My song: ‘Oh where, oh where to cut … spending?

The political songs of the past decade, “Unnecessary government programs should be eliminated” and “Stop the coming growth in entitlements” by Dem Rep Criers have not been #1 with a bullet for good reason. Besides being out of tune with today’s voters, these trivial ditties need some heart and soul.

Do you know where your federal income-tax dollars go? The National Priorities Project used data from the Office of Management and Budget to explain how each dollar is spent when it gets into Uncle Sam’s hands. The biggest chunk, 42.2 cents of every income-tax dollar, is spent on military spending – 28.7 cents goes to pay for the current war and military, 10 cents to interest payments on past and present military debt and 3.5 cents for Veterans’ benefits. This is the Ron Paul country soul version – cut funds here. Stop wars and end our military presence in Germany, Japan and Philippines and close many military bases in U.S. – sell off the most valuable first. Studies have shown that channeling funds into domestic spending priorities will create substantially more jobs than would spending the same amount of funds with the military.

The second largest amount of your money, 22.1 cents, is spent on health care initiatives, including Medicare. 8.7 cents go to a variety of programs to help the underprivileged including food assistance, supplemental income for those with low incomes and assistance for foster care and adoption programs. Government programs directly cover nearly 30 percent of the population including the elderly, disabled, children, veterans, and some of the poor, and federal law mandates public access to emergency services. Federal government expenditures for fiscal year 2010 totaled $3.3 trillion for the direct expenditure and $1.8 trillion for other assistance (loans and insurance programs): Most Americans under age 65 receive their health insurance coverage through a private or public-sector employer dependent upon federal moneys. Many Democrats would sing, “make universal health care free for all.” A system free up to 45 years old and means tested thereafter which had “catastrophic” coverage for all would be cheaper with growing numbers of elders.

The federal government is the country’s largest employer and when the contractor workforce is combined with civilians, military personnel, U.S. Postal Service employees, and grantees, the size of the blended federal workforce is over 16 million people. With over 50 million retirees and other recipients; 51 percent of the economy is dependent on spending of federal, state and local governments; a combined spending equivalent to about $19,000 per man, woman and child.

Since 1999, the size of the federal employee workforce has remained relatively constant at about 2 million, while the contractor workforce has increased radically to dwarf the federal employment. Further, service contract billing rates on average, pay contractors 1.83 times more than the government pays federal employees in total compensation, and more than 2 times the full compensation paid in the private sector for comparable services. Given that one-quarter of all discretionary spending now goes to service contractors, a reassessment of the total federal work force, with a focus on contractor billing rates, could save taxpayers billions of dollars annually. Republicans, sing with me.

Most singers have forgotten that America is a much more socialistic, government-spending-dependent nation than ever before. Americans and American companies have become so government-dependent (or, addicted) that they fear giving up that dependence. Highland County receives about $7,400 per resident, much more than our per capita tax burden while wealthier Franklin County receives $12,400. Sing “I’m a Pig but I’m Okay.”

Yes, we as feed at the trough of federal spending, we’ve turned into a culture of entitlement; a culture that’s mastered how to work the system. And it only hurts those who actually use their hands and brains to create economic value. Assuming rapid growth in entitlements due to retirement of baby boomers and longer human life spans, this pain will grow. So the chorus should shout, “Eliminate programs that do not serve the interests of the general public such as agricultural subsidies, ‘corporate welfare,’ and tax credits for favored industries; those beneficiaries do not need government support.”

Instead of downsizing the federal government, why not concentrate on managing its programs better? Current estimates for total government pork earmarks are at $15 billion a year. Congress has little incentive to hold down spending because program costs represent benefits to its members (the music they feel responsible for producing). Current programs are too diverse and complex for Congress to effectively manage especially with no market discipline such as applies for undertakings in the private sector. It would be far better to do a few things well than to do a lot of things ineffectively. Congress, Obama sing, “A change is coming!”

This column originally appeared in the Times Gazette Newspaper.


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