ethanol is a huge boondoggle - uses more oil to produce that it saves.

Limit the entitlement programs - no one on welfare, etc., should be allowed to have children until they have been self supporting for at least 2 years. This would in about 15 years eliminate the underclass, break the poverty cycle, and reduce health costs, housing subsidies, education costs, and a myriad of other programs that are self-perpetuating. We have 5 year contraceptive implants, reversable vasectomys, safe abortion, and many other ways this could be done relatively cheaply.

Simply reducing the drag on the economy of the drug wars. would be huge.

Yes, I know that these would be unpopular in many quarters, but effective. We are on the edge of the Roman disaster - a permanent underclass that has discovered they can vote 'bread and circuses' and make those who are productive pay for their lifestyle.

This would free up funds for those who need help through no fault of their own - living children, the disabled, veterans, etc.

Lee

Raising taxes is a mistake - just penalizes those who make the economy go.

Social Security could be reduced by raising the retirement age and implementing better choices for hospice and pallitive care at the end of life instead of insisting on the latest and most expensive treatments for little gain in quality of life.

Lee
 
was this a joke?

"Limit the entitlement programs - no one on welfare, etc., should be allowed to have children until they have been self supporting for at least 2 years. This would in about 15 years eliminate the underclass, break the poverty cycle, and reduce health costs, housing subsidies, education costs, and a myriad of other programs that are self-perpetuating. We have 5 year contraceptive implants, reversable vasectomys, safe abortion, and many other ways this could be done relatively cheaply."
 
Mark--

Actually my cop out was fairly sincere. I know this idea must be impractical or someone smart would propose it. However, it continues to make sense to me.

Individual cuts are tough because every program has some sort of rationale and helps somebody. What we need most likely is an incremental plan to make across-the-board cuts to bring our expenditures back in line with our income.

If you have to pin medown, though, I suppose I would cut out federal spending on education.
 
WF-

Who is going to vote for their money to go to support the IRS or TSA? It would be a pretty bizarre government.

Plus, I'm still shocked that you wouldn't get rid of more-- am I secretly more conservative than you are?
 
RRL - no joke, just a bit of devil's advocacy. Truly, we have to do something drastic - see the rest of the comment about bread and circuses. The reliance on welfare has led to an entitlement mentality - 'I can refuse to work, have as many kids as I want, and be supported.' Something has to be done to break the cycle, and all the years of War on Poverty have proven ineffective. Maybe it's time for the stick instead of the carrot.

Illegal aliens don't seem to have a problem finding jobs - why shouldn't we force citizens to take them as well?

Lee
 
FIRST, GET RID OF OBAMA. FIRING HIM WILL SAVE $400,000/YEAR. SECOND, END ALL THE WELFARE WITH THE VOUCHERS AND FREE CHEESE AND LUNCHES. THIRD, THERE SHOULD BE FINES OVER $500,000 FOR FLAG BURNING. FOURTH, NO MORE WELFARE. FIFTH, MAKE THE ASTRONAUTS DO SOME KIND OF JOB WHILE THEY ARE IN SPACE, IT LOOKS LIKE THEY MOSTLY JUST GOOF OFF. SIXTH, THERE MUST BE A WAY TO USE PETS TO GENERATE ENERGY WHICH THE GOVERNMENT COULD SELL. SEVENTH, GET RID OF SURVEILLANCE OF CITIZENS THROUGH THE USE OF MOBILE DENTAL EQUIPMENT IN VANS. EIGHTH, MAKE THE PEOPLE WHO ARE IN PRISON MAKE THE MOVIES INSTEAD OF THOSE CALIFORNIA PEOPLE WHO JUST LIVE OFF GOVERNMENT MONEY.

THANK YOU.
 
Man, Lee is a hardcore dude. He wants to cut spending so badly that he is willing to give the government control over whether or not you can have children through some kind of forced sterilization program. Seriously. I couldn't disagree more with this idea, but I think Lee is pretty baller for being willing to put forth a pro-eugenics position in 2010. Crazy takes guts.

I would get rid of the Department of Education. I would simplify the tax code (flat tax is fine, or just lower marginal rates combined with fewer loopholes and exemptions, requiring less oversight) and then fire about half the people at the IRS (who if you've ever worked on a tax case you're aware are complete morons). Cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, further cuts in welfare, I'm all for it. I'm also for ending basically all forms of corporate welfare, subsidies, etc. I would also be all for reductions in military spending, but it must be done as a non-political venture driven by the needs as articulated by those with the most knowledge.

Basically I'm for cutting everything. No government program should be safe, and the overriding principle should be to eliminate waste and inefficiency wherever it can be located.

Oh, and one thing that I think should be done now is that we should largely if not completely eliminate whatever budget it is that funds the huge White House staff, and all those parties, and vacations, and vacation homes. This has bothered me forever. It just all stinks of royalty, and I'm out on that. And I think it is unseemly and wrong for American citizens to watch our president at some black tie formal gala when they can't get a job. Is it more symbolic than anything? Yes. It wouldn't save that much. But I think it is an important point about our government, which is that our government should strive to be as far away from the Marie Antoinette model as possible.
 
I endorse most of RRL's program.

In re the pageantry of the presidency, I am conflicted. But I am definitely for a trim at the very least.

FTR, the last president who tried a little Jeffersonian simplicity was Jimmy Carter. Add that to his list of things for which he doesn't get enough credit.
 
Annual State Dept. Budget: $50 Billion
Annual DOD Budget: $600 Billion

Not only does this explain, in part, why US foreign policy has been so unsuccessful over the last few decades, but it lends credence to Prof. Osler's call to reduce military spending.

I believe strongly in the government's responsibility to provide for the national defense. In fact, I tend to think that defense should remain a top priority for the federal government. I also think, however, that a proactive defense should aim (pardon the pun) for longterm global stabilization--achieved primarily through diplomacy. To suggest that we can simply stay the course, with two hot wars and the threat of a nuclear Iran/N. Korea, is myopic at best.
 
I'm an Obama Democrat, but I wouldn't be so quick to cut military spending. Geo-political affairs, after all, are ultimately a game for resources---always have been, always will be.

It is a fact that China et. al's economic power is rapidly withering away American power; the only check we have on them now (since the Bush administration squandered our moral standing) is military deterrence---it's quite an irony that a Democratic administration must rely on military might to maintain American influence because a Republican administration spent us into oblivion, relying on Chinese credit and thus destroying our economic influence.

I don't want an American empire, but I do think that, relatively speaking (NOT American exceptionalism speaking), the United States has a bit more---still---moral standing than say, the Chinese. Our presence in Africa, for instance, is still overwhelmingly humanitarian and security related. The Chinese presence there is wholly exploitative of their ascendancy to become the unipolar superpower. We've done that in the past, but we're getting better. Of course, that is part of the allure of a sort of nation-state dialectical materialism---to quote the brilliant writers of Battlestar Galactica, "all of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again."
 
THIS IS AN OUTRAGE.

STOP ALL SPENDING-TYPE PROGRAMS ALTOGETHER, EXCEPT FOR THE MILITARY, AND EVEN THAT SHOULD FOCUS ONLY ON NUKING LAANE AND RLL AND THEIR STUPID HIPPIE FRIENDS.

GIVE LOTS OF MONEY TO EVERYONE WHO EVER VOTED REPUBLICAN, BECAUSE WE WANTED THIS SMALL-GOVERNMENT TYPE THINGY ANYWAY, SO WE SHOULD GET PAID. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DO A GOOD THING.

OH YEAH! HAVE THE TEA PARTY BECOME A BRANCH OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AS AN ADDITIONAL "BALANCER" SO THAT NOTHING WILL EVER GET DONE UNLESS PEOPLE WHO ARE ANGRY ABOUT NOTHING IN PARTICULAR WANT IT. AND IT SHOULD START SELLING REAL TEA, TOO.

OBAMA IS A MUSLIM EVIL INDONESIAN SOCIALIST!!!1!

--ALL CAPS GUY
 
Farm subsidies!

I agree with military cut backs but not now. One thing needs to happen first. The economy and job mark need to improve before you cut the size of the military.

These Americans are currently employed and will be hard pressed to enter the workforce if unemployment is still at its current level.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Okay I posted and then I read.

Did you know they renamed high fructose corn syrup a couple weeks ago. It is now Corn Sugar. The fact is, it is in too much of our food supply and people consume too much of it in their daily diet. If we cut corn sugar from food then perhaps we would cut medical costs.
 
-Kill farm subsidies. The family farmer is just about a thing of the past. And the ones that still exist are not benefiting from the Federal money.
-Get real about Social Security by a) raising the retirement benefits age to 70. You can retire early if you save, but you don't get the money from the Feds unless you're disabled or you turn 70; b) raising the maximum contribution. I forget the number, but after you get paid a certain amount each year, the Feds stop taking a cut for Social Security.
-Get real about Medicare. How, I am not sure, I admit. But there should be some means testing and again, a raise in the age where one becomes eligible.

-I'm not a fan of cutting military power, but killing the procurement system is an EXCELLENT idea. The defense contractors have spread their employment centers into as many Congressional districts as possible.

-Get rid of the corporate tax structure that encourages investment overseas as opposed to here.
 
IP - the SS max amount you pay in is around $6600.
However if we eliminated ALL credits, deductions, and instituted a flat tax, we wouldn't have to worry about SS separately from all other income. It would just account for a percentage of each year's budget.

RRL would you be in favor of would-be parents obtaining licenses before they were allowed to have kids?
 
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