Spending cuts

Andrew Justus

Last week the Republican Study Committee released a proposal designed to reduce spending moving forward in an effort to reduce the national debt. The proposal completely eliminates federal funding for National Public Radio and PBS ($445 million/year), National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities ($335 million/year combined), Amtrak ($1.56 billion/year), the Save America’s Treasures Program ($25 million), and other programs.

The problem with this proposal is that it focuses all of its cuts on a narrow portion of the federal budget, non-defense discretionary. Targeting a small part of the federal budget – non-defense discretionary spending only makes up 12 percent of federal expenses – with deep cuts ensures a lot of pain and little benefit with regard to deficit reduction.

If the RSC really is serious about reducing the deficit they will change their proposal in two ways. First, they will spread their cuts across the rest of the federal budget, including the Department of Defense (23 percent of federal expenditures), Social Security (20 percent) and Medicare/Medicaid (19 percent). Secondly, they will come up with more reasonable cuts. Depriving Amtrak of its entire $1.56 billion subsidy would put 20,000 people out of work overnight and cause travel difficulties for 28 million passengers. Cutting the entire $25 million Save America’s Treasures program would do little to reduce the national debt while jeopardizing many historical artifacts.

The retirement age range for Social Security benefits, 65 to 67, is too low in an age where the average American lives to be 78 years old. When first enacted in 1935, the earliest age to receive benefits was 65 and the average male barely lived to 72. Last year, then minority leader John Boener (R-Ohio) suggested that the retirement age be increased to 70 in a move to alter the system to reflect increased life expectancy. Boener also suggested only providing benefits to those who need them, not individuals with high net worths. Boener’s ideas would make a good start to reforming Social Security in a way that would stay true to the agency’s original mission while saving money.

Four-star general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ there is no reason why defense spending should be overlooked during budget cuts. Powell cited a time after the end of the Cold War when he and then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney reduced military spending by 25 percent, as proof that military spending can be cut without disastrous results.

Without these modifications, the RSC’s current proposal will accomplish very little and cause a great deal of pain. If they do revise their proposal then Americans will know they are serious about solving a great problem, and not just making headlines.

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