Love having uber-blogger Mickey Kaus over at The Daily Caller. Today he has a great, link-filled blog post on the rationale for cutting wasteful spending, linking to an earlier post by Michael Kinsley as well. Kinsley makes a nice case for why cutting waste, fraud, and mismanagement in discretionary programs is worth the effort, even though the real money is on the entitlement side of the ledger.
Bloomberg Columnist Caroline Baum recently penned an unfortunate column, quoting CAGW Pres Tom Schatz, seeming to point out that cutting government waste is kind of a lost cause and isn’t worth the time and effort:
History offers little reason for optimism that waste, once identified, will be eliminated. No fewer than 13 presidents, starting with Theodore Roosevelt and his 1905 “Keep Commission,” have taken up the gauntlet of rooting out government waste.
Franklin Roosevelt had his Brownlow Committee. The Hoover Commission had two incarnations, the first under Harry Truman and the second during Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration.
Ronald Reagan appointed the Grace Commission to eliminate inefficiency. And Bill Clinton tried to reinvent government with his National Performance Review.
While the thrust may have shifted over the years from expanding executive authority to shrinking the size of government, according to Peri E. Arnold, professor of political science at Notre Dame, the outcomes have been equally mediocre.
A century after TR first tried to centralize administrative procedures and with the public fully on board, we are still looking for the Holy Grail.
As an organization that has been trying to do just that for 27 years, we beg to differ. It is, no doubt, a Sisyphean task, but the alternative is to do nothing and watch the debt ticker move even higher and the grostesque, mind-numbing parade of cretinous government behavior continue, unexposed and unabated.
I would make the argument that it is because groups like ours have been plugging away at it that we now have an energetic, committed band of fiscally conservative brothers (and sisters) in the congressional freshman class to lock arms with.
I would argue that if it had not been for the efforts of CAGW over the last 21 years, we would not now have an earmark moratorium; The Hill named CAGW and Taxpayers for Common Sense and the current earmark moratorium as one of the top ten lobbying victories of 2010:
Fiscal hawks like Citizens Against Government Waste and Taxpayers for Common Sense have waged a war of attrition against earmarks — the parochial projects that bring the bacon back to lawmakers’ congressional districts. Aided by Tea Party enthusiasm for ending the practice, House and Senate Republicans have agreed to voluntary bans on earmarks. That has left appropriations lobbyists scrambling to find new federal funding avenues for their clients.
The earmark moratorium was hard-fought and will only endure as long as groups like ours remain vigilant and force discipline among profilgate Republicans and Democrats, who are already looking for escape hatches.
Kinsley sums it up nicely, warning that as our budget woes continue and the budget cutters finally begin to take aim, we will all be treated to the new self-promotional CYA whining, which will look something like this:
Whether it takes the form of an op-ed piece, a speech, a press release or an open letter to the president, there are certain familiar elements.
Here is a checklist:
1. Expression of general support for deficit reduction. Reference to easy answers (there are none). Reference to burden (all must share).
2. Reference to babies and bathwater. Former should not be discarded with latter.
3. This program/agency/tax break is different. A bargain for the taxpayers. Pays for itself many times over. To eliminate or cut would be bad for children/our troops.
4. Cost is small (a) as percentage of total budget; (b) compared with budget of Pentagon; (c) compared with projected cost of health care.
5. Optional comparisons: to cost of just one jet fighter or 3.7 minutes of War on Terror.
6. Names of famous people who support this program or tax cut, especially Colin Powell. Other good names: Madeleine Albright, Natalie Portman, George H.W. Bush (not W), Warren Buffett.7. This is not about fair, responsible, across-the-board budget cutting. This is about the other side irresponsibly pursuing an ideological agenda, penalizing programs it doesn’t like.
Filed under: Appropriations, Bailouts, Budget, Congress, Corruption, Debt, Defense, Deficit, Earmarks, Entitlements, In The News, Media Hits, Medicare/aid, Pork, Prime Cuts, Reform, Stimulus, TARP, Transparency, Uncategorized, Victories, Waste