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Deja Vu All Over Again and Again and Again

Every Dollar Has a Sponsor

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The chatter around Your Nation's Capital among the cognoscenti, the intelligentsia, and smarty-pantses over the past 24 hours was: Is there any real meaning to the House vote to repeal Obamacare?

That may not be as poetic as Paul Simon's lyric from his 1966 song Dangling Conversation: We speak of things that matter;
With words that must be said:
"Can analysis be worthwhile;
Is the theater really dead?"

But, there you are.

The answer might have been "No. It was all eye wash," but the House Republican Policy Committee followed right on the heels of that vote with a list of programs and policies which, if adopted, would save $2.5 trillion (with a "T") over the next 10 years.

Someone far wiser than I once said that every line in the United States Internal Revenue Code has a constituent. So it is with every dollar which is spent by the Federal government.

A two-page summary of the Policy Committee's cuts can be found on the Secret Decoder Ring page but here are some of the big ones:

A 15 percent reduction in the number of civilian Federal employees. This would be accomplished by attrition rather than outright firings. According to the plan only one employee could be hired for every two who left until the reduction number was met. The Committee doesn't break out the amount which would be saved, but says it is part of the overall $2.29 trillion in discretionary spending cuts over 10 years.

It also doesn't say whether it applies just to the Executive Branch, or also would be applied to the Legislative and Judicial Branches.

Some cuts are called for in programs I didn't even know existed. As an example, cutting out the "Hope VI Program" will save $250 million per year. I looked it up for you. According to the HUD.GOV web page: "The HOPE VI Program was developed as a result of recommendations by National Commission on Severely Distressed Public Housing, which was charged with proposing a National Action Plan to eradicate severely distressed public housing."

There. Now you know as much as I do.

Amtrak is heavily subsidized. To the tune of $1.565 billion per year. Let's round down to $1.5 billion per year. I use Amtrak to travel to New York from Washington, DC, but I don't think I'm worth a billion and a half per.

The plan calls for cutting the Federal Travel Budget in half which will save $7.5 billion per year. Again, it is not clear whether this includes Congressional travel, but I have a suggestion: Only allow members of the House and Senate to travel to their home States or Districts six times per year on the public dole. More than that, they have to use campaign funds.

Washington-based staff shouldn't travel to the home State or District ever. They already have people there to attend to their whims and needs.

On the other hand, the Republicans recommend some cuts with which I disagree.

Given my recent trip to Africa and having seen first hand what US Agency for International Development is doing to help ninth-world people, I am opposed to cutting $1.39 billion from its budget.

On the other hand the GOP budget cuts don't mention ethanol subsidies which might total as much as $4.5 billion per year. Iowa is still the first caucus state and ethanol is made from corn which is grown in Iowa so … there you are. Again.

The details of the cuts are not as important as the concept behind them: For too long (and Republicans are as guilty of this as Democrats) the Congress didn't have the backbone to say "no" to any request for federal funding for any project no matter how sketchy.

The Congress has to go through the entire discretionary spending budget and separate the "nice-to-haves" from the "must-haves." Unless it qualifies as a "must-have" it should be reset to zero.

No matter how powerful; no matter how much money a company or association donates; no matter how compelling the tale of woe; unless it qualifies as a "must-have," we can't afford it.

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