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Busting The Budget

Well, recently President Bush submitted his proposed budget to Congress, and it was a humdinger. (Of course, Congress still hasn't passed the last one, but those are just trivial little details.) I'll leave it up to others to dissect the finer details, but I had an idea that might be a fun little game:

Let's pretend that you are put in charge of the federal budget. You can make a single change to the budget that no one can veto, amend, or overturn. You have the power to set federal policy for a single year when it comes to a single aspect of government spending. How would you use that power for the betterment of the nation?

Here's my idea:

I would abolish the entire Department of Education. It doesn't teach a damned thing to anyone; it's just a home for a bunch of worthless government hacks who've found a way to avoid having to do real work.

The money currently spent on the Department of Education (just under $70 billion for the last year) I would divide in half. One half would go straight to federal deficit reduction. The other half I would divide by the total number of students enrolled in public schools (Kindergarten through college) and disburse to the states on a per capita basis to use as they see fit towards education.

I'm too damned lazy to work out the precise numbers, but I'd be willing to bet that $35 billion divided among the states would do a lot of good for a lot of students, and improve the hell out of the systems. It would allow the country to have 50 different laboratories, where each state can try its own solutions to improving public education. After each year (I'm presuming that my idea would be continued after that first year), the states could look at their own records and those of other states and see what has worked and what has not.

Hell, I might even keep one billion of that budget for annual conferences and other ways that the state administrators can exchange ideas and share results.

Anyway, that's my notion for helping to fix the federal budget. Let's hear your thoughts.


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Comments (20)

Push the Mean Salary for go... (Below threshold)

Push the Mean Salary for government workers down to the same level of private sector. It should actually be a bit lower but this would be a start. Give them health plans and pensions similar to the private sector.

Why think so small? Defund ... (Below threshold)

Why think so small? Defund the Department of Health and Human Services. Don't trim it or adjust it; nail it right between the eyes.

That would bring about an $800 billion annual savings, end the distortion of several critical sectors of our economy, and sever about a million federal workers from the public teat.

We need a Constitutional amendment requiring the federal government to kill, each and every year, more programs, departments, and initiatives than it starts.

Bravo. The federal governm... (Below threshold)

Bravo. The federal government has no jurisdiction for education anyway.

Education K-6 should be gilt-edged, then performance-based and noncompulsary 7-12. If proven schools could eject those working below potential (in other words, its the kids' lack of effort), resources would be better spent.

Tom Sowell wanted the Depar... (Below threshold)

Tom Sowell wanted the Department of Education zeroed out when it had a budget of $40 billion and "doesn't educate a single child."

It is the one of the worst monstrosities ever created- a monument to symbolism.

I agree. A favorite quote ... (Below threshold)

I agree. A favorite quote of mine is a twist on a Leftist quote, "It will be a great day when the Air Force has enough money to buy bombers and schools must have bake sales to buy books." Public education is the tenth plank of the Communist Manifesto.

We need to do away with ano... (Below threshold)
Eneils Bailey:

We need to do away with another one of Jimmah Carter's tributes to symbolism, and that is the Department of Energy.

Also, the Department of Commerce is like a wounded Skunk on the highway; time to put it out of it's misery.

Although we all have our pet agencies we would schedule for destruction, there is a general problem of uncontrolled spending across the board:

Total Outlays in Recent Budget Submissions

2009 - $3.10 trillion (submitted 2008 by President Bush)
2008 - $2.90 trillion (submitted 2007 by President Bush)
2007 - $2.77 trillion (submitted 2006 by President Bush)
2006 - $2.7 trillion (submitted 2005 by President Bush)
2005 - $2.4 trillion (submitted 2004 by President Bush)
2004 - $2.3 trillion (submitted 2003 by President Bush)
2003 - $2.2 trillion (submitted 2002 by President Bush)
2002 - $2.0 trillion (submitted 2001 by President Bush)
2001 - $1.9 trillion (submitted 2000 by President Clinton)
2000 - $1.8 trillion (submitted 1999 by President Clinton)
1999 - $1.7 trillion (submitted 1998 by President Clinton)
1998 - $1.7 trillion (submitted 1997 by President Clinton)
1997 - $1.6 trillion (submitted 1996 by President Clinton)
1996 - $1.6 trillion (submitted 1995 by President Clinton)

"..The other half I woul... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"..The other half I would divide by the total number of students enrolled in public schools.."

I hope you mean non-illegal alien students, Jay.
That would kill two birds with one stone, as it would also put another incentive on states to get rid of illegals. It wouldn't 'punish' them to keep illegals, but it would 'reward' them to get rid of illegals. Win-win.

My idea would be to just freeze the entire budget to the same as last year, except for Defense.

Hadn't thought that through... (Below threshold)

Hadn't thought that through, Les, but works for me...


Id mandate a max limit for ... (Below threshold)

Id mandate a max limit for comp packages(salary, benefits, etc) to all in Congress to $50k annually, and they can receive that for no more than 2 terms. No lifetime pension, no lifetime benefits.

The "department of educatio... (Below threshold)

The "department of education" is an all time waste.
Just take their annual budget, and you get just over $1500/student, or some $24K/teacher, above & beyond local/state budgets.

Take JT's advice, and you'd see each teacher get 12K more, or $12K/classroom on average.

So what are we getting for our money?

J (another J)

Don't stop there. ... (Below threshold)

Don't stop there.
Suspend ALL Foreign Aid until my hand picked committee determines that the country requesting aid is pro- American and in need.
Immediately shut down and militarize the southern border until our immigration policy catches up with reality.

I would address congression... (Below threshold)

I would address congressional budgets instead. To the extent that there is any deficit, all congressional salaries (both congress critters and their staff) and operating costs for congress (travel, phones, paper clips, etc) would be cut to $0 to balance the budgets.

Now the amount of money spent directly on congress wouldn't balance the budget. But what it would do is focus their attention as they sit in the dark by their lonesome. I suspect that the days of budget deficits would be gone. Of course this would require a constitutional amendment, but your post did offer plenipotentiary powers.

If it's only the budget and... (Below threshold)

If it's only the budget and only for 1 year, I agree with abolishing the Dept of Education. However, I'd prefer the money be given the parents of the children in the form of a voucher rather than simply pouring money into state bureaucracy (vs federal).

One of my favorite question... (Below threshold)

One of my favorite questions to ask supporters of big government:

"If we close the Department of Education today, how many schools would be unable to open tomorrow?"

Unless they have in-house day care, I believe the correct answer would be "none".

"I'd prefer the money be gi... (Below threshold)
Eneils Bailey:

"I'd prefer the money be given the parents of the children in the form of a voucher rather than simply pouring money into state bureaucracy (vs federal)."

Maybe, I am just an old-fashioned fart who believes if we keep them from taking it in the first place, we don't have to go begging for them to send it back to us. I don't want to kiss any government official's ass, suck on any government appendage, or listen to any federal official that tells me that sending back a minor portion my tax money is something akin to a religious sacrifice.

Maybe, I am just an old-... (Below threshold)

Maybe, I am just an old-fashioned fart who believes..
Agreed. If the question JT had posed were 'you're king for a day...', the one thing I'd do is remove the government's "1st mortgage" on my life (i.e. repeal the 16th Amendment).

These are pretty minor and ... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

These are pretty minor and if I could only cut 1 thing I prolly wouldn't pick 'em, but I'd elimnate funding for public broadcasting and the national endowment for the arts (along with the many other good ideas already mentionted).

I thought of another one: ... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

I thought of another one: terminate all existing investigations and ban all future investigations by the federal government into professional (or any for that matter) sports.

Let the free market decide these things. They are not the business of government. At least not in a non-socialist country like the US. (In a socialist country everything is the business of the government.)

Scale back military spendin... (Below threshold)

Scale back military spending for 1 year by 25%, rolling that amount not spent on the military into energy research and infrastructure to move us towards energy independence.

Jay wrote: "The other half ... (Below threshold)

Jay wrote: "The other half I would divide by the total number of students enrolled in public schools (Kindergarten through college) and disburse to the states on a per capita basis to use as they see fit towards education."

I would add a rider condition: some of the money must go to unique experimental programs, so that no two states have exactly the same educational system. By the same token, some of the money must go to a return to classic educational methods, so that we have a control group to compare the experiments to.

Francis wrote: "We need a Constitutional amendment requiring the federal government to kill, each and every year, more programs, departments, and initiatives than it starts."

I like that for the short term, but what happens to such a requirement over the long term? How do you define a program, a department, an initiative? How do you ensure that government agencies don't start creating new "initiatives" just so they have something to kill the next year? And what do you do in five or ten or twenty years when all the stuff that is clearly useless is gone, and all you've got left is programs that really do have tangible benefits?






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