Many Republican and conservative politicians talk about balancing the federal budget. (Democrats don’t because their party is too busy spending more to care about spending less), but very few have specific details on how to get it done. In the case of Donald Trump, the discussion centers on:
Significant tax cuts to dramatically grow the economy (well above OMBs projected 2.2% long term GDP growth rate) to outpace the cost of current government programs, and an increase to the Department of Defense.
Some people, like conservative radio host Sean Hannity, advocate the Penny Plan. The penny plan calls for reducing one penny out of every dollar that the federal government spends. Over a 5 to 6 year period the budget balances.
The devil, however, is always in the details. Specifically how do you reduce one penny out of every dollar that the federal government spends?
I spent 10 years building and balancing budgets in the Department of Defense and the details matter. The following list of ideas are the foundation of, and principles upon which, one penny out of every dollar, for example, could be found over six years in order to shrink the federal government, reduce the burden on American taxpayers, and balance the budget!
First, and a lynchpin to balancing the budget, the economy must be energized and grown beyond historic growth and current CBO projections of 2.2%. While this is well above the average for the Obama Administration, it isn’t nearly good enough.
Spur Economic Growth:
Growing the economy starts by eliminating laws and regulations that strangle small, medium, and large businesses instead of enabling their expansion and competitiveness. Minimum wage laws, Obama care, energy mandates, and oppressive tax laws, for example, should be repealed outright or dramatically simplified to unshackle America’s economy.
- Minimum wage laws not only hurt small businesses and entry-level workers, they cost the taxpayers as well since the federal government also pays those higher wages.
- Obama care is a well-documented job killer, massively expensive and the gateway program to institute socialized medicine.
- Taxes must be reduced to spur business creation, expansion, and innovation. Letting the American people keep more of their own money is also a moral imperative.
We must enact an all the above energy policy and repeal penalties instituted by the Obama administration and the EPA upon nonrenewable sources like coal. Democrat policies drive the costs of energy up, and the federal government uses a lot of it. Cheaper energy means cheaper government. Reducing energy costs results in a net savings not just to the federal government but also to Americans and businesses. With reduced cost comes greater competitiveness, profitability and prosperity both at home and abroad. The United States has enough energy to lead the world for 100+ years. We will need it to balance our budget, pay back our national debt, and posture America for another hundred years of prosperity.
Growing the economy is critical, butwe must cut the budget.
Macro Level Reductions.
- Freeze hiring on all civilians within the federal government. There could be exceptions made in areas that are considered strategically important, such as the Department of Defense or Customs and Border Patrol, but on the whole the effort would be a freeze to further hiring across the federal government. A slightly less contentious option would be to institute something like a 3 to 1 hiring policy. In this case for every three people who naturally leave the federal government, such as to retire, one civilian hire would be allowed to replace them.
- This policy would reduce manpower in agencies across the federal government. There are duplication of missions and programs throughout our government. As personnel decline those duplicative organizations, agencies and programs should be collapsed into one another. As the organizations are collapsed into one another, the management overhead should be trimmed as well, effectively cut in half and taken as additional savings.
- Another benefit of smaller and simpler government is that the oversight and management of government itself becomes less complex, and more effective. The potential for savings and reductions in watchdog organizations like OMB (which oversee the federal government’s budget and budget building process) could be further reduced.
- The federal government, including the Department of Defense, owns or leases over 361,000 buildings, office spaces, and warehouses, with an annual operating cost of over $33 Billion.
Much of this infrastructure is excess to need, and should be sold or disposed of now. As the federal government is reduced through manpower reductions, even more excess office space and facilities will be exposed. Those facilities need to be returned to state and local governments or sold outright to businesses and the American people freeing taxpayers from the burden of maintaining them, paying utilities such as water, electricity, etc.
There is significant excess infrastructure and basing across the DOD. The Air Force, for example, constantly states that it has 30% access infrastructure and desperately needs a BRAC in order to cut excess bases down to the proper size to support the diminished Air Force. Done properly, a BRAC could save the Department of Defense billions every year without any adverse impact to our nations military capabilities.
Micro Level Reductions:
- There is waste in the Department of Defense when it comes to the military’s energy spending. The Obama administration turned the Department of Defense into a research and development arm of the renewable energy industry.
Untold billions of dollars, hidden within the Service budgets, are being spent every year by the Department of Defense on windmills, solar farms, development of renewable biofuels, and testing of biofuels on military equipment from aircraft to ships. Unfortunately biofuels are far more expensive than the fuels they’re replacing. They’ve also proven to be corrosive, contain less energy per pound of fuel than what the replacing, and effectively reduce the range and capabilities of the equipment in which they are used. They increase the cost of maintenance, wear and tear on assets, and decrease the longevity of jet engines and other components such as seals that are exposed to the more corrosive biofuels. All of this R&D should be stopped and the Department of Defense should no longer be used as an experimental arm for the progressive anti-global warming movement.
- Agencies and programs across the federal government need to be eliminated or drastically reduced. The list includes the EPA, the Education Department, Health and Human Services, the IRS, the Public Broadcasting System, and support for the Federal Reserve as a good start.
- Tax laws need to be simplified so that businesses can free themselves from the wasted cost of dealing with a tax code that’s become so burdensome no single person can possibly understand it.
- Reductions of the types listed above would shrink the federal government to the point where Congress could once again manage it. After all, Congress’s prime responsibility is to pass laws including those funding the federal government. They failed year after year to pass budgets because its become far too big and far too complex. With the reduced size comes an increased ability to manage. When Congress is able to properly manage agencies and their budgets further waste, duplication and costs can be found.
- We commonly hear the term too big to fail. In the case of government it’s failing because its too big.
The federal government needs to prioritize its constitutionally mandated responsibilities first. All other missions are secondary and subject to reduction.
- The border must be sealed! Illegal immigrants who are committing murders, rapes, robberies, dealing drugs, involved in human trafficking, to gang warfare must be caught, jailed or sent back to their home countries for jailing. Penalties must be stepped up as an effective deterrent to these brutal thugs ever returning to the United States.
- The wall must be built and America’s border controlled. We must significantly reduce the number of illegal aliens, and know who enters and stays within our borders. You wouldn’t let strangers into your house, and we should not let them into our country. Fewer illegal aliens will reduce burdens on local, state and federal governments. The costs to America’s schools and law enforcement alone would be a significant savings.
- Energy subsidies must be stopped. Let companies and technologies compete on an equal footing. The strong will survive and the inefficient will not.
- Waste, fraud and abuse of government welfare programs must stop. Welfare should be tied to work for the able minded and able bodied. The goal is to use the social safety net as a temporary support system, not a way of life.
- Finally, we must reform programs like social security, in order to ensure they exist for the long term. Without reform, costs will continue to eat the budget, and our children will see nothing but the bills.
- Balancing the budget is a national imperative, and should be codified as a Constitutional Amendment. It wont be easy, and will require courageous politicians with the insight to see, analyze and solve Americas spending problems. No such leadership exists in the Democrat Party. It’s GOP or Bust…literally.