David Stockman, Ronald Reagan's budget-cutting tiger, is a pussycat. $1
Stockman's first list of budget cuts totaled a mere $26.2 billion. He may add another $20 billion, for a total cut of some 3 to 6 percent out of a budget of $740 billion. Why the uproar?
That budget total is $372 billion more than the 1976 budget of Gerald Ford's that Reagan then labeled spend-thrift. Even adjusted for inflation, that 1976 budget that Reagan campaigned to cut by $90 billion would be under $600 billion in 1982.
I'll see Stockman's $26-billion cut and raise him $58 billion. And mine is hardly a full list of possible cuts.
We have some fundamental problems in this country: proverty, unemployment, hunger, declining national security, poor education. We spend more every year on each of these problems, and they continue to get worse. Yet our political leaders never propose any fundamental changes. The solutions offered us amount only to tinkering, or to throwing more money at a problem that previous infusions of money failed to solve.
It's time to break out of the status quo mindset and consider some fundamental reforms.
Cutting out "waste, fraud, and mismanagement" is not the answer. Of course the budget is full of waste -- but finding and eliminating it is another matter. There are no lines in the budget labeled "waste and fraud," and an effort to ferret out the waste in each agency would probably cost more than it would save.
Of course, there are programs that by any reasonable standard should be considered waste. The General Services Administration reported last week that it was unable to determine the purpose of nearly 3 million trips taken by government employes during 1979. The American Battle Monuments Commisison is still in the budget, costing taxpayers $9 million a year. The members of the FDR Memorial Commission have spent 25 years trying to decide on a suitable memorial to a president who said the only memorial he wanted was a clump of rosebushes.
Seventeen years after the last American smallpox case, the Office of Smallpox Eradication still spends more than $1 million a year. The Advisory Committee on Federal Pay, the Commission of Fine Arts, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Committee, the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science -- agencies like this waste million of dollars a year, perhaps billions if they could all be identified.
But any serious budget-cutting effort will require that some real programs be eliminated. Some special interests such as major oil companies receiving Department of Energy subsidies might be offended. Nevertheless, the great bulk of the American people, both as taxpayers and as energy consumers, would benefit -- and it is they that Reagan was elected to serve.
It should be noted here that the primary purpose of cutting or elimnating a federal program need not be its cost in tax dollars. A great many federal programs do positive harm to the American people. We would be better off without them even if their cost was zero. This is the case with most of the programs suggested for reduction or elimination here. In other cases, the programs are simply unnecessary or absurdly expensive.
In this framework, let me suggest another $58 billion of cuts to David Stockman. (With a few exceptions, the budget figure listed is taken from the 1981 budget. Even bigger cuts could actually be made in the 1982 budget.) BUDGET AREA SAVINGS (millions of dollars) Useless or wasteful programs 242.083
This category includes the Office of Technology Assessment, the Council on Environmental Quality, the Office of Science a and Technology Policy, the Minority Business Development Agency, the Office of Smallpox Eradication, the U.S.-Yugoslavia Bilateral Science and Technology Agreement, the International Center, the Advisory Committee on Federal Pay, the American Battle Monuments Commission, the Commission of Fine Arts, the Civil Defense Preparedness program, the Consumer Information Center, the DR Memorial Commission and the Japan-U.S. Friendship Committee. Undoubtedly others could be added to the list. None of these agencies serves a useful purpose. They were started as a favor to a congressman or a special interest group, and they spend taxpayers' dollars with no discernible effect. Legislative and executive branch savings 278.378
The budgets of the legislative and executive branches have soared in recent years and now amount to some $1.4 billion. Former Rep. Stockman, now a member of the executive branch, should set an example by cutting his own and his colleagues' budgets. Subsidies to business and agriculture 4,585.368
This figure hardly represents all the business subsidies to be found in the federal budget, but it does include such major programs as the Department of Agriculture's Foreign Assistance Programs, Commodity Credit Corporation and Milk Market Assessment Order; the Maritime Administration; and the Export-Import Bank (in addition to Stockman's proposed reductions in Ex-Im funding). It is no accident that so much of the budget is devoted to business subsidies -- businesses set up Washington lobbying offices for a reason, you know. If the administration is pro-market rather than pro-business, it will elminate these programs. Entitlements programs 3,200.
Stockman proposed cuts in Medicaid, but he exempted several major programs including Medicare and Supplemental Security Income. Surely out of their combined budget of $53 billion, he can find a modest cut. Tightening spending at Medicaid and Medicare will also help reduce soaring health costs for all consumers. Highway programs 38.842
This figure does not represent any reduction in the basic federal-aid highways program, where Stockman has proposed some reductions. I would agree with larger reductions, but he has made a start. This item, however includes such programs as highway beautification, National Scenic and Recreation Highway, Alaska Highway and $1 million for bicycle paths. These programs are not appropriate uses for taxpayers' dollars, and ought to be eliminated. Railroad subsidies 1,403.49
Stockman proposed cutting Amtrak subsidy. What his document didn't explain is why the taxpayers should subsidize train travel at all. Amtrak survives only because of nostalgia and political pull. Taxpayers around the country are forced to subsidize a system which provides adequate service only in the Northeast corridor. Corps of Engineers 448,519
American has suffered from the Corps of Engineers philosophy of "if it flows, dam it." The Corps has bult water projects as political favors to powerful members of Congress. Individual rights, private property and environmental considerations have been overridden with little thought long enough. Department of Education (additional) 11,479.218
Though Stockman did propose some $2 billion of cuts here, he left most of the department intact. The Department of Education tends to centralize education in the United States, discouraging the natural diversity that might otherwise occur. Federal funding and control of education should be ended. Energy programs 10,176,156
This figures represents the amount that could be saved over the Stockman savings by abolishing both the Department of Energy and the Energy Security Trust Funds. President Reagan has ended the price controls on oil. But the bigger question is whether Reagan will also have the guts to eliminate the DOE's gravy train subsidies to energy producers. Transfer necessary weapons research to Defense. International development assistance 1,950,914
These intergovernmental lending and assistance programs rob U.S. taxpayers to prop up governments in Third World countries. Little of the benefit is ever received by the people of these countries. The beneficiaries are the governments in other countries and the American businesses from whom purchases are made with the funds received. Stopping his boondoggle would help both the taxpayers of the United States and the people of the Third World. Regional Development Programs 45.188
This is perhaps the most egregiously ineffective of all the federal development programs. Even President Carter, a former governor, called them "a waste of time and money -- a source of a few dollars for governors." Mobile Home Inspection and Monitoring 7.
This program has been highly popular with the mobile home industry, which it purports to regulate. Like most economic regulation, its effect has been to limit energy, restrict competition, drive low-cost competitors out of business and protect the industry, not consumers. So what else is new? Office of Justice Assistance, Research and Statistics 148.
The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, which accounted for about 90 percent of this agency's original proposed budget of $600 million, is so unpopular that it was hidden under this new budget title. Attorney General Griffin Bell called for its abolition. The Carter administration didn't take him up on it. But in a development so rare it has probably qualified for the Guinness Book of World Records, it actually had its budget cut by Congress. The Reagan administration should finish it off. National Consumer Cooperative Bank 161.06
This is a new program to provide capitalization for the NCCB, which will make loans and extend services to consumer and self-help cooperatives. It will offer government-subsidized competition for private banks, hardly an appropriate function for the federal government. The creation of new credit, backed up by nothing but the government's promise, is inflationary. Revenue Sharing 7,862,444
The very title of this program points up its absurdity. There is no federal revenue to share. The federal budget has been in deficit every year since this program was started. EPA Construction Grants (additional) 1,550.
Stockman proposed to limit EPA funding of waste treatment plants to $2.4 billion a year. But this program is in effect a form of revenue sharing, and once again there is no revenue to share. It should be ended. Employment and Training Administration (additional) 6,309.662
Stockman has proposed cutting out a large chunk of the CETA program. He should finish off the job. CETA is a boondoggle which provides federally paid workers to political organizations, local governments and some businesses. It has been riddled with mismanagement and politicization. Its abolition would be a powerful symbol by Reagan that he means what he says. Of more than symbolic value, it would save the taxpayers $10 billion a year. Occupational Safety and Health Administration 208.02
If Reagan really cares about worker health and safety, he will abolish OSHA. Yes, you read that right. Studies have shown that OSHA has had no effect on worker health and safety; indeed, some experts have argued that it actually decreases safety because workers and unions now expects OSHA to insure safety and thus are less careful than they were before. OSHA also imposes severe regulatory burdens on business and presents serious civil-liberties problems in its unique capacity as inspector, prosecutor, judge and bailiff all at once. Community Services Administration 560.
Writing about government "poverty" programs, economist Thomas Sowell said, "To be blunt, the poor are a gold mine. By the time they are studied, advised, experimented with and administered, the poor have helped many a middle-class liberal to achieve influence with government money." CSA hands out much of the gold. The Reagan administration should abolish this remnant of the '60s and implement his innovative ideas to solve the poverty problem -- ideas like enterprise zones and educational tax credits that would let the poor solve their own problems. Civil Aeronautics Board 115.717
Since deregulation, we don't need the CAB. Interstate Commerce Commission 83.773
The ICC's regulations have almost driven the railroads out of business, while it protects trucking companies from competition. Potential entrepreneurs, especially women and minorities, have been kept out of the bus and trucking industries, and consumer prices have been kept high. Of course, the Teamsters will expect the proper gratitude for their support of Reagan. Nevertheless, the ICC should be phased out. Corporation for Public Broadcasting (additional) 119.
Stockman proposed a 25 percent cut in CPB funding; that isn't enough. If the federal government established a "public" newspaper to compete with the nation's privately run papers, every American would see the threat to the First Amendment. The same threat is present with government broadcasting. "Public" broadcasting is both elitist and ominous in its implications for free speech. (Last year's legal battles over the showing of "Death of a Princess" should remind us of these dangers.) Transfer public television stations to private commerical or nonprofit ownership. Legal Services Corporation 329.289
When a Congress composed mostly of lawyers passes an employment program for young lawyers, who sue people who then must hire more lawyers, should it be viewed as anything other than another special-interest vote? This program does little to help the poor rise out of poverty; it assumes they will always remain disadvantaged and in need of government legal help. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science 1.247
A national library policy really has serious ramifications for free speech, and civil libertarians should be concerned about such agencies. The Reagan administration may not be excessively concerned about civil liberties, but is should recognize this program as a boondoggle for the taxpayers. National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities (additional) 242.592
Once again, Stockman didn't go far enough, and the case for abolition of the Endowments is actually stronger than an argument for any particular level of funding. The average taxpayer -- the blue-collar worker who voted for Reagan -- should not be forced to subsidize the cultural activities of the elite. In addition, government funding of the arts leads to politicization and stifles real creativity. Office of Personnel Management (federal employe retirement) 1,300.
While taxpayers are forced to participate in the Social Security system, which pays them much less than a private system would, federal employes are exempt. (Do they know something we don't? You better believe it.) They participate in a separate system, where the benefits-to-payments ratio is better -- like the difference between the Sans Souci and McDonald's. Federal employes contribute about 25 percent of the retirement fund; taxpayers make up the rest. The system is getting out of hand. A first step would be to freeze the taxpaper contribution at its 1980 level. If federal employes feel that will jeopardize their retirement system, they will be free to increase their own payments. Selective Service System 27.13
Since he first came to national prominence in 1964, Ronald Reagan has been eloquent and convincing in his opposition to the draft and draft registration. After 16 years, he finally has the opportunity to make good on his promises. Abolish the Selective Service System. Modified COLA for Federal Retirees 803.
Federal retirees, unlike most private employes and retirees, get twice-a-year cost-of-living adjustments. Changing this to once a year would save taxpayers $803 million this year and much more in future years. Civilian Employes Wage Freeze 4,500.
An even more organized and vocal bloc of voters than federal retirees is active federal employes. Federal employes earn about 40 percent more on the average than the private-sector employes who pay their salaries. Until that disparity is made up, they should not get any wage increases. TOTAL ADDITIONAL BUDGET CUTS (in millions): 58,176.09
Of course, we cannot realistically expect a Reagan administration to make any reductions in military spending or in agencies that interfere with civil liberties. Nevertheless, the administration should not be exempt from criticism on such grounds.
Why, for instance, should American taxpayers spend over $100 billion in 1981 to defend our wealthy allies in Japan and Western Europe? Why should the average American family of four spend $2,000 this year to defend other countries? Why should we spend $56 billion on an MX system that will make the West a nuclear sponge?
Why should the federal government spend several hundred million dollars of our money every year to harrass peaceful buyers and sellers of marijuana? Why should we have to pay for an FCC that restricts free speech, and FBI that has produced programs like Cointelpro, a CIA that spies on Americans and meddles in the internal affairs of foreign countries, or an Immigration Service that hunts down new immigrants to this land of immigrants?
Such spending should be a prime target for cuts. Unfortunately, it won't be in the Reagan administration. Nevertheless, one point cannot be stressed too heavily: So far, David Stockman has not proposed to cut the budget. He has proposed $26 billion in reductions from a proposed budget that is $77 billion higher than the previous one. That is not a budget cut, it is a budget increase of $51 billion.