Raul Castro is right.
The powerful brother of dictator Fidel Castro is almost always wrong. But he was perfectly right when he told comrades in Camaguey, Cuba: “No country has the luxury of spending more than it has.”
Even now, as America slouches toward the fiscal cliff, House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) and leading Republicans seem ho-hum about limiting federal expenditures and restraining a government gone crazy. Obama and top Democrats are downright allergic to these concepts. Too bad this Cuban tyrant’s rare words of wisdom escape Washington’s spendaholics.
There are billions of ways to shrink the $3.8 trillion federal budget. Let’s start with these:
First, the Mack Penny Plan, created by outgoing Congressman Connie Mack (R., Fla.), would cut a penny from each dollar that Uncle Sam spends each year, for eight years. In 2013, Congress would spend 99 cents per dollar disbursed today; in 2014, 98 cents, etc. Rather than consume 24.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product today, federal spending in 2020 would be capped at 18 percent, just below the 18.2 percent at which Bill Clinton left it.
Such steady reductions, spanning nearly a decade, finally would lasso the spending monster. Washington policymakers should be able to prioritize and reallocate funding within a predictable, slowly decreasing budget.
Second, Washington should terminate antiquated and extraneous programs.
FDR launched the Rural Electrification Administration in 1935 to bring power to Appalachia. It morphed into the Rural Utilities Service and now spends taxpayer dollars to bring wind turbines and broadband Internet to the countryside, including an $81.6 million gift to VTel Wireless. Now that Appalachia has been electrified since at least 1960, let’s declare, “Mission accomplished,” thank the staff, retire them, and sell their offices.
Except for food-safety inspections, the Agriculture Department creates little value. Americans can thrive without agrocrats dictating sugar prices and paying farmers some $1.8 billion annually not to farm. Food growers and eaters can manage without Washington’s relentless interference.
Washington expands affordable housing, so millions of Americans can buy homes, and simultaneously supports housing prices, so millions of Americans can enjoy precious nest eggs. Which is it? Washington should close the Department of Housing and Urban Development and exit the housing sector, which it nearly demolished in 2008.
Launched in 1970, the Public Broadcasting Service challenged the three original broadcast networks, back when many TVs received just 13 channels. Today, anyone unhappy with ABC, CBS, or NBC can watch C-SPAN, the History Channel, National Geographic, Turner Classic Movies, and literally hundreds of other culturally enriching cable channels. Thousands of DVD titles offer tremendous educational and artistic value. And don’t forget books. PBS and Jim Lehrer will survive once they fully depart the federal dole and let donations and other non-government money finance 100 percent of their budget rather than a mere 85 percent, as they do today.