[Update] Since original publication, Senator Hatch’s Press Secretary was kind enough to both read and comment that the Senator’s proposal is only intended to be a short term fix and that the Senator has proposed more long term solutions to Medicare and Medicaid. The proposal dates back to the end of January and can be found here.
[Original post] Senate Democrats proposal to dealing with the sequester is simple: raise taxes. The expenses of the federal government in caring for America are increasing, and so some Americans should pay more of their fair share.
Our country is $16.6 trillion in debt. Republicans have tried to work with Senate Democrats on common-sense spending cuts so we can begin to get our crippling debt under control, but we’ve been met with virtual silence. Disappointingly, the president seems more interested in continuing his campaign across the country to score political points, all while the country sits disgusted with a lack of action from Washington to fix the president’s sequester.
The cuts represented in the sequester are necessary, but what is not necessary is how they are structured. To essentially cut $1 trillion from our military in a short period of time will place an unnecessary burden on our service members and the workers who aid their efforts. So why won’t the president work with us to restructure these cuts in a more manageable way so the Department of Defense can plan accordingly?
Hatch’s proposal–his “smart spending cuts”–finds $142.2 billion in cuts from the federal budget. That’s $60 billion more than the amount cut this year by the sequester, “but in a much more common-sense, reasonable way[,]” says Utah’s senior senator in his Tribune piece.
A break down of Hatch’s plan on his site shows proposed cuts, based on a 2011 report by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma called “Back in Black.” Using estimates from that report, Hatch finds ten areas where the federal government can cut back without affecting spending on national security. With the sequester disproportionately hitting defense spending (nearly $500 billion of the $1.1 trillion in cuts over the next decade are coming out of the military spending), Hatch appears to have made special effort not to touch the armed services.
Not surprisingly, the list of proposed budget savings include a number of targets for conservative ire in recent years (and decades), including elimination of funding for National Public Radio, consolidating National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for Humanities under one roof, freezing federal employee pay to match locality, and reducing agency budgets for advertising and travel. Also, fewer limousines owned by the feds.
I’m impressed that Senator Hatch is proposing more specific cuts than the across-the-board-we’re-all-gonna-die cuts that have been threatened by fear-mongering administration officials over the last week. The proposals astutely avoid hurting any particular constituency, with the exception of a few federal employees who will make roughly the same as their counterparts in the private sector in the areas they live, but that seems reasonable–working for the government is not supposed to make you rich.
However, it’s clear that the cuts are not much more than chopping at leaves with little real long-term impact on the drivers of federal budgetary growth. Untouched are the big costs–Medicare and Medicaid. In spite of bipartisan agreement that reform is necessary to retain the long-term solvency of these programs for the poor and weak in society, little effort has been made to address their future. I laud Hatch’s efforts on the budget, but I would like to see a more frank discussion of how entitlement spending will be addressed.
1. Freeze Federal Locality Pay for Five Years: The Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990 created locality pay to align salaries for federal employees with private sector pay scales in their geographic area. Estimated savings: $71 billion over ten years.
2. Reduce Civilian Agencies’ Travel Budgets by 75 Percent: Estimated savings: $43.3 billion over ten years.
3. Reduce Agency Advertising Budgets by 50 Percent: Estimated savings: $5.6 billion over ten years.
4. Combine National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities into One Agency and Reduce Funding by 75 Percent: Estimated savings: $2.8 billion over ten years.
5. Consolidate Various Funding Programs into a New Office Dedicated to Weather Research with the National Science Foundation and Reduce Overall Expenditures for This Research: Estimated savings: $11.6 billion over ten years.
6. Eliminate Federal Funding for Public Media (National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting Service): Estimated savings: $5.6 billion over ten years.
7. Reduce Administrative Expenses for the Treasury Department: This would include eliminating printing and mailing of certain forms, publications and inserts. Estimated savings: $2.2 billion over ten years.
8. Reduce the Number of Limousines Owned by Federal Agencies: Estimated savings: $115.5 million over ten years.