WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 25, 2013 – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday that Republican efforts to rein in government spending are pointless because there is nothing left to cut in the almost $4 trillion-per-year- federal budget.
“The cupboard is bare,” said Pelosi. “There’s no more cuts to make. It’s really important that people understand that. We cannot have cuts just for the sake of cuts.”
First, the cupboard is indeed bare, but not in the way Pelosi means. Americans’ cupboards, where they keep food and savings and dreams for the future, are running close to bare because more and more of our resources are going to finance programs that just “can’t” be cut.
Indeed, since 2001, federal spending has increased from $1.9 trillion per year to $3.8 trillion this year.
It’s not all cuttable. But after careful consideration, experts at the Competitive Enterprise Institute did want to suggest a few areas where cuts can be made, not “just for the sake of cuts,” but for the sake of American taxpayers.
The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: EERE provides training, funding and resources for “business, industry, universities and others” who want to “increase the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.” Perhaps, as Americans everywhere tighten their belts, we can consider downsizing EERE. Current Cost: $934 million
Crop insurance: This program, which provides free catastrophic insurance to farmers, has been lambasted for doling out most of its benefits to wealthy landowners such as the Rockefeller family and former basketball star Scottie Pippen. Just a 15 percent reduction in subsidies to farmers with adjusted gross incomes of more than $750,000 would save $1.2 billion. Capping payouts could save a great deal more. Current Cost: $9 billion
Amtrak: The nation’s federally funded passenger rail service has never turned a profit. In fact, some routes are so unprofitable that extra passengers actually increase the losses. With privatization, the federal government would presumably sell its preferred shares for some non-zero price, thereby improving the federal fiscal position by 1) ending annual grants, and 2) pocketing the proceeds from the share sale. Current Cost: $1.3 billion in 2013 after the sequester
Medicare for the wealthy: Better means testing for Medicare enrollees could save billions. Current cost: Total Medicare budget is $560 billion
International Trade Administration: ITA subsidizes U.S. businesses who export goods abroad and prevents affordable foreign-manufactured goods from being imported. Current Cost: $463 million
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: This product of the Dodd-Frank Act is perhaps government’s most unaccountable agency. Its budget is not controlled by Congress, and its director, once confirmed by the Senate, cannot be removed. A lawsuit challenging its constitutionality claims it has attempted to collect attorney-client protected material, overreached in its demands for, and mining of, Americans’ personal financial information and attempted to regulate the practice of law – a function reserved for state bars. Current Cost: $497 million
Office of the First Spouse: As Reason’s Nick Gillespie recently pointed out, more than two-dozen people, all paid handsomely by taxpayers, currently assist the First Lady with her public appearances and help carry out social and ceremonial events at the White House. If we can’t afford White House tours, how can we pay for this? Current Cost: ?
Federal official time: This is the practice of having employees spend all or part of their workday performing union activities. The EPA has 22 employees who make more than $100,000 per year but do nothing on their jobs but union work. Current Cost: $156 million
Ethanol mandate: The mandate, which requires gasoline to contain set percentages of ethanol, consumes 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop for a fuel that uses almost as much energy to produce as it provides. Current Cost: ?
Economic Development Administration: The EDA picks winners and losers badly, selecting grant recipients by industry, region and locality. Its grants regularly must be enforced with even more funding grants. Current Cost: $286 million
Federal propaganda to get us to eat and drink healthier: The Centers for Disease Control has spent considerable dollars lobbying and advertising against reform of liquor laws in Pennsylvania—a state matter over which CDC should have no control. And a $12.5 million slush fund for future campaigns along these lines was created as part of the Obamacare law. Current Cost: ?
Airport improvement grants: A federal grant program that funds improvements to runways, taxiways, ramps, lighting and other areas, this program uses federal money for what should be local projects. Current Cost: $2.2 billion
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