Home > Federal > Look: current Fed expenditures as % of GDP, a record mess; What a spending solution would look like; Hooray! National Debt now tops 100% of US GDP; and Senator Coburn – 9,000,000,000,000 Ways to Balance the Budget!

Look: current Fed expenditures as % of GDP, a record mess; What a spending solution would look like; Hooray! National Debt now tops 100% of US GDP; and Senator Coburn – 9,000,000,000,000 Ways to Balance the Budget!

August 4, 2011

Open your eyes. Beyond 19% of GDP Laffers Curve kicks in. Read to find out why and how.

What A Spending Solution Would Look Like

Here’s a look at what we have, it can get better, or it can get worse!

ALSO:

Hooray! National Debt tops 100% of US GDP!

August 4, 2011 – A singular achievement by our president now that the latest Debt hike is now in place. More

 

This is a letter that Conservative-Republican Oklahoma Senator Dr. Tom Coburn sent to all of his Senate colleagues on the 27th, and we encourage you to Share this with your own Congressman and Senator, as well as everyone you know. You may or may not wish to send it along with our emphasis added.

July 27, 2011

9,000,000,000,000
Ways to Balance the Budget

Dear Colleague,

Nearly everyone in Washington agrees we must reduce the deficit, but few offer any specifics as to how to do it. Last week, I released a report, BACK IN BLACK, outlining thousands of detailed budget options within every federal department and nearly every major program that, if taken together, would result in savings of more than $9 trillion over the next decade.

I do not expect anyone to agree with everything recommended in this report, but I expect everyone will find things with which they agree. With negotiations stalemated, I wanted to bring your attention to some very simple commonsense ideas I believe most of us—and most Americans—regardless of party or ideology could support that would save at least $355 billion.

End Unemployment Payments to Millionaires
Savings: $186 million over ten years
Nearly 3,000 households with incomes of $1 million or more were paid a total of $18.6 million in unemployment insurance benefits in 2008. Those earning $1 million a year do not need and should not qualify for unemployment compensation.

Stop Payments to Dead People
Savings: Over $1 billion over ten years.
Washington sent over $1 billion to more than 250,000 deceased individuals over the past decade. The federal government paid for dead people’s prescriptions and wheelchairs, subsidized their farms, helped pay their rent, and even chipped in for their heating and air conditioning bills. Some of these payments were fraud, some were incompetence, and some were intentionally required by law. Congress should end payments to the dead and federal agencies should ensure beneficiaries and participants of government payments are, in fact, alive.

Eliminate Duplication
Savings: At least $50 billion over ten years
In March, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report examining just 34 missions of the federal government and identified hundreds of duplicative and overlapping programs costing more than $215 billion a year. These included 47 separate job training programs, 88 economic development programs, 82 teacher quality programs, and 56 financial literacy programs. “Reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap, or fragmentation could potentially save billions of taxpayer dollars annually and help agencies provide more efficient and effective services,” GAO concluded. Another independent study identified at least 180 economic development programs within more than a dozen different agencies costing taxpayers about $17.9 billion annually. Duplication within the federal bureaucracy should be consolidated.

Eliminate Sweet Heart Deals for Government Contractors
Savings: At least $2 billion over ten years
The federal government pays over $500 billion annually to contractors. In 2009, $170 billion worth of contracts were awarded without competition. Competitive bidding for government contracts helps ensure the highest-quality services for the lowest cost, while no-bid contracts waste billions of dollars with little apparent benefit to anyone other than contractors. No bid contracts should be eliminated.

Collect Unpaid Taxes Owed by Federal Employees
Savings: $1 billion over ten years
Nearly 100,000 civilian federal employees were delinquent on their federal income taxes in 2008. These federal employees owe a total of $962 million in unpaid federal income taxes. The IRS should collect these overdue taxes.

We’ll take this a step further – It should be a condition of their employment and grounds for termination, and no collective bargaining privilege or other public union contract clause should be able to mitigate that!

Reduce Congress’ Spending on Itself
Savings: $3.82 billion over ten years
Since 2001, Congress has boosted its own budget by 55 percent. At the same time, the average American wage increased by only 23 percent. In real dollars, the budget of the House and Senate has grown by more than $1 billion over the last decade. Congress must lead by example and do more with less. Congress’ spending on itself should be reduced by at least 15 percent.

Stop Overpaying Drug Companies
Savings: $480 million over ten years
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) overpays pharmaceutical companies nearly a million dollars a week. According to the Government Accountability Office, drug companies were overpaid $3.9 million in a single month! HRSA should be required to routinely monitor prices to ensure taxpayers are not being overcharged and take immediate corrective action to recoup any excess payments.

Reduce Unnecessary Government Printing
Savings: $4.9 billion over ten years
Federal agencies – excluding the Department of Defense – spend nearly $1.3 billion a year on routine office printing. A third of this printing is unnecessary, according to an independent analysis. Agencies should put an end to this wasteful habit and administrative accounts of each department should be reduced accordingly.

We’ll again take this a step futher – If bills introduced first had to go through a Constitutional authority test, many would be averted, and if bills allowed were required to be reasonable in size and scope, we would avoid 2000+ page bills like Obamacare that Congresspersons cannot even fully read or understand!

Eliminate Unnecessary Printing of Congressional Documents
Savings: $312.2 million
In the digital age, printed copies of Congressional reports and other documents are as likely to grace a landfill as a bookshelf. In 2010, nearly $100 million was allocated for Congressional Printing and Binding account. A representative of the Government Printing Office (GPO) recently testified, “70 percent of the GPO’s funds are used to digitize legislation, schedules and other federal records, while 30 percent is used to print hard copies.” Reducing the Congressional Printing account by 30 percent would put an end to the wasteful practice of printing and distributing congressional documents that are almost immediately thrown away. The documents would still be available online and users could decide whether or not to print hard copies.

Get Rid of Unneeded Federal Properties
Savings: $15 billion over ten years
The federal government has over 63,000 buildings that are underutilized and not utilized at all. This number has increased by more than 12,000 from only two years ago. It costs over $1.2 billion every year to operate these properties. The federal government should dispose of all excess properties within five years. According to the Obama Administration, at least $15 billion could be saved if the federal government gets rid of its unneeded properties.

This should go beyond just building and include land. The federal government has seized 100’s of thousands of acres of land especially out west and in doing so is preventing the development of natural resources, inhibiting our goal of energy independence, an economic boost, and job creation. (see also below)

End Subsidy for Ethanol Blending
Savings: $2 billion one time savings
Ethanol producers reap the benefits of a vast array of government assistance, including tax credits, grants, loans, loan guarantees, federally-directed markets, and a federal minimum usage mandate. The Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit provides a 45-cent-per-gallon federal tax credit to producers who blend ethanol with gasoline. Ethanol-blended fuel is nearly a third less efficient than gasoline, has contributed to the increased price of corn, and can cause engine damage. Ethanol subsidies are outdated, duplicative, and have failed to meet the intended goals of greater energy independence with a cleaner fuel alternative. The ethanol tax credit should be eliminated immediately.

Reduce the Number of Limousines Owned by the Government
Savings: $115.5 million over ten years
In the past two years, the federal government’s limousine fleet has grown by 73 percent. The federal government had 238 limos in 2008 and that number reached 412 last year. The number of limos owned by the federal government should be reduced to its previous level.

Reduce Federal Vehicle Fleet
Savings: $5.6 billion over ten years
Federal agencies own or lease over 662,000 cars, vans, sport-utility vehicles, trucks, buses and other vehicles. Since 2006, the federal vehicle fleet has grown by five percent and the cost of maintaining and servicing those vehicles has grown over 25 percent, to $4.6 billion. These vehicles consume about a million gallons of fuel per day. The General Services Administration will purchase more than 100 more vehicles this year. Instead, the number of vehicles in the federal fleet should be reduced by at least 20 percent.

Reduce Junkets and Unnecessary Travel
Savings: $43.3 billion over ten years
The federal government spends $15 billion on travel every year. All travel that is not mission-critical should be ended.

Consider that Secretary of State Clinton was recently in Africa on official business and as she’s returning, the 1st Lady and her entourage are going over for, oh let’s say quasi-official business. Where we would assert that the 1st Lady’s trip could have been scrapped altogether, at least it could have been coordinated to be done in conjunction with the State Dept.’s trip.

Reduce Advertising by the Federal Government
Savings: $5.6 billion over ten years
The federal government spent almost $1 billion on advertising last year. While some advertising may be needed, much of it is wasteful and unnecessary and this amount should be cut in half.

Take for example the millions of dollars in advertising the census during the super bowl!

Limit the Amount Spent to Host Government Conferences
Savings: $1 billion over ten years
The federal government spent at least $2 billion on conferences between 2000 and 2006. Some conferences may provide important venues for exchanging ideas or providing training. Others appear to be little more than government funded vacations at beachside resorts and other exotic destinations. Traveling to meetings and hosting conferences are, in large part, no longer necessary with the availability of teleconferencing. Total spending on conferences should not exceed $100 million annually and conferences should only be held when other options are not feasible.

In addition there is the issue of the United Nations. Where we outright detest the U.N. as nothing more than a modern day cabal of despots who take advantage of the U.S. as it’s number one funding source, while consistenly voting against our interests, we advocate that it should be dis-banded. Short of that, funding should at least be curtailed, and the over payments due back to us should not be forgiven as they were earlier this year!

Use Better Measure of Inflation to Determine Increases in Benefit Payments
Savings: Approximately $180 billion over ten years
Many government benefits are automatically increased for inflation every year, based on the consumer price index (CPI). For more than 15 years, many budget experts have agreed the current CPI mechanism outpaces actual inflationary growth, causing the cost of government programs to rise rapidly. The Bureau of Labor Statistics developed a more accurate measure of inflation, known as Chained CPI, which over the last ten years has grown at a slightly slower rate than the current measure for CPI. Congress should adopt the recommendation of the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to transition to Chained-CPI government wide to ensure this automatic spending increase is as accurate as possible to avoid uncontrolled automatic spending increases in federal programs.

Eliminate Hollywood Liaisons
Savings: $34.4 million over ten years
Many federal agencies have offices and programs to assist Hollywood movie producers and television execs, often with the goal of ensuring a positive portrayal of the federal government. The agencies have at least 14 employees costing $1.2 million. These should be eliminated.

Hollywood subsidies should also be eliminated. Should Hollywood think it requires subsidies, they can go to their own millionaires such as Matt Damon. In light of his recent rhetoric, we’re sure he would agree.

Stop Purchasing Excess Land
Savings: $4.1 billion over ten years
The federal government has spent more than $430 million to purchase additional land since the start of the recent recession and more than $2.3 billion over the past decade. At the same time, the Department of the Interior maintenance backlog on public lands has surged to as high as $19.9 billion, resulting in serious risk to visitors and deteriorating conditions of important national treasures. The National Mall, for example, has been so neglected it has been called a national disgrace. Until the federal government can afford to take care of the land it already owns, it should be prohibited from purchasing additional land.

End Payments for Coal Cleanup When Projects Have Been Certified as Being Completed
Savings: $1.23 billion over ten years
The federal government continues to send funds intended for the cleanup up abandoned coal mines to several states and tribes that have already been certified as completing their work. The funds are unrestricted and have essentially become slush funds. These dollars should be used only for their intended purpose and directed to states with abandoned sites, with excess amounts should be returned.

Suspend the Automatic Pay Raise for Members of Congress
Savings: $6 million over three years
Members of Congress typically receive an automatic pay raise every year. Congress voted to freeze the salary of its member for the past two years at $174,000. The pay for members of Congress should be frozen for at least three more years.

Here’s one we’ll take a big step further – Elected officials should receive no benefits after leaving office. They should be fairly compensated while serving and that is it. Furthermore, so long as benefits beyond service do exist – any official convicted of corruption, or any official who resigns to avoid conviction of corruption – should be stripped of said benefits! Example Rep Weiner will receive approximately $1million in benefits over his lifetime since leaving office.

Get the Department of Defense Out of Education and the Grocery Store Business
Savings: $19 billion over ten years
The Department of Defense currently operates hundreds of grocery stores and dozens of elementary schools in the United States. These grocery stores are in the same communities that have Wal-Mart, Costco, Safeway, and other choices for military personnel. Instead of paying our soldiers more money and allowing them to choose where to shop, we subsidize thousands of federal employees to work in grocery stores around the country. Similarly, the Department of Defense employs thousands of teachers in a unique school district called the Department of Defense Education Activity. Under the Pentagon’s management, taxpayers are spending more than $50,000 per student enrolled in these schools. The Pentagon should shut down its education bureaucracy, send much of this money to bolster local public schools, and return the rest for debt reduction.

Again taking this a step further, Federal government should be out of the public education business altogether, short of nothing more than cabinet level oversite of state education systems to ensure compliance with the US Constitution. No child left behind, race to the top, and the whole of the D.O.E. bureaucracy, is both un-constitutional and costing us billions!

Terminate HHS’s Community Economic Development Program
Savings: $38 million over ten years.
The mission of the Community Economic Development program (CED) duplicates 180 other government development programs, has a very low success rate, and does not fit within the mission or expertise of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). According to HHS’s most recent report to the Congress, only one out of five funded projects within the CED program were successful. Due to its lack of success, duplicative nature, and inappropriate placement within HHS, CED should be eliminated.

While on the subject of HHS, Obamacare should be repealed and replaced with economically viable and constitutionally legitimate health care reforms that will not cost untold billions as Obamacare at present will!

End Federal Subsidies to Wealthy Doctors and Hospitals for Health Information Technology
Savings: $15.6 billion over ten years.
The federal government mandates and subsidizes the use health information technology (IT) for doctors and hospitals, despite scant evidence doing so will lower costs. Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize the purchase of health IT by doctors and hospitals.

Stop Medicare Payments for Uncovered Services
Savings: $1.97 billion over ten years.
Medicare currently only pays for medically necessary chiropractic services, but a HHS Inspector General report found the program improperly spent $178 million on chiropractic services in 2006. Implementing and enforcing current policies, along with more careful reviews of documentation, could save taxpayers nearly $2 billion over a decade.

The federal Medicaid system must also be reformed whereby state grants may not be used to fund anything but emergency care and basic wellness care. States allowing lavish benefits, unnecessary care, and a lack of means testing should be required to fund such themselves, ie. New York.

Similarly, the federal food stamp program rules must be curtailed. Spending and reliance on food stamps is at an all time high, and that is not soley because of the economic downturn. The fed is providing blocks of money to the states with the caveat that should the state fail to distribute all monies, the grant will be reduced in the coming cycle. This compells some states to disregard means testing and give out more benefits than individuals actually need. Again see New York.

This list is just a handful of the savings options contained within BACK IN BLACK. I would encourage you to review the thousands of other recommendations. I would also be interested in hearing other debt reduction ideas you might have.

(Take for example the need to downsize and streamline federal goverment overall. We are at an all time high as to the number of employees, the number of salaries over 100k, and the the level of overall wages/salaries/benefits as compared to the private sector in apples for apples comparisons of job sets. To this end, public sector unions must be substantially curtailed, or in our view – outright eliminated!

Another example not covered above is the need to significantly reduce foreign aid, and in a number of instances it should be eliminated as well.)

Sincerely,
Tom A. Coburn, M.D.
U.S. Senator

Aug 02 2011

Why I voted against the debt deal

By Senator Tom Coburn, M.D.

 

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