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Taming spending gorillas: cutting costs while still having everything


All the manure nowadays isn’t just on organic farms — a lot of it is being spread by presidential wannabes and just about everyone in Congress.

We won’t even dignify the blather about agriculture needing to “share the load” and accept disproportionate cuts in funding for farm programs, when money for actual farm programs is such a piddly part of the budget as to be negligible in terms of reducing the massive deficit (as we all know, food stamps, school nutrition and other food programs get the majority of money allocated to agriculture).

But what should really give everyone pause is the ever so fervent vowing by candidates that they will slay the dragon of fiscal deficits and make Fair Maiden USA solvent once again.

We will do that, they rhapsodize, by economizing, by cutting non-essential programs, blah-blah-blah, and their ever so fervent followers cheer, yeah, right on, cut, cut, cut — crawfishing all the while: But don’t cut this or that benefit, and we really do need this or that program, and how about some help with our highways, or airports, or…

In other words, say John and Jill Voter, we’re for cutting federal spending as long as it doesn’t impact us or the things that make our lives workable.

Three 800 pound gorillas in the room in terms of government spending are Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and education, yet an April nationwide poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed more than 62 percent oppose cuts to Social Security and education, while more than 50 percent oppose cutting Medicare/Medicaid.

The Really Big Daddy gorilla in the federal spending room, which the politicians often pretend isn’t there, is defense, at almost $1 trillion annually (and perhaps more when all the hidden and indirect costs are factored in) — by far the largest government expense. Here, polls indicate voters overwhelmingly favor deep cuts in spending, at odds with the position of the administration and many in Congress.

In the room, too, is yet another gorilla, not as big as the others, but the fastest growing of all: interest on the national debt. In fiscal 2010, it was  $414 billion; by 2020, according to the president’s budget projections, it will be $768 billion. The biggest holders of U.S. debt, and thus the beneficiaries of those interest payments: China, Japan, the United Kingdom, and oil exporting nations.

Despite the Bush administration’s crying wolf about an a insolvent Social Security and their attempt to hand it over to their Wall Street buddies (wouldn’t that have worked swell in the subsequent financial meltdown?), it is one of the more solid government programs and with a bit of fine-tuning can still be paying benefits for decades to come.

Medicare/Medicaid and defense are the big apes that most need taming — which the political establishment, caught up in posturing and pontificating about Obamacare, pretends not to notice.

TAGS: Legislative
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