We Can Have A Federal Spending Cap

When We the People get to the point in our personal finances where we are at risk of not even being able to pay the interest on our credit cards and loans, that’s a wake-up call at the cliff’s edge of bankruptcy. Most of us never get there. When we do, it’s time to (1) stop spending and (2) get those bills paid down, if not completely paid off. Such personal responsibility needs to be manifest at our national level too. It’s time to stop funding every seemingly good idea that comes along. Fiscal restraint is required.

We need a spending cap, one that comes with such strong cables attached that they cannot be sawn through. The spending cap must contain reductions by a fixed percentage every year for the next ten years. If the debt ceiling must be raised this year, then that raise must only be by the barest amount to allow six months for addressing necessary reductions in both spending and interest rates to bring the annual deficit down to below zero.

But never again. No more spending more than we reasonably expect to have on hand. And no more spending to the point where we have no cushion for emergencies.

In fact, realized revenues should exceed planned expenditures to such a degree that the surplus can bring our national debt down from its current $31+ trillion. When there is a budget surplus, we need a provision in the law that those funds cannot be spent on anything but debt reduction until there is no more national debt.

We won’t get there by raising the minimum wage thinking that then we’ll have more wages to tax. The opposite is true. Since the imposition of the federal minimum wage, the true minimum wage has remained the same—zero. Thomas Sowell has had much to say on that topic (here’s a sample).

Likewise, we know that increasing income tax rates puts an additional drag on the economy. As for anyone who thinks that taxing the rich can get us out of a financial hole, even the rich aren’t rich enough to cover the costs of the current progressive fiscal fantasies.

Image: Piggy banks by kstudio.

This means reversing more than just the seven-fold increase in IRS funding. A lot of recent legislation needs a review to this end.

Given what we are learning about the unsafe and ineffective mRNA Covid-19 injections, all funding for continued acquisition, storage, distribution, and advertising of these gene therapy medications should be withdrawn. All highway and mass transit projects contained in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for which funding does not exist within the Highway and Mass Transit Trust fund accounts (some $300+ billion) should be postponed until funding is available and not be paid for through transfers from general revenue.

How about canceling the income tax deduction for purchasing an electric vehicle (estimated to be at $6 billion in 2022)? Drivers of these vehicles use the highways, and their EVs are significantly heavier than more conventionally-fueled vehicles. Some mechanism needs to be in place, perhaps at point of purchase, to capture the cost of the additional wear and tear on highway infrastructure and distribute it to the Highway Trust Fund.

Besides, data has come out that there is insufficient global capacity to provide the materials needed for such vehicles at a rate that will make any impact on the global climate (which I don’t believe is a problem anyway) in the next several decades. There is no reason We the People should be on the hook to partially fund these vanity purchases.

A very hard look needs to be taken at wasteful spending on “research.” In-house research by the government—e.g., at DARPA, NASA, and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service—fine. But for nonsense of the type Rand Paul has pointed out in his Festivus Report—nope. If some federal agency believes that funding outside research is necessary, then let the federal government fund no more than 50% of the cost of the research. If it’s that important, other interested parties will pony up the rest.

There’s almost no end to the amount of frivolous, wasteful, and unnecessary spending that can be identified. And there are plenty of people like me who know where all this is buried in an agency’s budget and who would be glad to help uncover it.

The bottom line to an acceptable federal bottom line is this: We the People need a smaller federal government that costs less to operate. Until the spending, the deficit, and the national debt are under control, Mr. Speaker, Congress must do whatever it takes.

Abolishing the bulk of the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will take a year or two to formulate. Ferreting out duplicative and unnecessary activities and offices in all the agencies will also take time.

In the meantime, agencies can reduce the hours for noncritical-essential personnel by 5%-10% to start. An example would be that medical personnel at a VA medical center would remain at 80 hours every two weeks. Other staff, depending on the nature of their work, would work 72 to 76 hours.

Agencies can be required to prioritize activities. Does refresher training in cybersecurity for permanent employees really need to take place annually? How about every three years instead? Same for EEO and other repetitive training.

The public-facing federal government might close one day out of every two weeks. Services might take a little longer to deliver. Folks would have to be responsible for requesting what they need—e.g., renewed passports, appointments to start Social Security benefits, applications for federal firearms licenses—in advance. Facility and staffing costs would go down.

There are lots of ways to halt mission creep, pare down to basics, and stop waste, as well as shrink federal government size and spending. We need muscular conservatism, Mr. Speaker, to ensure our continued strength and improvement nationally as well as in a de-globalizing world. Whatever it takes, we cannot afford to let this runaway train of fiscal irresponsibility derail.

Anony Mee is the nom de blog of a retired public servant.

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