Proposed 2021 Federal Budget Slimed by Big Spenders; What About the Debt and All the Waste?

The big spenders are giving a thumbs-down to President Trump’s proposed 2021 budget, which is the first in a 10-year plan to trim $4.4 trillion from federal spending and reduce the annual debt to near-zero. The usual suspects led by the Washington Post and other Beltway media are caterwauling about the “massive cuts to the safety net.” Here is one report from Reuters:

President Donald Trump’s $4.8 trillion budget proposal for fiscal year 2021 is likely to get a chilly reception from lawmakers on Monday over its proposals to slash spending on foreign aid and social safety net programs.

The budget calls for a 21 percent cut in foreign aid to $44.1 billion, down from $55.7 billion enacted in fiscal year 2020. It would make savings in outlays to safety net programs including $130 billion in Medicare through drug pricing reforms, $292 billion to food stamp and Medicaid programs by enacting new work requirements for beneficiaries, and $70 billion through a clamp-down on eligibility for federal disability benefits.

Throughout the last 40 years, the Democrats have been squalling about Republican presidents supposedly wanting to force the elderly to subsist on dog food, eliminate school lunch programs, and “throw granny off the cliff” with dastardly cuts in government programs. Check out the links in the preceding sentence if you don’t think that’s true.

Google makes is difficult to find similar stories from the 1980s, but I can assure you from direct experience that the same accusations were made back then. It’s part of the Left’s – and the Uniparty big spenders’ – political playbook. There have been Republican-controlled Congresses, Republican presidents, and Republican budgets passed over those same 40 years, and NONE of those Democrat claims have ever materialized! And we’re now supposed to swallow their same swill as they complain about President Trump’s budget that is attacking our massive debt problem?

Here is a link to the US debt clock. Over $23 trillion and climbing! And we are gifting that debt to our progeny. What happens when interest rates rise in the future and payment of the interest on all of that debt begins to crowd out other federal spending? President Trump is trying to prevent that catastrophe by getting the spending under control – gradually – over a decade.

But the big-spenders in Congress have been using the federal purse to pander for votes for decades. Earmarks, targeted tax cuts and other favors to donors, promises of more socialism (think about what the Democrat presidential candidates have pushing during their debates), etc. And the revision of the federal budgeting process that was passed after Watergate made it much harder to balance the budget. Total federal debt exploded after the passage of the Congressional Budget Control and Impoundment of 1974, as shown in the chart below:

Yes, the big spenders never talk about annual deficits and the total federal debt except to dismiss them as “non-problems.” Fortunately, there are non-profit organizations and other Americans who track waste, fraud, and abuse in federal programs in order to arm the few deficit hawks in Congress with the ammunition necessary to attempt to reign in federal spending. One of those, founded in 1984 is Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), which is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization that serves as a self-described “government watchdog” and advocacy group for fiscally conservative causes.

CAGW’s founder was J. Peter Grace who was chairman of President Reagan’s “Grace Commission” which produced a voluminous report on waste, fraud and abuse across the federal government in 1984. Since many of the recommendations involved policy changes, the Democrats controlling Congress then ignored them. It was the only real attempt to identify and address gov’t waste and inefficiencies over the last 60 years, and it took an outsider like Reagan to instigate it.

The political class (the Establishment consisting of both political parties and egged on by the legacy media and entrenched government bureaucracies) are hell-bent on bankrupting the country. Not coincidentally, this was one of the goals of the Communist Party of the USA – to bankrupt the country leading to the destruction of the Constitution and implementation of a socialist government.

CAGW has continued in the spirit of the Grace Commission and continues to influence public policy aimed at reducing waste and the national debt through public education, lobbying, mobilization for email- and letter-writing campaigns, and generation of various reports. One CAGW periodic report is the so-called “Pig Book.” From the CAGW website:

The Congressional Pig Book is CAGW’s annual compilation of the pork-barrel projects in the federal budget. A “pork” project is a line-item in an appropriations bill that designates tax dollars for a specific purpose in circumvention of established budgetary procedures. To qualify as pork, a project must meet one of seven criteria that were developed in 1991 by CAGW and the Congressional Porkbusters Coalition. Those seven criteria are:

  • Requested by only one chamber of Congress;

  • Not specifically authorized;

  • Not competitively awarded;

  • Not requested by the President;

  • Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;

  • Not the subject of congressional hearings; or

  • Serves only a local or special interest.

The 2019 pigbook provides insight into the ghastly waste and corruption in the federal budget, summarized for 10 categories: Agriculture; Commerce, Justice and Science; Defense; Energy and Water; Financial Services; Homeland Security; Interior; Labor and Health and Human Services and Education; State and Foreign Operations; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.

Here are few excerpts from the introduction of the 2019 pigbook as a backdrop for why the cuts in the federal budget must be made:

It should come as no surprise that the dam burst on earmarks in fiscal year (FY) 2018.  Congress had set the stage for a significant increase in every category of spending when the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2018 was approved on February 8, 2018.  This legislation obliterated the spending caps set in the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) and increased spending by $143 billion, or 13.4 percent, in FY 2018 compared to FY 2017.

Citizens Against Government Waste’s (CAGW) 2018 Congressional Pig Book exposes 232 earmarks in FY 2018, an increase of 42.3 percent from the 163 in FY 2017.  The cost of earmarks in FY 2018 is $14.7 billion, an increase of 116.2 percent from the $6.8 billion in FY 2017, or nearly nine times greater than the increase in discretionary spending.  The only other time the cost has at least doubled was FYs 1992-1993.  Since FY 1991, CAGW has identified 110,861 earmarks costing $344.5 billion.

The $14.7 billion in FY 2018 earmarks is more than half of the record $29 billion in FY 2006.  At the rate of increase over FY 2017, earmarks could exceed the FY 2006 figure in two years.

While the BCA was successful in limiting spending, it was anathema to the members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.  It coincided with the imposition of the earmark moratorium, which was first applied in FY 2012.

Nonetheless, CAGW was still able to identify earmarks in the appropriations bills every year since the moratorium.  The number and cost for the first six years were much lower than they had been prior to the moratorium.  On average, there were 109 earmarks costing $3.7 billion annually between FYs 2012 and 2017.  But, like everything else in Congress, the restraint only lasted for a short period of time.  Those historically low numbers have come to a crashing halt, thanks to the BBA, along with the failure of House Republicans to extend the moratorium.

One of the most frequently used arguments in favor of earmarks is that they help pass legislation, which even President Trump mentioned on January 9, 2018.  But that concept is belied by the passage of all 12 FY 2018 appropriations bills in the House, as well as the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017.  Earmarks cause members to vote for excessively expensive spending bills in exchange for a few earmarks.  A return to rampant earmarking would increase the risk of corruption and reinstate the grossly inequitable distribution of money that has always favored a small group of members of Congress.

Not a single Democrat presidential candidate views the continuing federal deficits as a problem. Not one. They are all pandering for votes by promising new socialist programs that will further exacerbate the deficits and the debt. And there aren’t enough fiscal conservatives (alias Republicans) in Congress to make a real dent in our accumulated national debt. There is plenty that can be cut, especially US foreign aid and our “contribution” to the United Nations – just for starters. The CAGW pigbook identifies a lot of other programs that should be zeroed, too.

The end.