The Senate hasn’t passed a budget in three years. The president proposes no spending cuts. House Republicans, despite their fondness for the refrain “We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem,” find themselves speechless when asked what, exactly, they would cut.
Is there a suggestion box? If there were, here are just a few big expenses we could afford to do without.
- Farm subsidies. The Department of Agriculture doles out $10 billion to $30 billion in cash subsidies to farmers and owners of farmland each year (depending on crop prices, disaster outlays and other factors). More than 90 percent of agriculture subsidies go to farmers of just five crops: wheat, corn, soybeans, rice and cotton. Most farms collect no subsidies. Farmers’ income has been booming lately, making this a particularly good time to end the subsidies.
- Head Start. Oh, no! Everyone loves Head Start. It helps poor kids. Who could be against that? But on the Friday before Christmas, the administration released a large‐scale study of Head Start’s effectiveness. Its conclusion: “[B]y the end of third grade, there were very few impacts found … in any of the four domains of cognitive, social‐emotional, health and parenting practices. The few impacts that were found did not show a clear pattern of favorable or unfavorable impacts for children.” Head Start costs $8 billion a year, and about $200 billion since its inception. Multiple official studies have shown its ineffectiveness.
- Afghanistan. Americans are tired of America’s longest war. It’s costing more than $100 billion a year. Instead of vague plans to reduce the number of troops next year or thereafter, let’s make the decision to end the war, bring the troops home, and save that money.
- U.S. Embassy in Iraq. The world’s largest and most expensive embassy is the American embassy in Baghdad. Housing some 17,000 people, it will cost about $3.5 billion a year to operate. As we approach the 10th anniversary of our invasion of Iraq, it’s time to extricate ourselves from running that distant country.
- Urban transit. Local mass‐transit systems should be the responsibility of state and local governments. Why are taxpayers from around the country paying for the subway and light‐rail systems of Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, New York and other cities? In this as in other areas, federal subsidies make it easier for local politicians to approve spending that isn’t cost‐efficient. We could save $5 billion to $15 billion a year by ending national subsidies for local subways.
Almost every federal program has a vocal cheering section, which is why it’s so difficult to cut anything from the budget. But in an age of fiscal crisis, these are among the line items that should be squarely in the cross hairs; they have been clearly demonstrated to be bloated and ineffective, and cutting them would save hundreds of billions of dollars.