Republicans continue to claim that they will reduce government spending. For example, when asked how they will pay for extending the Bush tax cuts, they claim they will do it by cutting government spending. There’s one big problem with this. In order to cut government spending, you are going to have to cut at least some government programs that people like.
For example, Carly Fiorina appeared on Fox News Sunday, but even they wouldn’t let her get away with her claim that she would “rein in out-of-control government spending.” Fiorina supports extending the Bush Tax cuts, but when asked how she would pay for the $4 trillion price tag, she couldn’t answer. Host Chris Wallace asked her seven times to “name one single entitlement expenditure you’re willing to cut” because “that’s where the money is.” Fiorina refused to answer, claiming “You’re asking a typical political question.”
Well, what other kind of question can you ask when someone claims they are going to cut taxes and balance the budget, but won’t name a single large program they will cut? Isn’t that political?
But I don’t mean to pick only on Fiorina. I can’t think of a single national Republican candidate who has actually said what they will cut to balance the budget and pay for tax cuts.
The few times I have heard any Republican candidate mention any spending cuts they would actually propose to reduce the deficit, they end up backpedaling furiously. For example, in 2009 Rand Paul proposed raising the Medicare deductible to $2,000, but when his opponent accused Paul of this, Paul denied he ever said it. When his opponent produced video proof, Paul then claimed he didn’t mean it.
Besides, look at the evidence. No Republican administration has managed to cut the deficit in the last 50 years. How come we still listen to this hallow promise?
UPDATE: The Republican Medicare Part D prescription drug program will add more to the national debt than the bailout, stimulus, and the health care law combined.
Back in 1988, I remember reading a letter to the editor in US News & World which made me laugh at the time. The person said, “The American people are not stupid: We elected a congress that said, ‘You can have all the social programs you want!’ Then we elected a president that said, ‘…and you’re not going to have to pay for them!'”
I don’t laugh quite so much anymore.
Here’s some links from/about Paul Ryan, one of the few Repubs who actually (good or bad) puts his ideas on the table for all to see.
A dem link blogging about Ryans plan:
Ok, I read Ryan’s link, and I can’t see a single thing he says he is going to cut to balance the budget.
He also proposes to privatize social security. If social security had been privatized in 2008, then we would have an awful lot of seniors right now starving to death. Many seniors lost their retirement nest egg in the crash, you want that they should have lost their social security payments as well? My guess is that the government would have had to step in, just like they did with the banks, costing us even more money. Social security should be like insurance, not like a (risky) investment. The downside of failure is just too big.
Agree, well said – especially true given that the vast majority of the federal budget is debt servicing and entitlement programs, which either can not be cut or are political suicide to cut.
FYI the situation in the Federal government is very similar to the situaiton any company faces when revenues are down and they are losing money. You can’t shrink your way to success. The only long term solution is (in priority order)to grow revenues, terminate activities that are no longer adding value, and re-engineer to keep costs under control.
While there are certainly a host of things in the budget that could be cut, they would have to be line-item targeted and collectively they might be a rounding error in the total budget. Re-engineering would save much more, but is MUCH harder to do – and that’s where I’d like to see some attention placed.
I also agree on not privatizing SS look at Bernie Madoff type scheme’s they would feast on SS cash.
Jason, I would like to read more about your ideas which seem to have potential. Getting congress to workhard and make tough choices may be more difficult then coming up with the plan though.
We are recognized around the world has having the best social security system. Why mess with success?
Thanks, Patriotsgt. Re-engineering is especially hard in government because you have to feed the people with sacred cows 🙂
I don’t know what the figures are these days, but to set the order of magnitude of the opportunity I recall that a study done in the late 80’s showed that for every $1.00 of tax money in the budget for welfare and Medicare, only about $0.10 actually gets delivered to the recipients – the rest is consumed in the process of getting that $0.10 to them.
I also know from personal experience that the rules on accounting for spending create many more problems than they solve. If, for example, a military manufacturer has an order for 200 units each of which requires 47 screws to assemble they CAN’T buy 10,000 screws and use the best 9,400
– they must account for the purchase and audit history of each screw, so that case something goes wrong they know exactly who to blame. This makes the cost of those screws more than 10 times the retail price, and more than 20 times the bulk wholesale price.
With that in mind, it should be possible to cut the total cost of many large programs by 20% or more and deliver MORE benefits to the same recipients. That’s the kind of cost cutting that makes sense 🙂
Dept’s within the gov are very territorial and guard their budgets (protected by various congress persons)making it difficult to take away. The larger the budget the bigger their power base. Getting them to change is difficult they are not motivated to save and its an entity that punishes those that do not spend all their money. You can’t turn any back in, or it is feared that it may get taken away the next year. Every summer, we get told to make a list of stufff we can buy so when the enevitable end of year spend down the surplus occurs you’re ready. I’d much rather see that money get turned in applied to the deficit or debt and the savings protected from cutting at least 1 year. Then wee could give some service awards for those that save taxpayer money instead of waste it on new office furniture again.
Hear hear, Patriotsgt. That’s why re-engineering is so difficult. There has to be an incentive to make improvements, and no punishments for doing the right thing.
If you’re interested in a business theory that tends to slaughter sacred cows, I recommend the Theory of Constraints – Eliyahu Goldratt is the author, the first book was The Goal. Of particular interest on these issues would be his work on Critical Chain – an alternative approach to project management, which says the reasons most projects are late, over budget and under scope is because of the political pressures like you described 🙂
Change is always hard. Fundamental, paradigm-shifting change is harder. If we’re going to fix what’s not working then we have a lot of work to do 🙂
PatriotSgt and Jason together make a point (and I’m not sure they intended). This problem is not limited to government. I’ve seen the same thing in plenty of large corporations, and other large organizations. Change is hard.
Inefficiency is not an argument against government, it is an argument against big anything.