Congressional Republicans have been talking “spending cuts” for … well, forever … but for the most part they’ve been cagey about what specific programs they would cut. “Government spending” in the abstract is unpopular these days, but the programs government funds are generally popular. That’s why “government waste” and “earmarks” are such popular topics among conservative pols — it helps maintain the illusion that it’s possible to substantially cut spending without touching anything popular.
But give Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)’s Republican Study Committee some credit: They’re naming names.
Here’s the document [PDF], released today, wherein they outline their proposed cuts. Jordan will introduce it as the Spending Reduction Act of 2011 today.
Start with the obvious: There are no cuts to America’s bloated military budget, which was somewhere north of $660 billion in 2010, more than the rest of the world’s defense spending combined. And there are no cuts to the sprawling, opaque Department of Homeland Security, which costs more than $50 billion a year. In maintaining global empire and expanding the security state, every dollar is sacred.
There are also no cuts to fossil-fuel or corn-ethanol subsidies. No corporate contributor to the Republican Party will find anything to fear. The bill might as well be called the Thumbing Liberals In the Eye Act of 2011. It’s a laundry list of targets conservatives have been after for decades, most of which will make no appreciable difference to the nation’s fiscal health.
Here are a few proposed cuts that might be of particular interest to Grist readers:
- Energy Star Program: $52 million a year.
- Intercity and High Speed Rail Grants: $2.5 billion a year.
- DOE Weatherization Grants to States: $530 million a year.
- Amtrak Subsidies: $1.565 billion a year. (There are no cuts to highway subsidies, of course.)
- Technology Innovation Program: $70 million a year. (Wait, I thought support for innovation was “post-partisan”!)
- Applied Research at Department of Energy: $1.27 billion a year.
- New Starts Transit: $2 billion a year.
- Subsidies to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: $12.5 million a year.
- Title X Family Planning: $318 million a year.
- Appalachian Regional Commission: $76 million a year. (Why do we need this? They already have coal mines there!)
- FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership: $200 million a year.
- Subsidy for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority: $150 million a year.
- National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program: $56.2 million a year.
Delightful, no? That’s to say nothing of the proposed cuts to public broadcasting, the NEA, historic building preservation, community development, etc., etc.
Also on the chopping block is the remaining unspent money from the stimulus bill, some $45 billion. Domestic spending programs would no longer have their budgets increase with inflation; same for federal worker salaries. Fannie and Freddie would be privatized. Overall discretionary spending would be frozen at 2006 levels.
This would, as any sentient economist will tell you, amount to a massive anti-stimulus right when the economy can least afford it. Tens of thousands of jobs would be lost, though of course Republicans don’t acknowledge that, because in their worldview it is Revealed Truth that, as Jordan put it, “if you reduce federal government spending, you actually create jobs.”
So what do you think?
UPDATE: Adam Siegel has some thoughts on the cuts. Also, thanks to Adam Harris for reminding me (via Twitter) that the proposed repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act — which requires that public works projects pay prevailing wages — would have a huge negative effect on commercial retrofit work, where it plays a large role. Republicans have been trying to repeal Davis-Bacon for ages, most recently after Hurricane Katrina, because they hate unions.