Friday, November 5, 2010

Federal government spending

Wondering aloud about how the new Republican majority in the House is going to work on cutting spending, and hoping the Republicans and Democrats (and Independents and other small fractions) can find a way to do it together. Regardless of your political affiliation, if you are like me and try to stay out of debt, and live within your means, it has to cross your mind that the US government spends an awful lot (6.4 trillion??), and reducing that spending, intelligently, might not be a bad idea.

Maybe, though, the government is like a kid with an allowance - if you don't have to work so hard to get the money, you might not think as carefully about how you spend it. But, like everything written here, that's an over-simplification. 

I was talking with a British friend yesterday and he mentioned how the conservative party in GB is really serious about cutting taxes, so much so that they actually cut one of the largest expenditures: the military. I doubt we'll see anything that progressive, or productive, from our elected officials. 

And, to clarify, I don't think it would be effective, or correct, to chop military pay, benefits, hospitals, etc, but we do spend an awful lot sending our troops to different parts of the world (including Afghanistan and Iraq, but also 142 other countries) paying for lots and lots of expensive toys, and all sorts of "classified" missions, some of which could be a little more transparent. 

In addition to military/defense spending (20% of our budget), we should also think about targeting the other two big-ones: Social Security (20%) and Medicare/Medicade/CHIP (21%). 

I am not as familiar with what could make Social Security more efficient, but I think there are a lot of small changes that could add up to make our Govt. Healthcare more efficient, especially including incentives for healthy choices.

But, in all likelihood, because it is safer, the House and Senate will go after Education (3%), Scientific and Medical Research (2%) and Transportation Infrastructure (3%).

I'm starting to become more involved in the political process (so forgive my naivete) and am learning how much we get side-tracked (pay no attention to the man in the corner sort of routine), but big numbers, when it seems like whittling away on the smallest parts of the budget is like trying to carve a turkey by starting with the tail. Wouldn't it be most effective to bite the bullet and make some dramatic changes that will actually affect the overall fiscal outlook?

Cutting just over 8% from each of the top three expenditures would be equivalent to completely eliminating Scientific and Medical Research AND Education spending. 

Now, 8% is a lot, you might say, but businesses and universities are facing bigger cuts themselves this year, and in the past few years, to stay solvent, and many of them have managed to do so. 

And, more importantly, Research and Education are what help move our country forward. So, let's see what happens the next few years. 

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