Trump’s Bad Example of How Not to Tackle America’s Spending Issues and Lack of Fiscal Responsibility
Problem solving starts by addressing the biggest sources of the problem before struggling to fix less troublesome areas. Buying a new vehicle with low gas mileage for the sole purpose of saving money does not make financial sense. Eliminating the grocery budget, because the family is spending too much on restaurants and coffee shops, is ineffective, counterproductive, and foolish. Saving money by asking family members to drink less water when dad takes hour-long showers, the pool is left uncovered in the sun, and the faucets leak is just ludicrous. Similarly, the Trump Administration’s focus on small line items and small-budget agencies to cut $54 billion to save money from a Federal Budget of nearly four trillion dollars and bolster an already inefficient, wasteful Military Budget is an example of how not to solve a budget issue.
Decades of unbalanced Federal Budgets have created nearly a $20 trillion National Debt for America. While Bill Clinton was the last US President to lead a successful campaign to address the National Deficit and Debt, Paul Ryan's very sobering 2012 Budget proposal, The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America's Promise, showed exactly how much government the US could afford without increasing tax revenues. Unfortunately, it was a partisan budget based solely on “Conservative” priorities that fueled political polarization and dysfunction. Because Ryan’s approach was to hijack the US Federal Budget to push Right-wing priorities, it failed to solve America’s fiscal issues. Even if he and Trump can now impose such a plan on the American People, the next US President and Congress will undo their changes with added costs. Fiscal responsibility is needed, but it requires a politically, as well as fiscally, balanced Budget that actually tackles the sources of the problem.
The role of government is enshrined in the US Constitution, which states “The Congress shall have power… to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States…. The Trump Administration’s targeting of programs like “Meals on Wheels,” WIC, and LIHEAP, without regard to the popularity, relatively low-cost, effectiveness, and need of these programs, reflects the indifference of influential Right-wing, libertarian-leaning special interest groups to the general welfare clause. Politically-motivated cuts to the Labor Department, Transportation Department, HHS, State Department EPA, HUD, and Justice Department, coupled with the eliminating of the funding to 19 agencies without Congressional debate as well as increases to Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs, reaffirms the Trump Administration’s abuse of the Budgetary process to circumvent the legislation process in order to push the priorities of special interests over sound policies.
Spending is a problem today, because the US Federal government spent too much and did not tax enough, How America got into this predicament does not change the fact that there is a problem. It must be addressed sooner rather than later. Where their “spend-and-tax” counterparts on the Left favor social welfare spending, “spend-and-don’t-tax” Republicans simply prioritize military spending and tax cuts above all other spending. There is no fiscal responsibility in Washington. It is a political tactic used to slow funding to liberal and moderate priories in order to divert monies to Right-wing priorities. Military and National Security spending represent approximately 16% of the National Budget while spending on Veterans adds another 4% to the total, which represents more than half of discretionary spending. Healthcare spending and social security take up another 28% and 25% respectively. These are the areas where the Trump Administration must first confront America’s budgetary problems.
Given the legendary waste, abuse, and fraud that comes with military and defense spending, there is also a clear need to address fiscal responsibility starting with the military. Inefficiencies in any military are deadly. Inefficiencies not only waste resources and lead to unnecessary costs, they present a logistics nightmare that jeopardizes the lives of troops. The problem is that much of US military infrastructure is designed around the notion that money is not an issue when it comes to defense. Instead of addressing this problem, the Trump Administration avoids it by feeding the beast. Two major obstacles to change are Congress and the Pentagon bureaucracy, which begrudgingly implements cost-cutting measures in ways that starve useful and necessary spending instead of targeting, waste, abuse, and fraud. Cutting costs, scrapping unnecessary projects, and refitting the US military to its current missions had been top priorities of men like Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Despite the necessity of such leadership, every Congressional oversight committee prodded by top military brass interfered with the process by undermining the authority of the Executive Branch and focusing on political rhetoric versus sound policy.
That said, the role of modern government is to serve the governed. In addition to funding law enforcement, the citizens of the United States need a well-funded and efficient military to ensure their security. Americans also need economic security, which comes from agencies like the Chemical Safety Board and Legal Services Corporation. When it comes to the economy, the sole role of government is to ensure the People’s needs are met and they are protected from unscrupulous and negligent business practices, yet the Trump Administration’s apparent anti-regulation, versus proper regulation, agenda only serves business interests trying to circumvent necessary protections. Beyond security, Americans have a right to demand government provide for their general welfare, including what the Institute of Museum and Libery Services, PBS, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities do. It is also why the Trump Administration and Republicans should not be using the Budget to change policy.
Instead of slashing funding to small agencies and relatively inexpensive programs, the Trump Administration needs to take an apolitical approach that actually targets, waste, abuse, and fraud in the Federal Budget. The Government Accountability Office has identified tens to hundreds of billions of dollars in waste, abuse, and fraud that can be addressed without much controversy. A path to fiscal responsibility and efficient government starts by focusing on solutions that do not provoke partisan bickering. Lengthy debates on issues with a significant potential to cause controversy will only derail the process. Republicans and Democrats will need to upset each other by targeting the spending preferences of both sides, but such issues are best dealt in the next rounds of deal making with the most expensive, least controversial changes prioritized. Our legislative leaders do not, however, need to solve every fiscal issue in one sitting. They need to break the process up into smaller, manageable bits. Right now, they just need focus on the biggest sources of the problem.
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