Our country is in jeopardy
In the last week, our national deficit skyrocketed to over the $16 trillion. To put this in perspective, the debt is now over $140,000 for each taxpayer. When President Obama took office, the debt was only $10 trillion in total and $94,000 per taxpayer. In less that one term, this spendthrift President increased our debt by six trillion dollars. Clearly spending is out of control! Furthermore, there has not been a budget in four years. As a result the Congress and the President have absolutely no constraints on their frivolous spending. They continue to blame President Bush for leaving our nation in dire financial straits. It is now nearing the end of President Obama's first term. He has had almost four years to fix the economy. President Obama has failed miserably. He can no longer blame Bush. Six trillion dollars of our debt was added by President Obama and his administration. He must be held responsible for this unconscionable increase.
As it now stands, our deficit is out of control. Our nation is in a downward spiral that may end in a default on our national debt. The size of the federal government continues to increase as new laws, such as health care, require thousands of new federal employees to be added to the government payroll. The requirement to enforce new federal regulations also increases the burden on the public sector and further increases the number of federal employees. As the size of the government payroll and federal employee benefits grow, we the people and the private sector must eventually pay for it.
There are no planned tax increases prior to the November election. After the November 6th election, we can expect that the President and Congress will need to address the deficit. As a result, I expect them to ram through tax increases in the lame duck period or in the New Year.
Increasing taxes is not the answer. Placing an additional tax burden on businesses and workers will further delay the recovery and slow job creation. Instead, we must downsize government by eliminating or consolidating government departments. The Department of Energy has no purpose other than to hand out money to fund projects that are often doomed to failure, such as the now bankrupt Solyndra Inc. The Department of Education could also be downsized or eliminated. State and local governments are responsible for educating our youth, not the federal government. One item that I find especially egregious is the annual holiday for the Education Secretary and senior staff. For the last three years, they have participated in a national back-to-school bus tour (http://www.ed.gov/blog/topic/bustour/). A specially outfitted tour bus is loaded up with senior government officials who travel to over twenty cities. You can bet that they stay in fine hotels and enjoy the highlife just as a GSA employee did earlier this year. (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/04/cheers-photos-show-embattled-gsa-official-enjoying-wine-and-soak-in-spa-tub-at-m-hotel-during-pre-conference-meeting/)
Other departments should be forced to cut their staff by 20% this year and their budgets by an equal or greater amount. The private sector has downsized dramatically over the last few years. Eliminating jobs was not easy, but now that Corporate America has cut the fat, profits and cash flow are much improved. Streamlining and process improvements in the government could be just as effective. As unnecessary programs are dropped and process improvements are implemented, I believe that the number of federal employees could be reduced by at least half over a twenty year period. In addition, rented office space could also be vacated as the government is downsized. To remain competitive, American businesses had to right size their organiztions and rationalize their processes. The federal government can learn from the private sector how best to reduce the size and cost of government.
Spending can also be reduced simply by cutting foreign aid to nations that do not like us. Why should we fund countries like Libya when they needlessly kill Americans? This week, our consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked. Ambassador Stevens and three other members of our diplomatic team were murdered. In addition, our embassy in Egypt was attacked. We should immediately stop all foreign aid and other payments to these countries. Last week, we gave Egypt a billion dollars to purchase submarines from Germany. If we can't get this money back, we should put pressure on Germany to rescind the sale. If that does not work, we should turn a blind eye if Israel decides to sink these submarines.
Another way to save money would be to cut back on unemployment insurance. Unemployment was high for the last several years. The government extended benefits from 13 weeks to almost a year. Now that the economy is starting to recover, we can reduce the benefit period to six months now and if the recovery continues to take hold, restore the benefit period to the original 13 weeks. This will stop the drain on the treasury and encourage those between positions to seek employment, even if they have to take a lower wage than they had at their previous job.
Lastly it is time to look at entitlements. Medicare is necessary to ensure that our seniors have access to the health care they need and deserve. Unfortunately, the program is fraught with fraud. In 2010, "improper payments" (fraud) for Medicare was almost fifty billion dollars. Simply cracking down on fraud and recovering "improper payments' could certainly reduce the deficit. I believe that it is time to introduce the "bounty hunter" concept into the federal payment system. Private sector auditors and consultants could be paid a percentage of the money saved as a result of their fraud investigations and efficiency audits. The payments would not be made until the benefits have actually been realized. In other words, when the savings are in the Treasury, we give the auditors a percentage. This would ensure that the most egregious and wasteful procedures would be identified first and the "bounty hunters" would go after the items that would give them and we the taxpayers the quickest return.
I am not a politician and I have never been a civil servant. That said, I'm sure that cutting the cost of government is not an easy task. Hard choices will have to be made. Several things are clear to me. We must have a budget and we must ensure that we do not spend more than we receive. Over the next two decades, the national debt must be paid off. We certainly do not want our grandchildren to inherit our debt and shackle them with the burden of repaying it.
In November, we must vote very carefully. We do not want to elect representatives who will continue to spend beyond our means. It is time to go to the candidate meetings in your area and ask the difficult questions. When will we have a budget? How will we reduce the deficit? When will the waste of taxpayer money stop? It is now time to recognize this financial folly and take action to return America to solvency. If the politicians do not have acceptable answers, then we must vote them out of office November 6th.
© 2012 Gordon Smith - All Rights Reserved