Washington insiders constantly tell us that if we cut the federal government’s domestic budget, Armageddon will come to America.
But is there really nothing that can be cut? For example, the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration said that the SSA paid $1.111 million to dead people, and the government also made $125 billion in improper payments. The national operating debt stands over $18 trillion, and that does not include unfunded liabilities. Former Reagan economist Professor Laurence Kotlikoff states that the amount of unfunded liabilities exceeds $200 trillion.
If Beltway insiders think the sequester was Armageddon, one can only think of the consequences of having an over $200 trillion in unfunded obligations. Entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are bankrupting the country. Obama has ignored this, however, and has simply promised more entitlements such as Obamacare, benefits for illegal aliens, or the proposed idea of free community college. Social Security, Medicare and other mandatory spending programs alone make 60% of Obama’s proposed 2015 budget.The only way to fund these new, “free” entitlements will be to either raise taxes or borrow more money the government does not have, adding more onto the mountain of debt it has created through other entitlement programs.
The military, which the left cites as an option to cut, accounts for only 16%. The military has seen its share of cutbacks, as the Navy is at its smallest since World War I, while the Pentagon plans to cut the army to pre-1940 levels. Cutting a relatively small area of the budget like the Department of Defense isn’t rational, especially considering that this is the same federal government that shut down the open air World War II memorial, spent over $300,000 to study the affects of Swedish massages on rabbits, and almost a million dollars training mountain lions to run on treadmills.
Before he retired, former Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn identified $25 billion in wasteful government spending in his annual report. Coburn’s report should make it abundantly clear that government spending can be cut and coupled with serious entitlement reforms without the end of the world scenarios portrayed by tax and spend politicians. The closing of the World War II memorial showed the lengths to which the administration, and big government spenders in general, were willing to go to make a point. Washington has a bad case of “The Washington Monument Syndrome,” and has shown it will go as far as threatening World War II veterans from their own memorial to show their opposition to spending cuts.
Who can forget the outcry from the media and the Democrats in 2012 after Governor Mitt Romney dared to suggest PBS should stop receiving public funding? Nobody ever suggested ending public broadcasting would completely fix the deficit, or even come close to eliminating the deficit. But if the Democrats say no to cutting PBS, then what non-defense department or program can we cut? In 2014, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which supports PBS and NPR) recieved $445 million from the government in appropriations.
The same government that has already shrunk the Navy to World War I levels, is reducing the Army to pre-World War II levels, and is also running out of tomahawk cruise missiles–with no replacements ready–is the same government that tells us that public broadcasting is so important that it is worth spending over $400 million on.
Whoever the next president is, he or she is going to have a big problem: he or she will be faced with rebuilding the United States military, while at the same time dramatically reducing non-defense related spending including massive entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, along with other non-discretionary spending. If history repeats itself, that may be very difficult. Ronald Reagan summed up entitlement spending well, saying that “The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program.”
The truth that many politicians will not admit is that there are programs within the federal government that can be cut, or even eliminated, without any public harm done. Coupled with serious entitlement reform, fiscal sanity may return to Washington. To many people rely on government programs, however, it will be hard to convince them that reforms are necessary. The mere idea of suggesting entitlement reform is enough to be accused of throwing grandma over the cliff.
Without serious entitlement reforms, the United States will eventually go bankrupt, and what has been going on in Europe may very well find its way over here.