12 May, 2008

A citizen for government waste, apparently

I recently received a mailing from Pat Summerall, or at least someone claiming to be Pat Summerall, speaking on behalf of Citizens for Government Waste. CAGW writes,

America's national debt is growing at $1 million per minute. ...What's worse, like homeowners who took out adjustable-rate mortgages, the government faces the prospect of seeing this debt—now at relatively low interest rates—roll over to higher rates. ...Use this Report to demand that members of Congress halt this spiraling debt and make as many of these needed cuts now before we face a full-blown crisis.
How am I supposed to demand it? It's quite easy, actually. My job is to sign the cover page on the special report, and send it in, preferably with $25, $50, $100, or more (presumably from my (Not) Free Money—I mean, stimulus check) to support the good work of CAGW.

So far, so good. I'm all against frivolous government spending, such as (Not) Free Money, better known as the 2008 Stimulus Checks. Pat Summerall's letter alluded to several examples of frivolous spending that got my digestive juices flowing. I opened the report to see their recommendations.

My heart sank immediately. I don't think they intended that anyone read the report. I doubt Pat Summerall read much of it. Why?

(1) The report consists of nothing more than several hundred (thousand?) recommendations of changes to make. On the right hand side they include predicted savings. The recommendations are typed in small print (is that 6 point type?!?). They are not organized in any fashion: not alphabetically, not by program, not by amount saved. It is, for all intents and purposes, unreadable.

(2) The recommendations are vague. For example, "Consolidate and reduce job training grants." How? They claim this will save $482 million in the first year, and $2.4 billion over five years. How can you justify this without details? I realize that Congress does this all the time, but isn't the point that we want to get away from that?!?

(3) Certain examples of "wasteful" spending... aren't. Here are some examples of things that, at least on the surface, do not strike me as wasteful:
  • Consolidate and reduce job-training grants.
  • Eliminate rural business grants.
  • Eliminate the National Science Foundation Math and Science Program. (I have no idea what this means. Is this a specific program, or are they just advocating the elimination of the Math and Science programs at NSF? Which would leave... what, exactly?)
  • Shorten the rental period for oxygen equipment under Medicare. (I can see the headlines now.)
  • Eliminate education for Native Hawaiians.
  • Reduce funds for Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) school construction. (As if we haven't mistreated the Indians enough...)
  • Reduce funding for the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Eliminate drug interdiction and international activities to control the supply of drugs.
  • Eliminate civic education.
...it goes on. There are a lot of military cuts, too, but no one ever gets in a huff about those, so I won't mention my concern that eliminating the Joint Strike Fighter and buying new F-16s and F-18s might not be the brightest idea.

A lot of these cuts might actually have merit. The problem is that without more details, I can't understand why they think that the Centers for Disease Control is wasting money.

Ironically, CAGW warns starkly that the increase in interest payments on the national debt could lead to... a cut in basic services like Social Security and other government benefit programs, but in fact they recommend cuts to Social Security and other benefit programs. I happen to favor those, but that does seem a little hypocritical?

I personally can't sign this petition & return it, even though I think CAGW and I want the same thing. CAGW boasts that they succeeded in making Congress cut some spending some years ago. Unfortunately, a lot of the spending that they cut over the last decade was all in the wrong places—witness paperwork delays at USCIS and State Dept. for visas and passports, things that the government must do—while new promises have been made, and new programs have been enacted, more than wiping out any savings that we might have realized.

And while we're running deficits to the tune of half a trillion dollars a year, we're handing out (Not) Free Money to our citizens, and CAGW does nothing about that. I wish they'd focus on the real government waste.

1 comment:

Santiago Chiva de Agustín said...

Hello. Congratulations for your blog. Do you know why the young people pray the holy rosary? You can watch here fifty testimonies of young university students
(in Spanish, with english subtitles)
See it: http://es.youtube.com/watch?v=YxjjyXhO9EA

Santiago (Granada, Spain)