In the last two years, spending by the current Congress has increased21.4 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The question thrown in the face of tea party activists and otherconservative 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 upwith vitriolic assertions that any cuts will mean that children will go hungry, the elderly will be evicted from nursing homes and the federalgovernment will be forced to close, meaning no more Social Securitychecks. This is precisely the approach taken in 1995 when the Clintonadministration set a trap for the new Republican congressional majorityand 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 isnecessary to fix these massive entitlement programs. So, where to cut?
The presumed new Republican majority can begin by paring downnoncontroversial spending that the public will understand and then, after proving the programs aren't necessary or could be better run bythe private sector, move on to more expensive programs.
Rep. John Mica (R-Fl), ranking member on the Committee on Transportationand Infrastructure, has made a start. In a letter to me, Rep. Micaencloses a report by his committee's minority staff with the clevertitle, "Sitting on Our Assets: The Federal Government's Misuse ofTaxpayer-Owned Assets."
Misuse is a word most Americans understand and don't like.
The report identifies "hundreds of billions of dollars in potentialsavings" through "improved management" of what the federal governmentowns. "If implemented," says Rep. Mica, "the opportunities ... have thepotential to save up to approximately $250 billion."
Admittedly, that's not much when the latest deficit projection is $1.294trillion, but we must start somewhere.
The problem is, and always has been, that once government programs andagencies are created, they quickly become sacrosanct and virtuallyimpossible to destroy. As Ronald Reagan said, "Government programs, oncelaunched, never disappear ... a government bureau is the nearest thingto eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" So it doesn't matter thatthe Department of Education doesn't educate, or that the Department ofEnergy doesn't produce energy. It's government and, thus, by definitiongood in the minds of the Washington establishment.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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