Over the years, a simple way to cut federal spending has been proposed, discussed, and shelved. The Penny Plan would cut a penny from every dollar of existing spending by the federal government. Some conservative organizations say doing this could balance the federal budget within a few short years.
Naysayers, however, pointed out the sizable cuts that would be levied on programs US taxpayers and employers have been forced to fund. Among those are Medicare and Social Security. While big government proponents used those potential cuts as an effective fear tactic to shut down debate, everyone is missing an opportunity.
Why not modify the plan, apply it to nonessential agencies, and test it?
Something must be done. Each year Congress increases budgets for agencies even if there is no need to do so. Despite taking in record revenues each year, the federal bureaucracy still runs a deficit. The difference between what we take in and what we spend has, over the years, led us to an unsustainable federal debt level. At present, the modified debt—it excludes Social Security and Medicare—is $18,150,338,372,000.
That figure does not include other types of debt incurred by bankrupt territories like Puerto Rico or pension debt in states like Illinois, by the way.
The Federal Register lists 438 agencies comprising our bureaucracy. That includes agencies established outside the boundaries of the US Constitution, such as creation of an expansive federal role for education throughout the states. The size of the US bureaucracy alone makes it almost impossible to monitor for accountability.
Federal fraud, benignly labeled “improper payments”, has been estimated at more than $100 billion a year.
Fraud isn’t the only source of malfeasance, however. The bureaucracy has wasted taxpayer dollars on questionable programs. Former US senator Tom Coburn (OK) produced a book of wasteful spending each year. Among the mountains of inanities he discovered:
–NASA spent $390,000 on a little green man cartoon.
–A company in North Carolina got $150,000 taxpayer dollars to come up with a math game based on the zombie apocalypse.
–Officials in New York and New Jersey spent a whopping $65 million after Hurricane Sandy—for advertising, not disaster aid.
Despite such outrages, Democrats chose to establish a new publicly funded healthcare system by creating the tax bill commonly called Obamacare (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act). The Association of Mature American Citizens reported in their summer, 2015, print magazine the Health and Human Services Agency long known for screw-ups with Medicare, Medicaid, and other dollars, could not explain $2.8 billion in subsidy payments to insurance companies. HHS lamely told the agency’s Inspector General who discovered the screwups they are planning a “permanent process” for vetting payments by the end of this year.
The bureaucracy is in need of radical reform, but as a fiscal conservative, I know it’s easier to start small. We should demand the Penny Plan be implemented for non-vital programs in education, the arts, and any other area that is outside boundaries set for federal powers in our Constitution. We can test it and see if it works.
Where is the presidential candidate who will take on that critical chore? President Barack Obama once promised to do it, but failed, so this time we should probably ask candidates for a written guarantee.
A recent Gallup Poll disclosed 75 percent of Americans believe there is widespread government corruption. Reducing the size of nonessential government and overall reform is the only solution to that dangerous state of affairs.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Sept. 22, 2015)
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