President Trump: I’ve Got Your Five Percent Budget Cuts Right Here
The federal deficit and national debt have soared under President Donald Trump and Congress. In response, Trump asked his Cabinet to cut their agency’s budgets by five percent. Will that help? A little, but not enough.
What Does The Proposal Mean?
USA TODAY noted four key weaknesses in Trump’s plan. First, Congress can ignore the cuts. The GOP did that in early 2018 when Trump proposed cutting 62 programs.
Second, agency cuts have no effect on Social Security, Medicare, and other programs which drive our long-term national debt.
Third, near-term budget deficits have jumped thanks to tax cuts which were not offset with budget cuts and big increases in national defense spending. Trump defended the latter as necessary to fix a military which was “falling apart.”
Fourth, budget experts the newspaper cited say that a five percent cut would total a few tens of billions of dollars. A lot of money. But a small amount compared to a projected trillion-dollar deficit in 2019.
What can the average person do in light of these facts and how Republicans and Democrats regularly talk big but cut nothing in the budget? The most important thing is to keep up the pressure. The second thing to do is give them specific advice on where to cut. Third, get ready for the budget crisis that both parties agree is on its way.
With Election Day around the corner, here are some cuts you can demand your representatives take action on.
This Should Be Bipartisan: Eliminating Improper Payments
The most bipartisan way to cut spending is to find that which is inefficient. Philosophical disagreements on Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance shouldn’t matter when reducing improper payments. Several Medicare and Medicaid programs have about 10 percent of their budgets lost to improper payments. Unemployment insurance loses over 12 percent.
Just four Medicare and Medicaid programs have over $88 billion in improper payments. This is a lot of money. But it just scratches the surface.
The official improper payment estimate for 2017 was $141 billion. As I reported earlier this year, this 3.5 percent estimate is likely low. Just 78 percent of the federal government was examined due to limits in federal law. Second, many agencies don’t have reliable methods of assessment. For example, the Government Accountability Office reports that method of analysis used by the Office of Management & Budget may not give accurate figures.
Congress continues to be AWOL on their duties to stop this. Two bipartisan bills passed a Senate Committee in June. The full Senate hasn’t even looked at them.
About That Defense Budget…
Trump and many other Republicans believe that a strong Defense Department must have more money. However, as reported at The Stream last year, some spending makes the Pentagon more expensive without improving national defense:
The Defense Department is full of corruption. In 2014, the Army lied to Congress about a fraud-ridden program. The Washington Post reports that the Pentagon hid $125 billion in savings. And a 2011 report from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) found companies involved with or guilty of fraud received over one trillion dollars in defense contracts. Almost $400 billion was issued after findings of guilt.
More recently, a plan to reduce Defense Department cost overruns through changes in payment schedules and performance-based incentives for contractors was scrapped after pressure from Republicans at the behest of the affected industries.
The Tom Price Problem
Former Trump Cabinet Secretary Tom Price reimbursed taxpayers for $51,887.31 for inappropriate use of private charter planes while he was Secretary. Price’s repayment took place only after his travel was exposed.
However, Price’s full travel costs were many times the amount he repaid. Staff and Price’s wife often traveled with him. The real costs of his extravagant travel choices may total over one million dollars.
Price isn’t the only one with unethically expensive habits. A 2012 General Services Administration trip to Las Vegas cost over $800,000. Costs covered a host of activities. The man who ran the trip was convicted and ordered to pay partial restitution.
Congress has its own waste. There have been $17 million in settlements for sexual harassment and discrimination. They became public in 2017. They have gone on for two decades.
Will Anything Happen?
Clearly, we have a lot of corruption and incompetence in the federal government. Cutting just that would eliminate untold billions in the federal budget. However, spending wisely — one of the responsibilities of Congress and agency leaders — is clearly not a priority.
Who can blame them? Most Americans don’t want budget cuts. Even the Tea Party’s pressure on Republicans got only modest results.
That’s the bad news. The good news…well, there isn’t any. Unless you can convince a majority of voters to elect good leaders, a debt crisis on its way. Better buckle up!