by Rick Manning
In Washington, D.C., every spending program and tax break has a constituency that fights for it. This is why they exist, because somewhere, someone believes that Warren Buffett needs a wind production tax credit, and that opera programming should be taxpayer funded.
These constituencies are tightly organized and connected into the D.C. power centers to continue and if possible expand the favored spending.
Do you know who doesn’t have a well-funded lobbying arm? Why, it is the actual taxpayers and limited government conservatives who fight against the tide of the ever expanding government. Groups like Americans for Limited Government, which I head, depend upon the raw power of truth to stand up to the D.C. government growth machine, and the election of Donald Trump to the presidency shows that winning is possible.
In spite of growing deficits, the Trump presidency gives us reason for hope that fiscal sanity may be restored, as for the third year in a row, they have released a budget which provides a pathway to balance. While the fifteen-year time frame may seem like a long time, by comparison, so-called budget cutter Paul Ryan’s proposals often had a four-decade timeline to reach balance.
While the President’s budget proposals are not expected to receive much attention in the House, it is hoped that the GOP-held Senate will at least provide some legislative legs behind them.
At the Department of Energy, the President’s budget makes an 11 percent cut from last year’s appropriated levels of spending partially by protecting taxpayers “by eliminating costly, wasteful or duplicative programs. The private sector is better positioned to provide financing for the deployment of commercially viable projects. As a result, programs proposed for elimination include: the Title XVII Innovative Technology Loan guarantee Program; the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan and the Tribal Energy Loan guarantee Program.”
This simple idea of having the federal government engage in deep initial research and then expediting the private sector’s ability to invest and develop this research into market applications best meets America’s needs by getting science to markets more rapidly.
Another example of this kind of dollar saving spending change is the Energy Department’s decision to put more money into energy storage research and development while cutting a billion dollars from the bloated Office of Science.
By increasing emphasis on specific scientific areas that are critical to our nation’s energy infrastructure and independence like increasing the ability to store electricity which impacts everything from batteries in cell phones to future solar power generation, government research will match both short term and long-term economic needs all while saving millions of dollars.
The Energy Department spending reprioritization has chosen to beef up spending in the area of cyber-security for places like the national labs as well as taking much needed baby steps to harden the electricity grid. While much remains to be done, the Trump Energy budget demonstrates the President’s priorities for our nation’s future, and the cuts themselves show that President Trump may be the only person in D.C. who is taking the overall fiscal challenges our nation faces seriously.
And if you want to understand the professional spending advocacy squad at work and reinforce how hard it is to get Congress to cut anything in Washington, D.C., the funding fight over the Corporation for Public Broadcasting last year should be a reminder of how difficult cuts are.
Immediately after announcing last year’s budget, which proposed phasing out the approximately $500 million in government funding for CPB over two-years you would have thought that Big Bird had been executed on the town square in front of horrified children. 2018 headlines like “Could Trump’s 2018 budget kill Sesame Street’s beloved Big Bird?” created the impression that the President is desperately seeking the elimination of this beloved icon, when the truth was that by their own admission, public funding elimination for PBS would more than be offset by increases in private donations. That’s right, government funding actually would have been more than offset by private donations to keep the programming listeners wanted on the air effectively creating more money for future program development. Rather that dying, Big Bird would thrive if CPB’s federal funding was eliminated.
While the President was unable to eliminate CPB off of taxpayer funding last year, it will be interesting to learn if he is coming back for another bite of that apple as more details are released on the budget in the weeks ahead. Quite simply if we cannot stomach defunding half a billion dollars each year to pay for liberal talk radio coupled with television programming for rich people then it is hard to imagine making the tougher choices to bring the budget to balance.
If the President chooses to recommend ending funding for public broadcasting in this budget request, listen to the howls from elites across the nation defending this luxury, and you will understand why it is so difficult to cut anything in D.C.
And until those of us who are seeing our nation heading over a fiscal cliff raise our voices loud enough to drown out the yelps of the privileged and connected, Congress will continue pressing the accelerator toward the cliff and the President will wonder why the public did not join him in this fight.
Quite simply, if the people want to cut the budget, they have to demand it with a single-issue ferocity that it forces the politicians of both parties to act in the nation’s interest. Ultimately, America it is up to you. You elected Congress, now you need to make them work for you by cutting the budget and restoring fiscal sanity to America. The President has done his job, now he needs you to do yours.
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Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government.