Friday, February 18, 2011

Cutting doesn't have to be complicated

Cutting the federal budget is a complicated project - so complicated that our President isn't even attempting it.

There are many long, well-written posts out there about what strategy to adopt, how much cutting is appropiate and how to balance the needs of our nation.

This isn't one of them. It's much more simplistic.

Cut the entire Department of Homeland Security - all of it. That would be a savings of more than $37 billion, instead of the proposed increase it's getting.

No, that's not a huge portion of the budget. I understand that, but waste is waste and if you want more painless targets, how about cutting the TSA budget back to what it was a decade ago and putting Bruce Schneier in charge? How about closing down the Department of Agriculture? How about eliminating the U.S. Department of Education and redirecting half of the money to the state education departments and pocketing the rest? In all of these, we save money and lose nothing.

It's true, the real cuts need to come from non-discretionary spending like Medicare and Social Security and our military spending needs a Civil War-style battlefield amputation, but in the meantime we should make the minor cuts we can.


  1. Wow. Cut the Department of Agriculture? DHS? DOE? I realize the federal bureaucracy has its issues, but cutting entire departments is just plain ridiculous. These departments have many important functions that can only be handled by the federal government. You are oversimplifying the issue by thinking the answer is delegate all the power of these cabinets to the states. State governments just can't be expected to be handed a pile of responsibilities and a wod of cash.

    And you correctly point out that the real crux of the issue is not discretionary spending. How about social security or medicare/medicaid reform? How about drastic cuts in defense spending? How about no more unilateral nation building in the middle east? This is what is driving up the federal deficit/national debt, not the DoEd, DOA or even DHS.

    What about cost controls on health care in Medicaid/Medicare? That would save a ton of money. However, the first mention of cost control and conservatives make a fuss. In fact, the lack of cost controls is the only way major health care bills have been able to pass at both the state and national level. My personal opinion is that if you are not serious about some way of reducing overall health care costs, then you are not yet serious about the deficit/debt... because health care costs (and social security) is the single largest threat to our overall fiscal security.

  2. "our military spending needs a Civil War-style battlefield amputation"

    Tee hee!

  3. Health care cost controls? Health care cost controls are part of what has made medical technology and drugs so expensive. The only place in the world left to get a return on billions in R&D is the US.

    Cost controls here would drive research into extinction. Why develop new things at a tremendous cost when there is no money to be made afterwords?

  4. I hesitate to post this because I don't want to come off as a fawning Michael fanboy...but when you agree with someone...
    So here goes,
    Hartwell for president 2012

  5. Anon, you're right that this is just the low-hanging fruit. The real cuts will require major trade-offs. This is just a short list of cuts without tradeoffs. I didn't mention DHS, but as for the Department of Education, if we lost the federal department we would lose:

    Teaching to the test
    No Child Left Behind
    Federal guidance

    Losing those things would be a benefit, not a cost.

    And Abner, thank you for the kind words, but I won't be old enough to qualify until 2015.

  6. ...if we lost the federal department (of Education) we would lose:

    - The current system for establishing policies on federal financial aid for education, and distributing as well as monitoring those funds.

    - National mechanisms for collecting data on America's schools and disseminating research.

    - The federal promotion of fitness and healthy eating for school kids.

    - Leveraging national resources to ensure schools have access to healthier foods. ( and more significant promotion of physical activity to combat obesity.

    - The means to disseminate vaccines and continuity of operations plans during epidemics such as H1N1.

    And is Federal Guidance so bad? I mean, without Federal guidance every school in Texas would be teaching creationism in biology class. Or if they are already, we'd be removing the means to change that.

    Don't get me wrong, you know that I know that things need to change, especially "No Child Left Behind," Standards testing, etc... But I don't think completely aborting the dept. of Ed is the way to go.

  7. oops... I neglected to delete the redundancy on fitness/food.

  8. I can see vaccines and other medical operations finding another way in. Same goes for data collection. As for creationism, I don't think it would change a thing.

    I don't see much success through the programs that try stop childhood obesity and clean up school lunches. I don't think the federal ones are working. I can't see anything to say depends on federal support, as it involves a lot of Maine-based organizations.

  9. Perhaps - but it's not enough to simply slash it. There are important roles that are being filled by the Dept of Ed. and a good plan would either actively seek out and establish alternatives or maintain the aspects that work - not cut it off and hope for the best.