Last Friday, the House Appropriations Committee unveiled its revised spending plan for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2011. This continuing resolution would reduce discretionary spending by more than $100 billion compared to the spending levels requested in President Obama’s FY 2011 budget proposal.
Though enacting serious spending reductions is the only fiscally responsible way to put the nation’s fiscal house on sound footing, liberals have responded to cuts by calling them “unworkable,” “dire,” and “disturbing.” But a closer look reveals that the opposite is true.
One program that the Appropriations Committee proposes to cut is the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Heritage’s Ronald Utt writes that the CDBG was intended to “provide housing assistance to low-income families and improve the economic environment in their communities.” But rather than solely assisting the poor as it was intended, the CDBG program has become a source of funding for wasteful pork-barrel projects since its 1974 inception, such as the Mark Twain House and Museum, the Salvador Dali Museum, and the Helen Keller Birthplace Foundation.
When federal programs fail to meet their intended purpose or otherwise become outdated and ineffective, the responsible thing for Congress to do is eliminate them. Instead, as Heritage budget expert Brian Riedl writes, “Congress often allows the federal government to run the same programs for decades, despite many studies showing their ineffectiveness.” The House Republicans’ proposal would cut the CDBG by $2.95 billion relative to its current funding. This is a good step in the right direction, but as Riedl suggests in his proposal to cut $343 billion from the federal budget, Congress could eliminate the CDBG altogether, saving $6 billion in taxpayer dollars.
Congress should also consolidate other duplicative programs aimed at economic and community development. Writes Utt:
By consolidating the resources and responsibility for economic and community development within a single entity, the federal government will be better able to coordinate assistance and to focus on legitimate projects. Under current arrangements, characterized by dispersed responsibilities, federal development programs have degenerated into a grab-bag of wasteful pork-barrel projects designed to reward influential constituencies and Washington lobbyists—at the expense of those the programs were initially designed to help.
President Obama’s proposed budget for FY 2012, hugely flawed though it is, also makes cuts to the CDBG program. In the ensuing House debate over the continuing resolution proposal, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle must show they can get down to the necessary business of reducing spending and the deficit. Programs like CDBG waste taxpayer dollars and add to the deficit.
Co-authored by Emily Goff.