With current funding for government operations scheduled to run out March 27, the House is beginning work on another Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year. As they do this, they must take firm steps toward their commitment to balance the budget in 10 years. That means delivering at least the same level of spending reductions as would occur under “sequestration”—the across-the-board cuts scheduled to start March 1.
They should go on to reduce spending even further. In particular, this must include defunding Obamacare. Sadly, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) is reportedly considering a CR at the current, higher spending level. This would be a mistake. Government spending and debt are both too high, and this threatens all Americans with a weaker economy and a lower standard of living. Every opportunity to reduce spending and put the government on the path to a balanced budget must be taken. Anything less is a path to defeat.
President Obama has already pocketed a $618 billion tax increase, so simply holding the line against taxes is a given.
The sequestration—across-the-board spending cuts required under the 2011 debt ceiling deal—is written in law, passed by the House and Senate and signed by the President. Those savings amounts will occur automatically. So in the new CR, Congress must keep all these savings. To Chairman Rogers’s concern, they will most certainly hollow out military forces. But rather than punt on the sequestration cuts, the CR should do them the right way. Rogers should return Congress to real budgeting, including setting priorities, especially for national defense—and then go on to cut as much additional spending as possible. He should start with Obamacare, still the most unpopular law in the land.
Two major, costly components of Obamacare will go into effect in January 2014: the Medicaid expansion and the federal exchange subsidies. They will cost $1.8 trillion over 10 years and must not go forward. So eliminating all funding in 2013 to implement these new programs is a good place to start. All other elements of Obamacare should likewise be eliminated. The nation can’t afford this kind of health reform.
After that, there are other opportunities for spending cuts, such as:
- The Lifeline program, which spent $2.2 billion to provide telephones and service (wire line and mobile) to low-income individuals, up from $819 million in 2008. Remarkably, 41 percent of “customers” receiving taxpayer-subsidized service from the top five carriers failed to verify their eligibility, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
- The $1.7 billion Job Corps, a demonstrably ineffective program that has failed to match many of its trainees with the jobs they were trained for.
- The Transportation Alternatives Program, an $800 million “set-aside” (read: requirement) for enhancements such as pedestrian and bicycle facilities, community improvement activities, environmental mitigation, recreational trail program projects, and the like—clearly not federal government priorities. Funding totals are $808.76 million for fiscal year 2013 and $819.9 million for fiscal year 2014. These programs do not result in increased mobility, reduced congestion, or improved safety, which should be the goal of surface transportation programs.
- The Agriculture Department’s Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) provides grants to improve and expand farmers’ markets and roadside stands. Since its inception in 2006, FMPP has awarded more than $32 million in grants.
If the Senate and the President will surely balk at this arrangement, sequestration can simply happen. It is an irrational and irresponsible way to budget for defense, but many domestic programs that liberals favor will be slashed as well, just as crudely as the Pentagon will.
Opportunities to cut government spending abound. With Washington drowning in red ink, spending cuts are imperative—and Congress should start with the next CR.