by Jim Grichar (aka Exx-Gman) by Jim Grichar
(Author's note: I ask readers for their indulgence because of my extensive use of the b-lingo bureaucrat-lingo and the detail I used in presenting my arguments. I do this to reduce bureaucratic counter-arguments which I expect to receive to the absurdity that they invariably are.)
For those who did not read Parts IIX of this series, total actual cuts in proposed spending (what I call the "Cut-o-meter") now amount to $600 billion. Those cuts came from Defense, NASA, HUD, the Education Department, the Agriculture Department, Transportation Department, Interior, Commerce, Energy, Health and Human Services and other agencies.
The proposed fiscal year (fy) 2005 budgets for the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, and the State Department are $31.1 billion, $23.7 billion and $11.1 billion, respectively. While some would question cutting these departments while the U.S. government is engaged in a war on terrorism, there are many programs laden with pork that are ripe for reduction, if not outright elimination.
Homeland Security A Growth Industry for Contractors
Setting up a separate department to take care of "homeland security" was just what defense and other contractors wanted Washington to do. While funding for "counter-terrorism" programs had grown to over $11 billion per year during the Clinton years all at the behest of the Republican-controlled Congress, the funds were spread around many departments and agencies, with no clear focus and no really large lumps of money that were worthwhile going after by the big contractors. And many of these funds were wasted on travel, with bureaucrats going to various conferences and talking about what types of terrorist events might occur and identifying what types of programs bureaucrats thought should be created and funded. And here you had been led to believe that nobody in Washington was doing anything about countering terrorism. Well, they were spending your money, but you did not get much for that expenditure.
In the aftermath of the September 11 destruction of the World Trade Center and the damage to the Pentagon, politicians and lobbyists united to push for the creation of a homeland security department. The Bush Administration, opposed to that path for about 78 months, finally did an about face and embraced the idea. Some cynics would claim that Bush's minions had figured out a way to line the pockets of their cronies in the defense and government-contracting sector, and I would be hard pressed to challenge that assertion.
Homeland Security was fashioned out of agencies and programs from the Justice Department, the Treasury Department, the Transportation Department, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Included are such organizations as the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Customs Service, the Border Patrol, the Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, and FEMA's various disaster preparedness and relief programs.
Out of this $31 billion, the real pork lies in such areas as: 1) state and local programs $3.439 billion grants to the states and local governments for homeland security preparedness fashioned after FEMA's former civil defense program with some of the funds taken from Justice (whether the states will actually spend this money on such preparedness is a good question); 2) firefighter assistance grants $0.560 billion for chemical/biological protective gear; 3) transportation security $5.397 billion, of which mandatory fees (a bureaucratic euphemism for taxes) offset $2.497 billion, leaving net outlays at $2.9 billion; 4) $3.363 billion for the disaster relief fund; 4) $1.027 billion for new technologies to prevent or mitigate disasters, especially the effects of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) events; and 5) information analysis and infrastructure protection $0.861 billion. These five areas add up to $14.6 billion. Congress should demand hard reports on how this money is actually spent. At least $2 billion could be squeezed out of these areas, and certainly more in the long run, as a U.S. foreign policy of neutrality reduced the need to protect the country from attacks by terrorists. And other homeland security programs could be scaled back eventually as this foreign policy succeeded in reducing the number of enemies of the U.S. government.
So add $2 billion in definite cuts from the Homeland Security Department to the Cut-o-meter.
Justice needs trimming, too
As part of the creation of the Homeland Security Department, the Justice Department had to give up some programs like the pork-laden assistance program to State and local governments that was really a FEMA-type civil defense program. The good news for the bureaucrats at Justice is that they got control of the Treasury's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (formerly just ATF the people who started the war against the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas).
So now you have Justice with the U.S. Marshals Service ($0.738 billion), the Federal Bureau of Investigation ($5.9 billion), the Drug Enforcement Administration ($1.6 billion), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives ($0.864 billion). This whole alphabet soup of agencies should be downsized and molded into one group, with drastically reduced legal authorities. This downsized federal law enforcement group should focus its efforts on getting evidence on terrorists and arresting those who committed acts of terrorism to bring them to justice. Crimes that could be handled by states should be left to the states. Start by cutting $1 billion out of the $9 billion that Justice proposes to spend on all these and cut back their efforts in other non-critical areas. Stationing FBI special agents in overseas embassies was a goofy idea to begin with and often caused conflicts with ongoing CIA operations. Just where does the U.S. government get the nerve to demand that other countries enforce its laws? And how about leaving Martha Stewart and others like her alone? Corporate shareholders are in a much better position to force out the really bad guys who might be trying to loot businesses than anyone in the federal government.
Like the Department of Homeland Security, Justice still doles money out to police departments via the Office of Justice Programs (OJP). With a budget of $3.5 billion, OJP proposes to spend $0.221 billion combating violence against women, $0.680 billion on a crime victims fund, $0.524 billion for community-oriented police services, and nearly $2.1 billion for a variety of other programs, including shoveling more money out to local police departments. Remember Bill Clinton's program for putting 100,000 more police on the streets? Well, buying a laptop computer for a police department was considered the equivalent of adding a cop to the beat. At least $2 billion of this should be cut out initially, and eventually all of it should be eliminated.
That brings initial cuts from Justice to $3 billion. And much more in the future.
Fewer Pin-Striped Suits
Last, but certainly not least, cuts should be made to the State Department budget. While the U.S. as long as it has diplomatic relations with other countries would need to have embassies staffed by American citizens, the level of staffing and size of embassies could eventually be downsized. Implementing a neutral foreign policy eliminates the need for lots of diplomatic schmoozing, arm-twisting, and bribing of foreign governments to do the bidding of the U.S. government.
For fy 2005, State proposes to spend nearly $4.3 billion for salaries and expenses for its diplomatic and consular programs and proposes to spend $0.171 billion to pay into the Foreign Service Retirement and Disability fund. Cut this by 10%, or $0.45 billion. State also spends $0.346 billion on education and cultural exchange programs. These are a waste. Propagandizing the American way of life makes the U.S. look ugly. Let foreigners judge for themselves by our actions and life style whether or not they like the U.S.
U.S. contributions to international organizations and conferences add up to a lot of money. Since the U.S. would become a neutral country, would pull out of the United Nations and not get involved in any so-called peacekeeping missions, payments to the UN should be eliminated. For fy 2005, State proposed contributing $1.19 billion to the UN and also contribute another $0.646 billion for "peacekeeping activities." Savings from eliminating these two items add up to nearly $1.84 billion.
Finally, the following should also be eliminated: 1) migration and refugee assistance $0.76 billion this is better left to private individuals and charities since official contributions by the U.S. often make enemies of other countries; 2) international narcotics control and law enforcement $0.52 billion payments to other countries for "controlling" their narcotics production this has yet to stop drugs from entering the U.S.; 3) the Andean Counter Drug Initiative $0.869 billion this has not stopped drugs from entering the U.S. and has made more U.S. enemies in Latin America; 4) the Asia Foundation $0.01 billion; 5) the infamous National Endowment for Democracy $0.08 billion for spreading democracy around the globe; and 6) the East-West Center located in Hawaii, for technology transfer $0.014 billion.
Add up all the cuts for State and you get a cool $4.9 billion of savings for taxpayers.
And the Cut-o-meter Total is …. $610 billion
The nearly $10 billion in proposed cuts pushes the Cut-o-meter up to $610 billion.
And we are not finished! Guess what comes next.
Jim Grichar (aka Exx-Gman) [send him mail], formerly an economist with the federal government, writes to “un-spin” the federal government’s attempt to con the public. He teaches economics part-time at a community college and provides economic consulting services to the private sector.