A New Year's Resolution on Spending Cuts the Federal Government Could Keep

January 7, 2014

The new year is a time to make resolutions to improve your life over the next 12 months. The problem is that people often try to make massive, sweeping changes -- a tactic more likely to yield failure and frustration than success. It is better to make smaller promises that you know you can keep than major ones that are doomed to fail. The same principle is true for the federal government, says Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center.

De Rugy proposes three resolutions for fiscal responsibility that could actually receive enough support to be enacted quickly, and would be beneficial for taxpayers and the economy alike.

  • End all farm subsidies. In 2012, the Department of Agriculture spent $22 billion on subsidy programs for farmers, including direct payments and insurance subsidies. First introduced in the 1930s to help struggling small family farms, they are now viewed by many on the Right and the Left as the quintessential example of wasteful corporate welfare. While only 2 percent of Americans are directly engaged in farming, they aren't necessarily struggling anymore. In 2010, the average farm household earned $84,400, up 9.4 percent from 2009 and about 25 percent more than the average household income nationwide.
  • Eliminate duplication. In April, a Government Accountability Office report, once again, exposed 162 areas where agencies are duplicating efforts at a cost of billions of dollars to taxpayers. For instance, it found 23 different federal agencies running hundreds of programs to support renewable energy, and that each branch of the armed services is developing its own camouflage uniforms without checking in with the other branches. The overall cost is unknown, but it is likely large. The administration's budget requested some $25 billion in savings in fiscal 2014 from consolidation alone. That would amount to a nice stack of savings over 10 years.
  • Cut non-defense defense spending. A report by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., called "The Department of Everything" identifies almost $70 billion over 10 years in wasteful spending that can be eliminated "without cutting any Army brigade combat teams, Navy combat ships, or Air Force fighter squadrons." Examples include eliminating the $9 billion spent for Pentagon-run grocery stores, and the $10.7 billion it spends to educate children of military families in the United States when these kids already have the option of attending public schools.

If Congress can successfully accomplish these tiny things, it could create the critically needed momentum to start working on the much more difficult tasks that this nation faces.

Source: Veronique de Rugy, "A New Year's Resolution on Spending Cuts the Federal Government Could Keep," Washington Examiner, January 2, 2014.

 

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