Heritage Foundation Eats An Elephant

elephant_one_bite

graphic by Sean Gallo

Have you heard anything lately about the budget?  Is anybody still concerned about the size and growth of our federal government, our $20 trillion (and growing) debt, and the decomposing cadaver our economy has become?

It seems strange at a time when there is so much political buzz, nobody is talking much about our fiscal problem.  The presidential candidates from both sides show little or no concern, probably because the topic is not “sexy” enough for media coverage.

Well, I hate to be a buzz-killer, but the budget elephant is still in the room, getting bigger and smellier every day.

We have been repeatedly told by our political leaders and media pundits that our fiscal problem is too impossibly huge to even think about. Well, it’s not. This can be solved.  Why not roll up our sleeves and start working on it?  Like, now?

Fortunately, we still have one shining treasure in our national vault — the Heritage Foundation.  This group of geniuses has no fear of tackling big, vexing problems.  And they have a solution for our seemingly intractable spending problem.  It’s called the “Blueprint for Balance – A Federal Budget for 2017”.

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time. The Blueprint for Balance is a six-course elephant dinner:

  • SLOW THE GROWTH IN SPENDING, while fully funding national security needs
  • CUT TAXES by $1.3 trillion over 10 years
  • BALANCE THE BUDGET within seven years
  • REDUCE SPENDING by $10.5 trillion and cut the deficit by $9.2 trillion over 10 years
  • ELIMINATE BUDGET GIMMICKS and establish a process to address unauthorized appropriations
  • ELIMINATE PROGRAMS that produce favoritism and limit opportunity

These are not just wishes or slogans.  Each course is real-world, detailed and dollarized into chewable bites.

Here’s an example.  One of hundreds of cost-saving recommendations would eliminate subsidies for Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs), the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). This proposal saves $438 million in FY 2017.

When I lived in rural Montana, my electricity was provided by a rural cooperative with outstanding local service at a reasonable (albeit heavily subsidized) price. Now I live in an urban area with a huge nuclear power plant operated by the nation’s largest electric utility company only a few miles from my home.  My electricity should be cheap, right?  Oh heck no!  Because I am forced to subscribe to a ‘grandfathered’ rural electric cooperative, my rates are much higher than my neighbors who are served by the big guys. Plus the co-op gets taxpayer subsidies.

At the turn of the century it was necessary to establish rural electric cooperatives.  There was no other way to provide affordable electricity in sparsely-populated areas.  But like most government programs, it has outlived its purpose.

This is just one bite – there are hundreds of others, some big and some small, in the Blueprint for Balance. I hope my congressman is hungry, because I am going to ask him to start chewing.  Please ask yours to do the same.  If every congressman takes a couple of bites, we can do this.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideGonna live each minute,
‘Til I’ve had my fill
Aw, girl, I’ll be rollin’ in it!
Yes, yes, you know I will,!

Hungry – Paul Revere and the Raiders

 

 

We Must Demand Real Federal Budgets

zero based budgetingZero-Based Budgeting is a simple concept, practiced by every family and every company in the USA.  We all determine how much money we will receive for a given period, and then decide how we are going to spend it.  We give priority to necessities, and then, if funds are available, we may indulge in luxuries or less-important items.

In fact the practice is so simple, so obvious, so common-sense that we don’t even give it a thought.  We just do it.  Most Americans would be surprised to learn that our federal government, with the largest budget on planet Earth, does not.   The government simply takes whatever amount each department or agency spent last year, and adds to it.  It is a recipe for economic disaster, and our $18 trillion debt is exactly that.

Last month Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) introduced HR1591, the “Zero-Based Budgeting Ensures Responsible Oversight Act of 2015”.  ZERO for short.  It’s his third attempt to bring reason to our federal budget process.

The ZERO Act would require each department to justify all of its spending every year.  Congressman Ross points out that in recent years taxpayers paid $615,000 to digitize Grateful Dead tickets, $442,000 to study male prostitutes in Vietnam, and $2.5 million for a Super Bowl ad.  Neither you, nor I, nor any of our elected representatives authorized that spending.  But it happened because there is no oversight, and under the current “continuing resolution” system, there can’t be.

If ZERO is enacted, departments would have to describe every activity for which funding is requested, provide the legal basis for the activity, and offer three alternative funding levels, two of which would be below the current year’s level.  They would have to provide details on the benefits derived from each activity and any added benefit for increased funding.  Plus, they must show measures of cost efficiency and effectiveness.

Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) told me he and the budget committee “will take up zero-based budgeting as part of budget reform later this summer.”  So far only one congressman, David Jolly (R-FL) has co-sponsored HR1591.

At least three presidential candidates are advocates of Zero-Based Budgeting.  Two of them, Rick Perry and Jeb Bush, are governors who understand budgeting.  The third is Carly Fiorina, a dollar-savvy former CEO to whom ZBB is second nature.  Fiorina told Breitbart News about something I personally experienced as a small business owner:

“I started my career in Washington, D.C. and sold to the federal government. As anyone who has done business with the federal government knows, in the last six weeks of every year, every government agency spends every dime,” she continued. They do that because they want to make sure the appropriations process is focused on the rate of increase for the following year – not what they actually need or whether they actually need to spend it.”

We taxpayers are dropping the ball.  First of all, we don’t understand our own tax returns.  And second, we don’t do a good job of holding our elected officials and the bureaucrats they are supposed to oversee accountable for spending our money.

It is admittedly hard work to budget every year, and to actually plan and prioritize spending.  Families do it.  Businesses do it.  Is it too much to ask of our government officials and employees?  Let’s encourage our congressmen to get behind real budget reform.

This article can be seen in its entirety at Watchdog Arena.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

What’s that honey?
Pick you up at eight?  And don’t be late?
But baby, I ain’t got NOOOOOOOO money, honey!
Oh, all right honey, you know what I like!

Chantilly Lace – the Big Bopper

 

Here’s a fun video about a guy with a budget problem:

 

Our Federal Govt. – Dumb and Dumber

And now, here’s the latest headlines from Right Side News:

  • The IRS estimates they will pay out $21 billion in fraudulant refunds within the next five years.  I bet it’s triple that.  They received 2,137 returns from one address in Michigan in one year.  They sent him $3.3 million dollars in refunds.   It never occurred to the IRS top management to add one line of code to their program that checks for multiple returns or refunds at one address.  By the way, your kids and grandkids will have to pay the $21 billion (or more) back to the Chinese, who loaned it to us so we could give it to the crooks.  Nice work, guys.
  • Our Missile Defense Agency has been putting our top-security computers at risk by downloading porn from Russian web sites.   Well, it’s been kind of slow around the Missile Defense Agency office.  They don’t have anything important to do.
  • In spite of the mind-boggling increase in our national debt, the feds just keep buying more cars, increasing their fleet to 449,000 vehicles.   The taxpayers now provide only one car for every seven federal employees.  But we make it up to them by providing smart phones for all of them.  That way they can watch porn and play Angry Birds without having to use the office computers.
  • The Post Office is now in default, owing billions of dollars on union employee benefits that it can not pay for.   Oh well, it’s okay.  Hey Bernanke, could you start that printing press back up?

And that’s the news for this afternoon.  Actually there’s more, but I think I need a drink . . .

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

We think we know what we’re doin’
That don’t mean a thing
It’s all in the past now
Money changes everything

Money Changes Everything – Cyndi Lauper