Friday, January 21, 2011

A Brief Moderate Review Of Conservative Budget Cut Proposals

Now that Republicans are in control of the House of Representatives, they are trying to exercise some muscle, first by "repealing" health care reform, and secondly b trying to reduce the size of government.

Here is a list of programs they wish to cut - I have highlighted the cuts to indicate which ones I believe should stay (green), go (red), or be raised/reduced (blue), followed by an explanation:

➢ Corporation for Public Broadcasting Subsidy. $445 million annual savings. ➢ Save America's Treasures Program. $25 million annual savings. 

It is obvious why the Public Broadcasting Subsidy is on the chopping block - Republicans desire a monopoly on the media an d desire to control the narrative through their conservative media allies, like Fox News.  Conservatives view public broadcasting to be liberally biased, and must therefor be eliminated.  I believe PBS to be generally moderate, offering very little of one may call "radical" ideology and is needed in today's society, especially with the divisive nature of partisan corporations engaging in media manipulation.  Also take into consideration that the majority of media is controlled by only a handful of corporations.

➢ International Fund for Ireland. $17 million annual savings. 

I think many of our overseas aid projects should be reconsidered, but I find the Republican's choice of Ireland to be interesting - while this list includes Ireland and Egypt, they fail to look at America's other financial relationships, like with oil-rich Saudi Arabia or Israel. 

As noted on another site, one-third of all U.S. foreign aid goes to Israel or Egypt, and neither is a "developing" country.  The selection of Ireland leads me to believe its selection was because of its recent public economic woes and the attention conservatives have given it to push their domestic agenda.

➢ Legal Services Corporation. $420 million annual savings.

This service is necessary, for eliminating legal aid to the underprivileged would only further exacerbate the exploitation of those people by those with the means to navigate the legal system.  I am reminded of Florida homeowners association legal battles - homeowners associations experience an unfair advantage in the legal system because they can draw cash from their membership while an individual homeowner may have to rely on charitable legal aid or their own savings, and in many instances, the HOA fights to have the homeowner pay their costs for arbitration or litigation.

➢ National Endowment for the Arts. $167.5 million annual savings. 

Republicans have it in for culture, unless it is Christian - just look at recent headlines where conservatives were upset about an art exhibit featuring a video of a crucifix being swarmed by ants.  I think that in a time of economic uncertainty, the budget for the NEA should be reduced but not totally eliminated.

➢ National Endowment for the Humanities. $167.5 million annual savings. 

Same as above.

➢ Hope VI Program. $250 million annual savings. 

I think this program is essential for urban revitalization, and I agree with some criticisms of the program, but I disagree with it being cut completely.

➢ Amtrak Subsidies. $1.565 billion annual savings. 

I believe America's mass transit system is in desperate need of some tender love and care, but I believe the Amtrak subsidies are necessary in maintaining transportation for now - I think Amtrak needs to be completely reworked to become more modern and more competitive, which is why I would support a reduction in expenditures.

➢ Eliminate duplicative education programs. H.R. 2274 (in last Congress), authored by Rep. McKeon, eliminates 68 at a savings of $1.3 billion annually. 

While I suppose the Republicans slipped this cut in the proposals as a way to weaken the Department of Education, I think this is wise, and duplicative programs should be eliminated across the entire federal government.

➢ U.S. Trade Development Agency. $55 million annual savings. 

The GOP wants to cut a program designed to develop American business interests?  Weren't the GOP pro-business last election?

➢ Woodrow Wilson Center Subsidy. $20 million annual savings. 

It is no secret conservatives have a new-found hatred for the early-20th century president (thanks to people like Glenn Beck).  Couple that hatred with their disinterest with education and you have this particular cut.

➢ Cut in half funding for congressional printing and binding. $47 million annual savings.

I agree, but I assume they came up with this after looking at congressional bills for printing and binding for last year, especially considering every Republican thought it was necessary to print out the health care reform bill in the most wasteful way possible.  
➢ John C. Stennis Center Subsidy. $430,000 annual savings. 

While I think the goals behind the center are admirable, I find it unnecessary.

➢ Community Development Fund. $4.5 billion annual savings.

In a time of economic turmoil, I think it is unwise to not maintain America's communities.  It is like not changing the oil in your car on the way to work because you would rather buy a CD to listen to on the way to work.

➢ Heritage Area Grants and Statutory Aid. $24 million annual savings. 

Couldn't really find much information on this particular item but considering the relatively low price tag I figured why not.

➢ Cut Federal Travel Budget in Half. $7.5 billion annual savings. 

I think this is a good idea but I think it is born from that stupid right-wing story about the administration spending over $200 million per day to send the president and his entourage to India.

➢ Trim Federal Vehicle Budget by 20%. $600 million annual savings. 

I think this would also be a very good idea and think it would force the federal government to make wiser vehicle purchases.

➢ Essential Air Service. $150 million annual savings. 

I think this service is important in maintaining rural communities, but considering the economic crunch, it should be reexamined.

➢ Technology Innovation Program. $70 million annual savings. 

And Republicans wonder why we lose jobs - especially information technology jobs - overseas. 

➢ Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Program. $125 million annual savings. 

Again, the GOP wants to elliminate funding for programs that are designed to help businesses?
➢ Department of Energy Grants to States for Weatherization. $530 million annual savings. 

A very good idea but could possibly be scaled down for now.

➢ Beach Replenishment. $95 million annual savings.

I recall an article - I think on one of Andrew Breitbart's propaganda sites - that complained regulation was hurting America's beach economies.  You know what hurts beach economies the most?  Not having a beach!

➢ New Starts Transit. $2 billion annual savings.

As stated above about America's infrastructure, I do not think now is the time to eliminate mass transit investments.  

➢ Exchange Programs for Alaska, Natives Native Hawaiians, and Their Historical Trading Partners in Massachusetts. $9 million annual savings

Couldn't really find much on these programs but considering the relatively small price tag and the numerous treaties we broke, I think it is a small price to pay.  I also think this program was chosen because it fits into the anti-welfare rhetoric the right is so fond of using.

➢ Intercity and High Speed Rail Grants. $2.5 billion annual savings.

Again - mass transit.
➢ Title X Family Planning. $318 million annual savings. 

This is just the right-wing religious base upset with the idea of "family planning," which if you couldn't tell from the health care debate, revolves around the belief that the government wants to kill your unborn babies.  With that being said, I think it would be okay to decrease expenditures temporarily.
➢ Appalachian Regional Commission. $76 million annual savings. 

Pro-business GOP want to cut programs designed to encourage economic growth?
➢ Economic Development Administration. $293 million annual savings.

See above.

➢ Programs under the National and Community Services Act. $1.15 billion annual savings. 

I think it is important to invest in our communities but I think this item can be reduced for now.

➢ Applied Research at Department of Energy. $1.27 billion annual savings. 

This is part of the GOP assault on science and is probably related to their numerous economic ties, like to multi-billion dollaroil companies.

➢ FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership. $200 million annual savings. 

The GOP don't believe in conservation or global warming, so why not kill a program designed to establish clean and sustainable transportation energy for the future, or do Republicans like complaining about the price of gas?

➢ Energy Star Program. $52 million annual savings. 

I think this program helps improve energy efficiency, which helps conserve resources, like oil.  Why would we want to do a thing like that?

➢ Economic Assistance to Egypt. $250 million annually. 

This I can see us cutting, but as stated way above, when will the GOP explore our nation's other relationships?

➢ U.S. Agency for International Development. $1.39 billion annual savings. 

I think this foreign aid program could see some reductions but not a complete elimination.

➢ General Assistance to District of Columbia. $210 million annual savings. 

I just don't think eliminating that much is a wise thing to do.

➢ Subsidy for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. $150 million annual savings.

Can you imagine what the right-wing media will say when a big rally takes place in the District of Columbia and the city grinds to a halt because they lack the funds to accomodate such crowds?  This is of course just one of many reasons as why this is a bad idea.

➢ Presidential Campaign Fund. $775 million savings over ten years. 

Because of the recent Citizens United case, I worry that eliminating this fund will help skew elections even further, with business interests winning in the end.

➢ No funding for federal office space acquisition. $864 million annual savings.

Republicans probably figured that if you do not allow funding for federal office space acquisition, the federal government cannot create new agencies, for there would be no place to put them.
➢ End prohibitions on competitive sourcing of government services.

I like the idea of competitive sourcing.

➢ Repeal the Davis-Bacon Act. More than $1 billion annually. 

I would think doing so would destabilize local job markets even further then they already are. 

➢ IRS Direct Deposit: Require the IRS to deposit fees for some services it offers (such as processing payment plans for taxpayers) to the Treasury, instead of allowing it to remain as part of its budget. $1.8 billion savings over ten years. 

If you don't allow deposit fees to remain as part of the IRS' budget, the IRS' budget would most likely increase, but then again, the Republicans don't want the IRS to have any more money because of the role they play in the implementation of the individual mandate for health care reform. 

➢ Require collection of unpaid taxes by federal employees. $1 billion total savings.

Great idea but I have the feeling this was motivated by news of some administration officials failing to pay taxes - an issue right-wing media love to obsess about.

➢ Prohibit taxpayer funded union activities by federal employees. $1.2 billion savings over ten years. 


➢ Sell excess federal properties the government does not make use of. $15 billion total savings. 

This is a great idea - not! 
Lets get rid off all property the government has and open it up for business development.  Does this mean federal parks, offices, historical landmarks?  Add this to the idea that the federal government should have no office space acquisition funding and you have a way to instantly shrink the size of government - literally.

➢ Eliminate death gratuity for Members of Congress. 


➢ Eliminate Mohair Subsidies. $1 million annual savings.

Out-dated legislation in need of elimination, although I do love me some mohair sweaters.

➢ Eliminate taxpayer subsidies to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. $12.5 million annual savings. 

Part of that conservative war on science, so this cut should be ignored.

➢ Eliminate Market Access Program. $200 million annual savings. 

Again, the GOP want to cut a program designed to aid businesses.  Go figure!

➢ USDA Sugar Program. $14 million annual savings.


➢ Subsidy to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). $93 million annual savings.

Pro-business platform rhetoric starting to sound like just political pillow talk.

➢ Eliminate the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program. $56.2 million annual savings.

I may have once agreed to this, but I have changed my mind when considering the numerous product recalls over the last couple years.

➢ Eliminate fund for Obamacare administrative costs. $900 million savings. 

I forgot the Republicans want to try to reverse health care reform any which way they can.  Bad idea.

➢ Ready to Learn TV Program. $27 million savings. 

I think there are more effective methods to educate children and so I think this program should be cut.

Basically, I find most of these proposals to be highly-partisan attempts at chiseling away at the budget while ignoring the real culprits for our economic problems, like military spending and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  While cutting funding for "Obamacare" may resonate well with the GOP base, it solves no problem and is a solution to nothing more then a campaign promise.

I think the Republicans need to make a second go and try to work with Democrats in cutting the budget, but I doubt they will do that...


  1. Thanks for taking the time to review these proposals.

    First, let's commend the Republican Study Committee for providing the outline ... now, let's ask a few questions.
    #1. Have any of these cuts also been proposed by President Obama ?
    #2. Who created the program, what was the objectives and have they been achieved or still viable ?
    #3. What isn't in there ?

    I don't know the answer to my questions, but I would like to hear the answers from my Congressman.

    I know that some have also been targeted by President Obama ... for example, eliminating the Market Access Program - $200 million annual savings. When Obama proposed it, Ag protests were loud and it has not happened.

    Who do you think came up with a program called "the FreedomCAR" ... did you guess George Bush ... yes ... but now that President Obama is tied to the "Government Motors" bailout, they do not want to fund it.

    Or, cutting $1 million for mohair subsidies. So, when did these subsidies begin ... originally, federal price support for mohair was first enacted in 1947. The National Wool Act of 1954 established direct payments for wool and mohair producers. The purpose of the program was to encourage production of wool because it was considered an essential and strategic commodity. While this program was phased out in 1995, ad hoc payments were provided in 1999 and 2000 and the program was reinstituted in 2002. I forgot, WHO was in charge of the White House and Congress in 1995 when it was cut and who was in charge in 2002 ?

    There are some of these things that they could themselves. cutting travel in half and cutting workforce by 15% ... the House has cut its budget 5% ... that's nothing ... they waste that much just on printed mailings to constituents ... and many other wasteful expenditures ... like subscriptions to services like TVEyes so that they can monitor what the opposite political party is saying or subscriptions to Roll Call ... Just because they have a Member's Reimbursement Account, does not mean they have to spend it.
    Funny, that they mentioned cutting Congressional printing ... that's another one that should be easy, but the GOP just continues to amaze me ... they approved legislation to do that earlier this week ... so what happens, it now has to go to the Senate ... where it will probably die just like everything else ... alternatively, they could have just made the change in the House as part of a Resolution ... Done .... no, the House GOP continues to amaze me by doing Stupid things.

    I am little concerned as to what is in this proposal -- Eliminate duplicative education programs. H.R. 2274 (in last Congress), authored by Rep. McKeon, eliminates 68 at a savings of $1.3 billion annually. --- My concern is that Sen. Coburn identified only $226 Million as Earmarks in the Education Budget - Two federal programs were deemed to be prime for cutting were the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) and the Fund for the Improvement of Education (FIE). In federal fiscal year 2010 alone, Congress provided over $101 million to the FIPSE program and over $125 million to FIE. Not knowing what these programs offer, I cannot comment, but I am concerned that there is another Billion dollars without any info.

  2. Thanks for your response and the information within. This list is very interesting. I find that many of these proposals fail to compromise with Democrats - Republicans should not forget that they do not represent every American.

    What bothers me the most is the hypocrisy - like you mention about things like the Market Access Program or "the FreedomCAR."

    I don't agree completely with Democrats or Republicans, but I find the Republicans to be engaging in a more divisive brand of politics, and I personally find their methods insulting. Sure most Americans have an attention span long enough to remember the last episode of Jersey Shore but not last years legislative proposals, but the GOP should make more of an effort to work with the other side of the aisle (remember their claims of bipartisanship in 2008?) and more of an effort to change according to the people...

  3. Thanks for reading my comments.

    So, what isn't there ... how about ETHANOL Subsidies and the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) ... that's about $6 Billion. Or how about increasing their own payment for medical services ... did you know that they have medical services on-call with complete testing services called the Office of the Attending Physician ... Or, how about the House Chaplain whose take-home pay is more than some members of Congress.

    Sorry, but I am not buying it ... I have heard this before ... and then once somebody's "special interest" is affected, it never happens.

    Jim Jordan (R-OH) announced the list ... now, this is the same Jim Jordan that protested when Secretary Gates announced he was canceling the EFV program since it was plagued by “significant technology problems, development delays, and cost increases." The Marine Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle was placed by the Pentagon back when Ronald Reagan was President and the Soviet Union was feared as an enemy. The last time this type of vehicle was used during combat was Korea ... The EFV is designed to launch from a Navy ship up to 25 miles offshore, carrying 17 Marines. Gates, in a speech in San Francisco last August, questioned whether amphibious assaults with large numbers of Marines are still feasible, given the development of accurate missiles that are capable of hitting ships up to 60 miles offshore. "I do think it is proper to ask whether large-scale amphibious assault landings along the lines of Inchon are feasible."
    The EFV program was restructured in 2007 including significant cost increases, cuts in quantities, and delayed the schedule by several years, to address significant performance problems—particularly regarding reliability—discovered during testing. (For example, the minimum accepted MTBOMF reliability was 17 hours, but by Marine Corps Test and Evaluation Agency’s (MCOTEA) measure achieved 4.5 hours ... in other words, the Mean Time Between Failure had a goal of 17 hours and it failed in a quarter of the time ... if you are in war, the last thing that you need is equipment breakdown ... stranding 17 marines inside.
    Congress, through this fiscal year, has approved $3 billion.
    Don't worry that the Marines don't have any equipment that they could use while the EFV is being developed ... they have the AAV. In fact, the Marine Corps plans to call for the AAV to continue to serve as its primary platform until at least 2015 and remain in service until 2025. Also they have more AAVs then they plan to buy EFVs.
    Now, why would Representative Jordan protest so loudly while at the same demanding spending cuts ... my guess is that he influences by the fact that General Dynamics builds these in Lima Ohio.

    IF the Republicans are serious about these cuts, they should send up separate bills for each program and force a vote ... instead there will be horse-trading and these programs will continue. House Republicans are now increasingly vocal about earmarks, but I did a review of earmark roll call votes in 2009 and they overwhelmingly voted in favor of every earmark ... except for one associated with John Murhta and Charlie Rangel.

    Lastly, another Question : How many of these items were also mentioned by the Simpson-Bowles Commission ?

    BTW, most of my recent commentaries are on www. MNPoliticalRoundtable . com


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