Return to Common Sense
March 7, 2013
Section: Domestic - Budget
“The ever expanding budget reflects entitlements on autopilot to bankruptcy, monies for redistribution back to states, and new unfunded programs added every year which will require more than doubling marginal tax rates causing more damage than good to address these shortfalls.”
“The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program.” Ronald Reagan.
Philosophy (Background, Issues, Objectives):
The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 created the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to prepare projections of federal spending "based on the continuation of the existing level of government services."
· In 1985, the Deficit Control Act ensured that spending would be adjusted to keep pace with inflation.
· The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) uses the "current services baseline" and automatically increases the budgets of existing federal agencies every year even if Congress and the Senate do nothing.
The budget process is defined, established by the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, and other budget legislation.
· The President must submit a budget to Congress each year by the first Monday in February.
· Each year in March, the CBO publishes an analysis of the President's budget proposals.
· The House and Senate Budget Committees each submit a budget resolution by April 1.
· Appropriations committees then put together appropriations bills, considered in the House after May 15.
· Once appropriations committees pass their bills, they are considered by the House and Senate, with a conference committee is typically required to resolve differences between House and Senate bills.
· Once a conference bill has passed both chambers of Congress, it is sent to the President, who may sign the bill or veto.
· Congress has not passed all of the appropriations bills before the start of the fiscal year, so Congress then enacted continuing resolutions to provide for the temporary funding of government operations.
o In 2012, there are twelve appropriations bills which need to be passed:
§ Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration.
§ Commerce, Justice, and Science.
§ Energy and Water Development.
§ Financial Services and General Government (includes judicial branch, the Executive Office of the President, and District of Columbia appropriations).
§ Homeland Security.
§ Interior and Environment.
§ Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.
§ Legislative Branch.
§ Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.
§ State and Foreign Operations.
§ Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.
o Multiple bills are sometimes combined into one piece of legislation, such as the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009.
The federal government produces a budget each year that would not pass a public audit.
- The Federal Financial Management Improvement Act of 1996 required the publication of consolidated financial statements using generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), and the GAO provide an opinion on their condition.
- The Office of Management and Budget publishes the budget.
o The totals for the current and upcoming fiscal years are only projected amounts.
o Unfunded liabilities such as Medicare, Social Security, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not included in the budget numbers.
- The Government Accountability Office (GAO) oversees the use of public funds.
o Establish accounting standards for the federal government
o Conduct audits of internal controls and financial management.
o Conduct program evaluations and analyses of a broad range of federal activities.
· In 2010 for the 14th year in a row, the U.S. Government was unable to express an opinion on the consolidated financial statements because of control weaknesses and other limitations.
Annual governmental budget process is only a spending plan.
- Federal spending has reached $25,000 per household in 2008.
- Budgetary outlays consume almost 24% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010.
Government spending exceeds 50% of GDP in
Government spending is more than 45% of GDP in
o Excessive government has serious adverse effect: slower growth, higher unemployment, and lower living standards.
o CBO projects federal spending to grow to 40% of GDP due to entitlement growth.
- Total cost of mandatory entitlement spending is projected to leap from 13.4% of GDP in 2010 to 14.1% of GDP by 2020:
o Social Security is projected to expand by 6% annually.
o Medicare is projected to expand by 7% annually.
o Medicaid is projected to expand by 8% annually.
o Net interest spending will consume an additional 9% to 46% of GDP unless programs reined in.
o Increasing marginal tax rates will have to more than double, which is not economically feasible as a solution to these run-away costs.
- Defense spending (20% and recovering).
- “Discretionary” spending (25% with open ended commitments).
- Grants to state and local governments are over $400 billion.
- Earmarks and pork projects are appended to existing legislation to avoid open voting.
- American people understand little of the details, but understand the budget is in trouble.
- Spending determined first, then superficial examination of revenue sources.
There are only two sources of governmental revenue.
- Taxing individuals and businesses.
The federal budget includes a staggering 1,804 subsidy programs, including grants, loans, insurance, scholarships, and other benefits.
· The growth in the number of subsidy programs illustrates the government’s increasing disregard for federalism (the constitutional principle that the federal government ought not to encroach on state, local, and private activities).
· State governments are becoming little more than regional divisions of the national government and nonprofit groups and businesses are becoming tools of the state.
In 2006 there were 814 federal grant programs for state and local governments.
Government has built and continues to mismanage several major infrastructure programs:
- Government enterprises compete with private alternatives, but are paid for by public funds.
- Public productivity rarely competes favorably vs. private enterprise.
- Amtrak intercity passenger rail service (46 states) with no self supporting routes.
- Federal highway system (47,000 miles) with no self sustaining revenue source.
- Postal Service (50 states) with competition eroding the target customer base.
- High Speed Rail (HSR) for 125mph trains is stealth subsidy for freight haulers.
Internet access is becoming personal and business basic requirement.
- In 2005 74% of Americans, including 94% of computer users, used the Internet
- Cable firms served approximately 60% of broadband subscribers in 2005.
- Satellite, fixed wireless, and broadband over power line technologies also compete for customers
- Deployment of universal broadband connections could create economic benefit of $400 billion a year.
- Online sales totaled $76 billion in 2002, but still only 1.5% of all sales.
- Additional competition in video services could lower cable bills by 15%.
Government programs must each be self sustaining.
- Programs must be periodically examined for effectiveness.
- Spending can only be driven by expected revenue.
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) criteria for “emergency” spending (all five must be met):
- Necessary; (essential or vital, not merely useful or beneficial)
- Sudden; (coming into being quickly, not building up over time)
- Urgent; (requiring immediate action)
- Unforeseen; and
- Not permanent.
Federal government should subsidize interstate infrastructure projects.
- Once infrastructure is constructed, then privatize its operation.
Inter-state wealth redistribution is not a valid purpose for any program.
- If States need money, they can tax their residents directly.
Short Term, Reform federal budget process:
- End baseline budgeting process with automatic annual increases.
- Limit federal government spending to no more than 20% of GDP.
- Require balanced budget for each year.
o Institute biennial budgeting and appropriations to restore order to the spending process.
o Enact long term budgets and review at least every five years with triggers or action-forcing devices that automatically make changes when spending exceeds budgeted amounts.
o Deliver annual report to American citizens of the country’s financial condition.
- Comply with GASB 45 to establish an accrual accounting approach to report the cost of benefit as an expense during the years in which the employee is working.
o Include State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) as separate line item.
- Isolate Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as a separate part of the total budget converting them into regular “discretionary” programs.
- Require the President and the Congress to jointly estimate the amount of revenue they expect will be available as well as the fiscal year's actuarially accrued "non-discretionary" expenses.
o Appropriate truly "non-discretionary" obligations, like Social Security and Medicare, as the first task.
o If appropriations tasks from the previous year have not been completed, no new appropriations should be allowed to ensure that accounting estimates are based on complete and truthful information.
- Include a provision of actuarially prudent reserves for any federal insurance programs or guarantees now in existence or provided at the time Congress creates them in the future.
o Require explicit, current recognition of the future costs for such specialized programs as flood and crop insurance, Export-Import guarantees, and prospective bailouts at the time they are granted rather than the time they are likely to be paid.
- Recognize mandates and their enabling regulations as the responsibility of the federal government and charged to the federal budget.
- Include a complete and objective cost benefit analysis in any healthcare regulations.
- Require adherence to strict rules for use of “emergency” spending.
- GAO should conduct an annual study of duplication in federal spending.
Require Dynamic Analysis to evaluate any new tax policy macroeconomic changes:
- Identify explicit sources of funds for each spending program (or group of programs).
- Limit spending based on projected sources of revenue.
- Recognize future unfunded obligations in program budget estimates.
- Abolish use of budget “trust funds” since funds are virtual and easily diverted to spend on pork projects.
Use Performance Assessment Rating Tool (PART) to evaluate existing program and regulation effectiveness.
- OMB should subject all major regulations to a benefit-cost analysis before being implemented.
o ExpectMore.Gov developed to monitor program effectiveness.
o Calculate benefits for all new programs, not just “major” (estimated economic impact greater than $100 million; less than 1% of all programs) programs.
o Reduce regulation compliance burden.
- Resurrect the “Byrd Committee,” the Joint Committee on Reduction of Nonessential Federal Expenditures, with subpoena powers to focus on making rescissions in federal spending and requiring an up-and-down vote on the floor.
o Terminate programs and regulations that are ineffective or inefficient
Authorize a Presidential line item veto authority to limit “earmark” and “pork” projects.
- Provide a searchable website showing spending from the Office of Management and Budget.
o Empower taxpayers to monitor federal spending with internet access tools.
- Enact a Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TaBOR) to restrict spending increases.
Require audits of all government departments based on standard private business accounting practices.
- Each department should create a permanent board, whose charter is to search out and identify waste.
- Give each government department independent auditors.
- Compare estimated vs. actual costs for all government programs.
Long Term, Downsize government, with particular emphasis on unsustainable entitlement spending:
- Abolish Cabinet departments not covered under enumerated powers (see individual issue sections with 2010 budgets):
o Department of Agriculture ($142.0 billion annually).
o Department of Commerce ($16.7 billion annually).
§ Abolish business subsidies should be abolished, including technology subsidies, handouts to fishermen, and minority business aid ($1.2 billion).
§ Eliminate Economic Development Administration funding ($469 million).
§ Terminate the International Trade Administration ($389 million).
o Department of Education ($106.9 billion annually).
o Department of Energy ($38.3 billion annually).
o Department of Health and Human Services ($868.8 billion annually).
o Department of Housing and Urban Development ($62.5 billion annually).
§ Privatize Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), ($6.5 B).
§ Privatize Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), ($6.5 B).
§ Privatize Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae).
o Department of Interior (12.0 billion annually).
o Department of Labor (209.3 billion annually).
§ Devolve Unemployment Insurance to the states ($134.4 billion annually).
§ Terminate Employment and Training Services ($4.8 billion annually).
§ Terminate Job Corps ($1.7 billion annually).
§ Terminate Trade Adjustment Assistance ($1.3 billion annually).
§ Abolish the regulatory activities of The Occupational Safety and Health administration and The Wage and Hour Division.
o Department of Transportation ($90.9 billion annually).
§ Devolve the Federal Highway Administration ($51.8 billion annually) to the states.
§ Devolve the Federal Transit Administration ($15.5 billion annually) to the states.
§ Privatize air traffic control and end airport grants ($14.2 billion annually)
§ Privatize FAA Facilities (Air Traffic Control) & Equipment ($2.9B).
§ Devolve highway infrastructure to the states.
§ Privatize the nation’s airports, while ending federal subsidies.
§ Devolve seaport infrastructure to the states.
§ Devolve St. Lawrence Seaway infrastructure to the states.
- Privatize major entitlement programs into personal accounts:
o Medicare (325B) - Privatize into Personal Health Savings Accounts.
o Social Security - Privatize into personal accounts.
- Devolve entitlement programs back to the states:
o Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit ($62B)
o Medicaid ($186B)
o State Payment for Family Support ($4.1B).
o Temporary Assistance for Needy Families ($18.1B)
- Privatize activities that could be performed better as a standalone businesses:
o Privatize the Postal Service ($8.1B).
o Privatize Amtrak ($2.53 billion annually).
- Privatize activities that could be performed better by the private sector:
o Army Corps of Engineers ($4.9B).
§ Dams ($10.0B).
§ Energy Facilities ($10.0B).
o Export-Import Bank.
o Geographic Survey ($.5B).
o Global Positioning Service ($7.0B).
o Government Printing Office.
o Legal Services Corporation ($350 M).
o NASA ($15.7B).
o National Weather Service ($2.3B).
o Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation.
o Retirement Insurance, including Social Security ($527B).
o Risk Management Agency ($3.4B).
o Transportation Security Agency ($2.7B).
- Sell off excess federal assets:
o Excess electromagnetic spectrum ($150B).
o Commodity lands (Forest Service, BLM) ($160B).
o Government buildings and lands ($10.B).
- Privatize federal insurance programs since the government has no Constitutional role providing or guaranteeing insurance coverage:
o Crop Insurance.
o Flood Insurance.
o Property Insurance.
o Terrorism Risk Insurance (TRIA).
o Windstorm Insurance.
- Devolve local programs back to the states:
o Child Care Entitlement Grants ($2.7B).
o Child Care & Development Grants ($2.1B).
o Community Oriented Policing Services ($575M).
o Community Service Grants ($631M)
o Environmental Protection Agency ($3.6B).
o Federal Transit Administration ($8.4B).
o Foster Care & Adoption Grants ($6.5B).
o Head Start ($6.8B).
o Social Service Grants ($1.8B).
- Terminate corporate welfare and other mis-targeted programs:
o Administration on Aging ($1.4B).
o Employment and Training Administration ($5.2B).
o Low Income Home Energy Assistance ($2.1B).
o Small Business Administration ($3.0B).
o Substance Abuse & Mental Health ($3.2B).
o Trade Adjustment Assistance ($1.1B).
- Terminate failed, outdated, and irrelevant programs:
o Agency for International Development ($3.7B).
o Corporation for Public Broadcasting ($466M).
o Economic Development Administration ($392M).
o Maritime Administration ($411M).
o National Endowment for the Arts & Humanities ($254M).
o Rural Development ($1.0B).
o United Nations ($362M).
- Consolidate duplicative and contradictory programs:
o At-risk youth.
o Early childhood development.
o Economic development.
o Homeless assistance.
o International education.
o Safe water.
- Sunset programs, rather than trimming them or phasing them out.
Subsidize building Internet of the future across U.S.A. to provide universal wireless broadband access.
- Ban Internet access services taxes (federal, state, and local).
- Limit video franchising regulation.
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“Policy Recommendations for the 105th Congress” published by CATO Institute, 1997.
“Downsizing the Federal Government” by Chris Edwards published by CATO Institute, 2005.
“The Debt Bomb” by Tom A. Coburn published by Thomas Nelson, 2012.
Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) tracks waste, mismanagement, and inefficiency in the federal government and publishes at http://www.cagw.org/site/PageServer .
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the Swamp” dated
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view on catastrophic coverage: When the government sells insurance, everybody
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Funds and State Fiscal
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“No Reservations: The Case for Dismantling the Indian Bureaucracy” by Carl Horowitz dated February 4, 2011 published by Town Hall at http://townhall.com/columnists/CarlHorowitz/2011/02/04/no_reservations__the_case_for_dismantling_the_indian_bureaucracy .
“What We’re Talking About When We Talk About Big Government” by David Steinberg dated March 7, 2011 published by Pajamas Media at http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/what-we%E2%80%99re-talking-about-when-we-talk-about-big-government/ .
“Taking the Government Out of Housing Finance: Principles for Reforming the Housing Finance Market” by Peter J. Wallison, Edward Pinto, and Alex J. Pollock dated March 24, 2011 published by American Enterprise Institute at http://www.aei.org/paper/100206 .
“Budget Cuts look Familiar?” by Chris Edwards dated April 19, 2011 published by Cato Institute at http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/budget-cuts-look-familiar .
“EDA and the Cookie Monsters” dated June 8, 2011 published by National Review Online at http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/269083/eda-and-cookie-monsters-editors .
“Considering a Balanced Budget Amendment: Lessons from History” by Ernest J. Istook, Jr. dated July 14, 2011 published by The Heritage Foundation at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2011/07/Considering-a-Balanced-Budget-Amendment-Lessons-from-History .
“Truthful Accounting Should Be the First objective of Any Debt Ceiling Compromise” by Sheila Weinberg and Ralf Seiffe dated July 28, 2011 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/07/truthful_accounting_should_be_the_first_objective_of_any_debt_ceiling_compromise.html .
“Time to End the U.S. Debt Accelerator Baseline Budgeting” by Terry Paulson dated May 7, 2012 published by Town Hall at http://townhall.com/columnists/terrypaulson/2012/05/07/time_to_end_the_us_debt_accelerator_baseline_budgeting .
“CBO Report Echoes Trustees on Medicare, Social Security” by Romina Boccia dated June 14, 2012 published by The Heritage Foundation at http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/06/cbo-long-term-budget-outlook-on-the-nations-fiscal-future .
“Stop the Menendez-Boxer Sideshow: End Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Now” by David C. John dated November 27, 2012 published by The Heritage Foundation at http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/11/end-fannie-mae-and-freddie-mac-now-menendez-boxer-bill-not-the-solution .
“A Housing Market Free of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: The Economic Effects of Eliminating Government-Sponsored Enterprises in Housing” by John L. Ligon and William W. Beach dated January 8, 2013 published by The Heritage Foundation at http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/01/a-housing-market-free-of-fannie-mae-freddie-mac .
“Get the Feds Out of Infrastructure” by Chris Edwards dated February 5, 2013 published by National Review Online at http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/339767/get-feds-out-infrastructure-chris-edwards .