Republican Congress Must Act on Spending

Member Group : Jerry Shenk

For years, much of America’s investment in government has yielded negative returns.

The Claremont Institute’s William Voegeli wrote: "Liberals sell the welfare state one brick at a time, deflecting inquiries about the size and cost of the palace they’re building…"

Dr. Voegeli is correct. However, the US Congress’s infatuation with spending and the resulting massive national debt have not been the sole responsibility of self-identified liberals. The government didn’t shrink during the Reagan years or following the Republican wave elections of 1994, 2010 or 2014.

Demolishing decades of bipartisan brickwork may be difficult, however, the government can be made more efficient and less costly the same way it was built, incrementally.

For starters, both Republican and Democratic establishments must repudiate generous special interests – unions, lobbyists, campaign contributors and crony capitalists in the agricultural, energy, business and financial communities, among others — who benefit from government complexity, regulations and/or benevolence.

The obvious opportunities for reform are — or should be — the primary sources of political graft: Simplify the 70,000 page tax code, close loopholes for special interests and shrink the politically-weaponized IRS. Rationalize America’s regulatory regime.

Pare down or eliminate agencies: The Education Department has never taught a single child a single fact; the Transportation Department has never transported anything or anybody six inches; the Department of Agriculture has nearly as many employees as America has real farmers; and the Energy Department, established to make energy more available, makes energy less accessible and more expensive.

Most Americans get nothing from these top-heavy, overstaffed budget-busters and wouldn’t miss them.

Congress should introduce zero-based budgeting, stop blanket appropriations, and demand that, annually, every agency, by department, make a public case for funding. Clerks are clerks everywhere, so agency staffing, salaries, benefits and workloads must be adjusted to correspond to those of their functional counterparts in the private sector.

Lacking the political courage to address its responsibilities, Congress could authorize independent commissions to identify redundancies in government agencies and the programs having negligible taxpayer value, and require up-or-down votes on combination or elimination. Military Base Closure Commissions have made real progress in reducing redundant military installations. Apply that successful concept to the rest of government.

Competition increases choices, drives down prices and improves services. Federal agencies should outsource jobs that are not inherently governmental. It makes little sense to pay unskilled and semi-skilled laborers government-union salaries and benefits when private companies could do similar work at less cost – while stimulating Americans’ entrepreneurial spirit.

The House originates spending bills, so its Republican majority can set the tone for 2016. The Senate can’t pass – or filibuster – and the president can’t sign – or veto — anything the House doesn’t send them.

House Republicans can restore fiscal sanity by exercising their power of the purse to rein in rather than expand government. Republicans’ years of lip service and nibbling at the margins is no longer acceptable.

If the House doesn’t act in time, America will go off a fiscal cliff. And time is already running short.