Here's the latest news on squeezing our bloated government down to size:
Donald Trump is ready to take an ax to government spending. Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned....Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.
This is terrifying, of course, but it's also puzzling. $10.5 trillion over ten years? That's a trillion dollars a year. If you eliminated the domestic discretionary budget entirely, you'd only save half a trillion bucks. So how do they do it?
Well, we're told that the proposed budget cuts "hew closely" to a recent Heritage Foundation report, so I went and took a look. The answer, of course, is that the only way to cut that kind of money is to take a meat axe to everything, including Social Security and Medicare. Here's a chart:
Let's break this down. How does Heritage manage these whopping cuts? According to a modest little footnote in the appendix on page 165, here's the answer:
Medicaid: No details. There will be a spending cap, and all mandatory spending will somehow be cut to fit.
Medicare: Increase eligibility age, add a "temporary" premium for Part A, increase premiums for Parts B and D, phase out subsidies for seniors with "significant" income, "reform" cost-sharing arrangements, transition to
vouchers premium support starting in 2021.
Domestic Discretionary: Magic spending cap.
Social Security: Increase retirement age, index retirement age so it keeps going up, reduce benefits by adopting chained CPI for inflation adjustments, and "transition the payment to a flat, anti-poverty benefit focused on individuals who need it most," whatever that means.
In fairness, there's a bit more detail on the domestic discretionary side. Actually, a mountain of detail: over the course of 140 pages, Heritage recommends cuts to over a hundred programs. These include catfish programs, the Ex-Im bank, climate programs, Amtrak, the National Endowment for the Arts, etc. etc. Cutting all this stuff might be harder than they expect, since some senator somewhere probably thinks very highly of the USDA Catfish Inspection Program, but I guess they can try. In any case, about 80 percent of the savings come from a small number of programs:
- Energy subsidies: $28 billion
- Land and Water Conservation Fund: $20 billion
- Various HHS/HUD jobs program: $10 billion
- Davis-Bacon: $9 billion
- Federal Transit Administration: $4 billion
- Nine climate programs: $4 billion
- Military health care: $4 billion
So there you have it. Slash a bunch of hippy-dippy stuff (clean energy, water conservation, transit, climate); some employment stuff (jobs programs, Davis-Bacon); and military health care spending. Then take a meat axe to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and everything else, and you're done! Piece of cake.
Perhaps someone should start asking our president-elect if he's on board with this stuff.