The conservative Republican Study Committee has released a document identifying $2.5 trillion in cuts over 10 years, a tangible list of programs conservatives would like to eliminate. This represents the right flank in the upcoming debate over spending that will consume much of the first year of this Congress.
The plan would reduce “non-security discretionary spending,” in other words the federal budget except for the biggest parts of the federal budget (Medicare, Social Security, the Pentagon), to 2008 levels for the rest of 2011 (which would require a cut of $80 billion this year alone), and 2006 levels from 2012 and beyond. There are repeals of “excess stimulus funds” and the FMAP increase passed last year, which save $61 billion, according to their numbers. Here are some of their other trims:
Cutting the federal workforce by 15 percent through attrition, and do this by allowing only one new federal worker for every two who quit.
Killing the “fund for Obamacare administrative costs” for $900 million
Ending Amtrak subsidies for $1.565 billion
Ending intercity and high speed rail grants for $2.5 billion
Repealing Davis-Bacon for $1 billion
Cutting annual general assistance to the District of Columbia by $210 million, and cutting the subsidy for DC’s transit authority by $150 million.
Reforms that go after their own perks:
Cutting the Federal Travel Budget in half, for $7.5 billion
Cutting the Federal Vehicle Budget by 1/5, for $600 million
Halve funding for congressional printing – $47 million annual savings
Ending the death gratuity for members of Congress
And cuts that get revenge for Juan Williams: $445 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, $167.5 million from the NEA, and $167.5 million from the NEH.
There’s also $30 billion conjured up from privatizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I don’t really get that either.
When asked by Dave Weigel how many jobs would be eliminated by cutting funding to these priorities, head of the Republican Study Committee and future high school football assistant coach Jim Jordan (R-OH) said, “We think if you reduce federal government spending, you actually create jobs.” It must comfort him at night. It’s based on nothing, but it must make it easier to sleep. Talking point Ny-Quil.
While the above cuts are actually identified (the full list is here), the cap on discretionary spending at 2006 levels is mostly just assumed, so once again we have this claim that we can “cut spending” without any sense of all that would have to be cut to meet the cap. Only $330 billion out of the $2.25 trillion in cuts have a specific named source. So again, Democrats trying to argue with this document are left to largely chase phantoms.
The value in this document is knowing that the battle lines have been drawn. Republicans in the House want $80 billion in cuts this year, and trillions over the next ten. Now it’s the President’s move. And the end of the continuing resolution on March 4, as well as the need to increase the debt limit, hang out there over the horizon.