NIP AND TUCK….Time to cut the fat!

Conservative House Republicans plan to recommend on Wednesday more than $500 billion in savings over 10 years to compensate for the costs of Hurricane Katrina as lawmakers continue to struggle to develop a consensus on the fiscal approach to the disaster.

At the top of a partial list…delaying the start of the new Medicare prescription drug coverage for one year to save $31 billion and eliminating $25 billion in projects from the newly enacted transportation measure….eliminating the Moon-Mars initiative that NASA announced on Monday, for $44 billion in savings.

….”What House conservatives will demonstrate through Operation Offset is that there is more than enough room in the federal budget to provide for the needs of the families affected by Katrina without raising taxes”….

Well, they’ve identified $100 billion so far. Only $400 billion to go!

Aside from the fact that I’m delighted to see Republicans screaming at each other over this, the whole spectacle is kind of sad. Could we save $500 billion over ten years? Of course we could. That’s $50 billion a year, about 2% of the entire federal budget.

On the other hand, it also shows how ridiculous this whole exercise is. $50 billion in cuts would reduce federal spending from 19.8% of GDP to 19.4% of GDP. Yippee.

Still, we’re supposed to offer ideas of our own around here, not merely be obstructionist. So here goes:

  • I note that farm subsidies somehow didn’t make the short list from our hardy band of conservative Republicans. That could save about $20 billion per year or so. Of course, some of these brave fiscal warriors come from farm states….

  • Delay the Medicare prescription drug bill for one year? Pish and tosh. The current bill is projected to cost about $100 billion per year, and as near as I can tell about half of that has nothing at all to do with providing prescription drugs to seniors. It’s just a steaming pile of corporate welfare and handouts to pharmaceutical companies. So I tell you what: hand over the bill to some serious healthcare policy analysts ? they’ll have to be Democrats, I’m afraid, since Republicans don’t have any left ? and I’m pretty sure they can cut the cost of this legislation by a third and actually improve its coverage at the same time.

  • Kill the F/A-22 Raptor. I think even President Bush agrees that the Raptor doesn’t make much sense anymore. I don’t have numbers off the top of my head, but this would probably save about $20 billion or so.

  • Raise taxes? Whoa, Nelly! But we could at least repeal a tax cut aimed exclusively at wealthy families that’s scheduled to take effect in January. That would save about $200 billion over ten years.

  • Yes, the Moon-Mars mission could be scrubbed, and the highway bill earmarks could be repealed en masse. And while we’re at it we might as well repeal the horrendous energy bill enacted a couple of months ago. That should add up to $100 billion or so.

Let’s see….that totals up to roughly $800 billion or so over ten years. See how easy this is?

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