In the last two years, spending by the current Congress has increased 21.4 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The question thrown in the face of tea party activists and other conservative Republicans when they talk of cutting spending is, “Where would you cut?”
It’s a loaded question, of course, and those who ask it follow it up with vitriolic assertions that any cuts will mean that children will go hungry, the elderly will be evicted from nursing homes and the federal government will be forced to close, meaning no more Social Security checks. This is precisely the approach taken in 1995 when the Clinton administration set a trap for the new Republican congressional majority and shut down the government, sending Republicans into a hasty retreat, from which they and their proposed spending cuts never fully recovered.
Everyone knows Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid must be reformed, but Democrats want to maintain control, so they won’t do what is necessary to fix these massive entitlement programs. So, where to cut?
Rep. John Mica (R-Fl), ranking member on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has made a start. In a letter to me, Rep. Mica encloses a report by his committee’s minority staff with the clever title, “Sitting on Our Assets: The Federal Government’s Misuse of Taxpayer-Owned Assets.”
The report identifies “hundreds of billions of dollars in potential savings” through “improved management” of what the federal government owns. “If implemented,” says Rep. Mica, “the opportunities … have the potential to save up to approximately $250 billion.”
The problem is, and always has been, that once government programs and agencies are created, they quickly become sacrosanct and virtually impossible to destroy.
The entire report is available at http:// republicans.transportation.house.gov.
Additionally, a new House (and possibly Senate) majority ought to embarrass Democrats by exposing the number of government programs that no longer work (or never achieved their objectives) and then ask for a referendum from the public as to whether they want the money they earn to continue to go for such things. Republicans could also ask the private sector to submit proposals for projects it could do less expensively and more efficiently than government.
People who elect not to participate in government programs might be given a tax break. A new emphasis on healthy living (thank you Michelle Obama for emphasizing how overweight we are) would reduce the costs of health care and possibly lower the cost of health insurance, as well as reduce the number of hospital stays.
The public will likely accept these and other cost reductions if they can see results and if Republicans can persuade them that the cuts they’re making are in the public’s interest, and not in the interest of the GOP. That’s the challenge. Rep. Mica’s minority report offers one answer to the question “Where would you cut spending?” Get this right and there will be many others.
Cal Thomas writes for Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, N.Y. 14207. Readers may also e-mail Cal Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.