Recently, my totally awesome husband was laid off from his job. It is the first time in almost 30 years that he is without a job. We find ourselves readjusting our lives and reconsidering expenditures. Things are a bit tough right now. I work in a commission only job, and the past 2 months have been brutally slow for me. In fact, 2016 in general has not been as I thought it would be. This got me to thinking about the budget of our country and how PE Trump might go about making changes in order to improve our lives.
I don’t know about most of you, but when money disappears most people cut spending. Our country has a serious spending problem, as well as a priority problem. The first thing my husband and I did was to cut off our satellite television service. Directv was costing us $130 per month for the service and equipment. In the case of the country, cutting spending is exceptionally difficult because once funds have been budgeted, most agencies have no incentive to cut costs. The goal is to keep every penny budgeted. Even when dollars are freed up, most will spend those dollars anyway so that they are not lost in the next budget. I remember when I was on active duty, the new fiscal year began each October. In August or September units look at their budget expenditures to see where they might still have money. Once those funds are found, the unit will go about spending on just about anything to keep from losing that allocation.
What bugs me the most are earmarks. I was disappointed to hear that Republicans have attempted to bring back earmarks (I wasn’t aware they had ever ended, as Consumers Against Government Waste has still been publishing their “Pig” book which lists the biggest offenders to pork barrel spending.) A “pork” project is a line-item in an appropriations bill that designates tax dollars for a specific purpose in circumvention of established budgetary procedures. These are the types of projects you hear about that include studies like combating Goth Culture ($273,000 spent since 2002) or the construction of a bridge in Alaska that leads nowhere ($3 million).
How does Congress come up with these expenditures? Most often these projects are promised during election season in order to garner votes. Congress people are then obligated to get those projects funded and, so, they sneak them into appropriations bills where they virtually go unnoticed, except by CAGW. Where do we find the most earmarks? CAGW’s website shows the following chart:
As most know, the US is almost $20 trillion in debt, which is over $61,000 per person. Consider these statistics regarding poverty, homelessness and hunger in the U.S. as provided by Feeding America for 2015:
- 43.1 million people (13.5 percent) were in poverty.24.4 million (12.4 percent) of people ages 18-64 were in poverty.
- 14.5 million (19.7 percent) children under the age of 18 were in poverty.
- 4.2 million (8.8 percent) seniors 65 and older were in poverty.
- 42.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children.
- 13 percent of households (15.8 million households) were food insecure.
- 5 percent of households (6.3 million households) experienced very low food security.
- Households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 17 percent compared to 11 percent.
- Households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (17%), especially households with children headed by single women (30%) or single men (22%), Black non-Hispanic households (22%) and Hispanic households (19%).
According to National Alliance to end Homelessness, “In January 2015, 564,708 people were homeless on a given night in the United States. Of that number, 206,286 were people in families, and. 358,422 were individuals. About 15 percent of the homeless population – 83,170 – are considered “chronically homeless” individuals.”
With these statistics in mind, we should all know that the sole purpose of a government is to protect the rights of individuals and to provide security–protection of persons and property. The government, then, would not be doing its duty by allowing extreme poverty, homelessness and hunger to exist on a continuing basis. For the majority of our citizens, we have no problem allowing our tax dollars to be spent on providing services for these people and/or families. However, it is the government’s responsibility to work towards a solution to eradicate the problem altogether. Government can do this by stimulating growth in private business and through providing opportunities for job training so that people can go back to work. Cutting taxes on corporations also helps. Corporations in and of themselves do not pay taxes; they add the cost of taxes to the cost to produce their product, which increases what consumers pay. In other words, the consumer pays the taxes, not the corporation. Therefore, when corporate taxes are lowered, prices go down, consumers spend less on what they buy and have more disposable income to purchase wanted (rather than only necessary) products–things like cars, homes, bigger ticket items. This increased spending generates more revenue for the corporation which it can then use to expand, thus creating more jobs. It also increases tax revenue.
For a family who has to cut back due to a job loss, we stop spending on the extras–the things we can do without. Why should the same not be true of our government? According to CAGW, “Since 1991, Congress has approved 110,442 earmarks costing taxpayers $323.1 billion.” Can you imagine how many people could be fed and housed with this money? In 2005 alone, the U.S. spent $2 trillion on space exploration. I am not saying that we shouldn’t explore space, I simply contend that we should feed, clothe and house our poor before we spend money on programs such as this. I would rather the U.S. be known as first a nation with 100% literacy, no hunger, low poverty, and no homelessness than simply the world’s greatest superpower.
Another way to raise money to feed, clothe and house our poor is to look within the government for program duplication. When President Obama came to office in 2008, he promised to thoroughly review all agency programs and to do away with duplication. To date, he consolidated approximately or eliminated 136 programs; however, there is more work to be done. According to a USAToday article in 2014, “the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, identifies 26 new areas where federal government programs are fragmented, duplicative, overlapping or just inefficient. Add that to the 162 areas identified in past reports, and Congress has a road map for saving tens of billions of dollars a year.” They also note that, “It’s impossible to account for how much money is wasted through duplication, in part because the government doesn’t keep track of which programs each agency is responsible for.” This fact is disturbing. Congress has oversight responsibility for this and should make a concerted effort to identify every program operated by each agency, dollars spent on each said program, and to identify what elements of each program may be ineffective, unnecessary, or duplicated by other agencies.
“One of the most troubling things in GAO’s report is the number of agencies that have no idea just how much taxpayer money they are spending on their programs,” said House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. He’s sponsored legislation, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, that would require the government to better track spending data from Congress to an agency to its ultimate recipient. The bill passed the House 388-1 last year and is awaiting a vote in the Senate.
I would also include that there are entire agencies that could be, if not should be, completely eliminated. The Constitution provides that any power not specifically enumerated within is left to the States. Education should be one of those. Until the Carter Administration, the responsibility to conducting the education program was left to the state. There was a small part of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare prior to 1979 which supported the state’s programs and conducted research. In October 1979 President Carter signed into law the Department of Education Organization Act. It was a highly controversial law which raised the department to a cabinet level position. Many Republicans considered the law as unconstitutional and as a federal power grab away from the states. According to the U.S. Department of Education website, in 1980 the total budget of this department was $14 million. Today, in 2015 the total budget was $87 million! Reversing President Carter’s power grab and returning education back to the states could save millions, thus providing more money to be freed up to feed, clothe and house the U.S’s poor.
Additionally, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002 was completely unnecessary. Created in response to 9-11, President Bush’s thought was to assist in the communication between law enforcement agencies to prevent another such event. A noble cause, but protection and defense of our nation is the sole responsibility of the Department of Defense. Rather than creating an entirely separate agency, President Bush could have asked the Secretary of Defense to establish subordinate unit within DOD to handle a program to improve and streamline communication between DOD, CIA, DIA. FBI and state law enforcement, to manage border security, customs and emergency management. All of which provide protection to the nation. To this end, the budgetary needs most likely would be considerably less than establishing and managing an entirely new agency. To date, the budget for DHS is $41.2 billion.
We The People have given the federal government a fiduciary responsibility to ethically and morally handle the funds of the people. That is an important concept. The People are required to pay their taxes on time and to properly calculate and determine the right amount of taxes owed. Our tax system is cumbersome and because of that, most utilize CPAs to assist in those calculations. According to the IRS, there is over $300 billion in unpaid taxes. Moreover, fraud, waste and abuse of government funds and services continues to plague us. According to the Washington Times in March 2015, “The spending issues, ranging from Medicare and Medicaid mismanagement to transportation programs to weapon systems acquisitions, cost taxpayers $125 billion in improper payments in 2014 alone, as highlighted in a new report from the Government Accountability Office.” Think back to my active duty experience and spending allocated dollars in the last two months of a budget year.
Consider if we simply halved the budgets of these two agencies and combined them to increase our budget for feeding, clothing, and housing our poor. This would come to $20,643,500,000.00. If we also included half of last years pork barrel spending, we would add an additional $2.5 billion to our total. There is no doubt that our government can and should do a better job on spending. Moreover, if we include just half of the outstanding taxes and total lost to fraud, waste and abuse, our total then rises to $255,643,500.00! If we take this total and divide it by the number of people living in poverty, we get $6,931.40 per person! Wow what a difference this would make. This is more than what the average American earns in a month. But, to make these types of changes and cuts takes courage and strength of character to stick to one’s goals for this nation. Will PE Trump follow through on his promises? We will have to wait and see.
Food for thought today!