Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Modest Proposal - Errata

Note:  The first three parts of this diatribe should be read first.

OK, now that we've cropped big chunks out of the federal budget by cutting the military and making changes to Social Security and healthcare spending, let's look at the smaller parts of the budget that could use pruning.  At this point, we're taking small bites, but it adds up.

First, lets look at the agencies that I think should be totally removed from the budget.  In other words, these federal agencies have failed so badly that I don't believe that it's worth spending a red cent on them:

  • Education - Educating our children is not a federal matter.  The educational success of the average American student has cratered since this department has created in 1979.  The individual states know that if they want to compete with not only each other, but also foreign locations, for 21st century industries, they need to provide good  education, and will finance education from their own funds accordingly.  The federal government should get out of states business.
  • Department of Veteran's Affairs - The functions of this cabinet level department would be put back under the Department of Defense, where it belongs.  Let today's soldiers look after the interests of yesterday's soldiers, and eliminate redundant staff.
  • The Corporation for Public Broadcasting - I listen to NPR.  I watch PBS.  BooBoo and I watch Sesame Street together.  I contribute to my local NPR and PBS affiliates, and would up my contribution if I knew that my tax dollars weren't being used to finance it.  I don't think that my preferences for media should be financed by other people's tax money.  If the CPB were to lose federal funding, something tells me that Elmo, Big Bird, and Cartalk would be OK.
  • Drug Enforcement Agency - The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 needs to be repealed.  If the states want to regulate what intoxicants may be consumed within their borders, and by whom, that's up to them. The "War on Drugs" is an expensive endeavor that's continued since before I was born, and there are more drugs on the streets of America than there were during the days of the flower children.  Get rid of this useless law, and disband the federal agency that has tried in vain to enforce it. 
Now for the agencies and activities that I think could be changed or pared down:
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms - This agency will go back to what it was designed to do:  issue licenses, check paperwork, and collect taxes.  It will be moved under the Department of the Treasury.  When it finds evidence of a crime, it will refer the matter to a real law enforcement agency - The Secret Service. 
  • While we're on that subject, there will be three federal law enforcement agencies  - The Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Secret Service, and the Federal Marshals.  Everyone else gets to turn in their badges and guns.  If a crime is found by someone in government, they can go to the real cops. All the "investigators" and "operators" in other areas of the federal government get walking papers.
  • Departments of Energy and Transportation - All of the "green" research money that's been funneled to these agencies is cancelled.  If windmills, coal-powered automobiles, and solar films are such good ideas, someone in the private sector will find a way to make them efficient and economic without government funding. 
  • Additionally, the part of the Transportation budget that deals with interstate highways will be gone through with a fine toothed comb.  Hawaii, I'm sorry, but you can't drive to the main land.  You don't get an interstate.  Alaska, you get to make an argument as to why you get to keep your funding, but it better be good.  As for the lower 48, here's a hint:  A four lane road that connects two interstates within the borders of a state is not an interstate, no matter how you number it, and the federal government is not going to pay for it anymore. 
  • College Education - In addition to getting rid of the Department of Education, the Pell Grant and Federal Student Loan programs are going to be changed and reduced.  First, , what you can study and get federal aid for will be changed.  As much as I like reading English literature, our country doesn't need more English majors.  We need doctors, teachers, engineers, and a whole bunch of other professionals whose education didn't amount to four plus years of navel gazing.  Only those studies that have a concrete benefit to the interests of the country will be subsidized by the American people.   Students can still major in Literature or whatever else they want, but they will have to find another way to finance their studies. 
  • On that note, who qualifies for student aid will change.  Using the G.I. Bill as a template, several years of low-paid public service will be mandatory before receiving a Pell Grant or federally subsidized student loan.  Prospective students won't have to join the military.  Positions cleaning highways, picking up and maintaining parks, and working at the bottom rung of federal agencies for 4 to 5 years will work.  But those who want to join the military will have to serve fewer years to gain the same benefits.  Participation will be available to any citizen who wants to sign up, regardless of disability.  Participation will not be mandatory.  Students can go straight from high school to college, but they will do it without public financing.  The plus of this is that less money will be spent in college by 18 year olds who have no clue what he wants to do when they grow up, and the country will benefit from having fewer marketing, communications, and business majors graduate and demand top salaries.  Also, the services provided by these minimum-wage earning volunteers will save money when unionized government workers are shown the door.
  • Transportation Security Adminstration - The TSA screeners at the airports, bus stations, train stations, and the Applachian Trail get to go back to whatever they were doing before they hit the lottery and got a government job.  The individual airlines and such will pay for security again, but will do so while meeting standards established and enforced by the TSA.
  • The law will be changed so that members of Congress and the President will not be paid until the budget is passed, and will not be paid at all if the federal government runs a deficit unless there is a declared war.  In addition, no living or travel expenses for the Congress will be paid by the government.  If a congresswoman wants to live in a multi-million dollar condo in Georgetown and fly home every weekend, it's on her own dime.  These two won't save much money, comparatively, but they will light a fire under Congress to get their business done, be smart about spending, and go the heck home.
So that's it.  We've cut the military by resizing it to meet reduced requirements, changed Social Security and healthcare to save money, and cut a few of the more nickel and dime costs out of the budget.  I'm sure I've slaughtered a few sacred cows, but we just flat can't keep going the way we have been since the 1960's.  We've been trying to have guns and butter at the same time since before I was born, and no-one has learned that this is impossible to maintain.  We will cut our spending.  The question is whether or not we have the guts to do take the pain of doing it ourselves or wait until the rug is pulled from beneath us.

I'm curious to hear y'all's ideas on this.  What you agree with, what you disagree with, and what you think I've forgotten to include.


Ruth said...

I think its better thought out than the one the government is putting out......

bluesun said...

Soo... when are you announcing your bid for 2012? I see a much more comprehensive platform here than any other candidate.

MrG's said...

Very good post;)

DaddyBear said...

Thanks Guys. These have been rumbling around in my head since Christmas or so, and the news lately got them to finally form properly.

And I'm not running for office. I'm more of the invisible puppetmaster type. }:-)

Shepherd K said...

I have no major points of quibble to offer. I would suggest that everyone of the over 400 federal departments, agencies, etc. needs to be reviewed for necessity and constitutionality. It seems to me we should be able to get by just fine with less than 100 and probably less than 50 (DOD, State, Treasury, Justice, Transportation, Commerce, to name a few).

You do still need to address the second half of the equation though. Without tax reform of some kind, this mess is just going to continue imploding. The current system generates a little over 2 trillion in revenue with the most byzantine tax code ever devised which is neither "progressive" nor "fair" by anyone's definition. No tax scheme is perfect, but there has to be a way to approach the problem that doesn't involve social engineering or blatant violations of the equal protection clause.

DaddyBear said...

Good point Shepherd. It's likely that a lot of the things that the federal government do are either unnecessary, not a federal matter, or unconstitutional in one way or another. However, I could probably write a tome detailing them. I'll leave it as you said it "reviewed for necessity and constitutionality." Dan Carlin discussed a good idea on a recent podcast where each and every government agency started each fiscal year with $0 funding, and had to re-justify its existence and funding level.

As for the tax code, I like the idea of either a flat tax or dropping income tax entirely and moving to a federal usage tax. But to be honest, I'm still low on the learning curve on how they would be implemented that I hesitate to discuss them here and unmask my ignorance.

Shepherd K said...

By the looks of things, your ignorance would be a helluva lot better than Congress' "expertise"

perlhaqr said...

Interim tax idea:

Bump everyone one tax grade, take the current breakpoints for percent increases, and move them up the next notch. Create a new tax bracket for the next step, with the range it applies to calculated proportionally relative to the lower tax brackets.

Allow people to deduct business expenses. If they're business expenses, they aren't income.

Eliminate every other social engineering purpose "loophole" in the tax code.

Require the new congressional budget rules to allocate 5% of that budget to paying of the principal of the national debt, not merely servicing the interest.

That gives us 20 years to figure out a new tax code, and also pays off the national debt.

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