Putting Uncle Sam on a Diet

By Bob Shapiro

I have written several times that every Dollar that our government spends must come out of the private, productive sector of the US Economy. I have called for Balancing the Budget, setting a Dollar Limit on federal spending, and other measures to reduce government spending. The Heritage Foundation has put together a detailed plan for shrinking our federal government, outlining 106 specific proposals for cutting spending. Though there are some of their recommendations I do not agree with – they want to increase spending for the Department of Defense even though the US spends more than all other countries combined – there is a wealth of good ideas.

Please set aside some time to look at their proposals. I think you’ll be glad you did.

The Budget Book : 106 Ways to Reduce the Size and Scope of Government

Re-Blogged From http://www.heritage.org/

In addressing the challenges facing Congress in 2015, Jim DeMint, President of The Heritage Foundation, noted that “Americans expect more from their leaders than just tapping the brakes as we drive off a fiscal cliff.” Indeed.

The 114th Congress has an opportunity and obligation to stop Washington’s taxpayer-financed spending spree. Over the past 20 years, spending has grown 63 percent faster than inflation. Unless leaders emerge with the courage to change the nation’s course for the better, the future looks like more of the same as total annual spending will grow from $3.5 trillion in 2014 to $5.8 trillion in 2024.1

Congress is financing the profligate spending by increasing taxes and incurring stunning amounts of debt. In 2014, Congress borrowed 14 cents of every dollar it spent, totaling a half a trillion dollars. Even more alarming, the country just surpassed $18 trillion in cumulative national debt. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the country is projected to borrow another $9.6 trillion over the next 10 years.2

The Danger of Inaction

Every generation confronts a defining challenge by which it will be judged, and so does every Congress. To understand why controlling spending and debt is the signature challenge of the 114th, one must understand the consequences of inaction. In its long-term projections, the CBO warns3 that failure to get spending and debt under control include:

  • A Slower Economy. According to the CBO, inaction on federal spending and taxes means that in 25 years—just when today’s kids and their children are trying to make their way in the world—“gross national product in 2039 would be roughly 3 percent lower.”
  • A National Security Risk. In addition, the CBO notes that growing debt “could also compromise national security by constraining defense spending in times of international crises.”
  • Limitations in Responding to Unexpected Challenges. Finally, if Congress does not tackle spending and debt sooner rather than later, the CBO warns that policymakers’ ability “to respond to unexpected challenges, such as economic downturns or financial crises” is far more limited.

Can any Member of Congress, in good conscience, leave a nation under their stewardship with decreased economic vitality and at greater risk for national security or financial crises?

Of course not.

Where to Begin

As the Chinese philosopher Laozi noted, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” This compilation of recommendations is about single steps. In fact, it offers the 535 lawmakers holding the purse strings more than 100 ways to cut federal spending and reduce the size and scope of the federal government.

Much more needs to be done to address 2014’s federal spending of $3.5 trillion.4 But the recommendations in this report deal not just with dollars; they also address the size, scope, and character of the federal government.

When Congress actually eliminates wasteful programs or reins in runaway spending, it sends a powerful message. Like the relatively recent congressional ban on earmarks for pet projects like the “bridge to nowhere,” any move to cut federal spending tells Americans that Congress has the discipline to say “no” and act in the best interests of the nation—not just their own self-preservation. It says that individual Members of Congress have the courage to stare down the special interests, the cronyism of the powerful, and a Washington culture that thrives on handing out more federal dollars.

Eliminating or scaling back programs that constitute federal overreach also has far greater—but often unseen and unmeasured—economic benefits than the federal dollars saved. Whenever the federal role is downsized to return to its constitutional role, new economic opportunities are created for the private sector to innovate and fill needs based on market demand and competition. So many of the programs cited in this Budget Book do not just cost money, they actually distort and retard economic growth because they tilt the playing field toward vested interests and engage in tasks in which the federal government has no business. An example is the Export–Import Bank, which provides subsidized export financing primarily for the benefit of multinational corporations, while disadvantaging others.

Entitlements: The Ultimate Challenge

Almost half of all federal spending goes to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Clearly, any effort to rein in federal spending will absolutely require major reforms to these and other entitlement programs. Toward that end, The Heritage Foundation has written extensively on how to restructure Social Security5 and Medicare,6 and Medicaid,7 as well as the need to repeal Obamacare8 and replace it with market-based, patient-centered reforms.9

Entitlement reform involves complex and extensive policy changes that require far more explanation than this book’s format allows. Readers are


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