Waste not, want not: There always is room for budget cuts

For a second there, I thought I imagined that Nancy Pelosi said this – that there are “no more cuts to make” to federal spending.

But sure enough, there she was, the House minority leader, on CNN on Sept. 22, chatting with Candy Crowley about why President Obama shouldn’t negotiate about the debt ceiling.

And why is that exactly?

“Because the cupboard is bare. There’s no more cuts to make,” Pelosi said. “It’s really important that people understand that. We all want to reduce the deficit.”

Well. You’ll have to pardon me if I don’t completely believe the word of a person who, during her days as House speaker, was known for spending nearly $3,000 on fresh flowers for her office during a particular four-month span, and almost as much on bottled water.

But it’s not just her. It’s pretty much every member of Congress, submitting these kind of expenditures that just seem nickel-and-dime only because they’re too often viewed in comparison to our massive $16-plus-trillion debt.

I don’t know how it is with you, but at my house, $3,000 means something.

No more cuts to make? Really?

It may seem that way. The Wall Street Journal a while back set up a neat “Make Your Own Deficit-Reduction Plan” feature on its website that allowed visitors to take their own stabs at cutting the budget. This was when the whole “fiscal cliff” thing started looming.

The biggest, quickest fixes involved raising taxes – but who wants to do that? There were spending-cut options, too, but you’d look at the list – items such as reducing military pay or jacking up the retirement age – and think: I can’t cut that.

So what’s left? Eliminating waste. It’s one of the toughest things to do, kind of like cleaning the hard-to-reach nooks and crannies of your house.

But it can be done.

Just visit Dallas. There’s a warehouse there that costs the federal government $3.5 million a year to manage and lease. What does it contain? About 5,700 pieces of airport security equipment – worth $184 million – that the Transportation Security Administration doesn’t even use. And since a lot of that equipment has been sitting around for a while, tack on another $23 million in depreciation costs.

Just look in your wallet. Got any dollar bills in there? Turns out they cost a lot to make, and they wear out quickly. If America switched to $1 coins, it could save – according to one analysis – $13.8 billion over 30 years.

Just look at the fiscal-cliff compromise that President Obama quickly signed into law in January. It was packed with porkbarrel items – like a $59 million tax credit for farmers to encourage production of biofuel made from algae. Before you think repurposing green goo is the key to defeating Big Oil, you should know that just the cost of making the stuff, by one estimate, is between $240 and $332 per barrel. Sound cost-efficient to you?

Just look at Afghanistan. We’re scheduled to leave by the end of next year – and when we do, reported The Washington Post, we’re leaving behind more than $7 billion in military equipment that, as you read this, is being torn apart to be sold as scrap.

Just look at scientific research. I mean, not all of it. I have two kids at home itching to become scientists when they grow up, and I have enough friends and relatives in scientific fields to appreciate how their work immeasurably
improves our lives.

But golf? That’s one of the studies that $350,000 of your tax dollars funded – joint research by the National Science Foundation and Purdue University to determine (I am not making this up) that golfers who imagine that the hole is bigger raise their confidence and accuracy when putting.

Not exactly a cure for cancer, is it?

Here’s whom we need right now – Murray.

Remember that movie Dave? Kevin Kline played an ordinary guy pressed into service to impersonate the president. Fun movie. In one scene, he sneaks Murray, an accountant friend of his, into the White House, and overnight they trim $650 million from the federal budget to save a homeless shelter from being defunded.

Send a Murray – an army of Murrays – to Washington, D.C., to ferret out government waste. Supposedly we already have the Office of Management and Budget, and the Government Accountability Office, and something like 73 inspectors general spread across federal agencies whose job it is to pinpoint bloated expenditures.

How’s that working?

Apparently at the level of efficiency we’ve come to expect from our federal government.

More

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 23:05

And the award begrudgingly goes to …

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 11:13

Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon