Following the successful vote in the House to repeal Obamacare, Republicans announced yesterday a comprehensive package of cuts aimed at controlling spending by the federal government. The repeal of Obamacare was Act I of the agenda promised by the GOP during the 2010 campaign and now the new majority is tackling Act II with their recommendations on spending.
Spurred on by their electoral victories in November and by the growing Tea Party movements, House Republicans outlined legislation on Thursday that would lead to taxpayer savings of approximately $2.5 trillion, if passed. Any spending cuts will be fiercely opposed by the Democrats as they work to maintain many of the spending programs instituted during the previous four years of House Democratic control.
The basis of the legislation is a return to fiscal year 2008 spending levels through the remaining months of 2011, followed by the setting of spending levels at 2006 levels during the period of 2012-2021. While optimistic, this begins to fulfill one of the campaign pledges made by Republicans while campaigning last year. Democrat leaders, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have long demanded that Republicans be specific as it pertains to any cuts by the governments. Unlike legislation passed under Pelosi’s leadership as Speaker of the House, the Republicans have offered the clear specifics with ample time for the public and media to properly weigh the merits of the bill.
Included within the package are cuts to federal perks such as the travel budget and vehicle budget, saving approximately $8.1 billion in total. Republicans have also included the privatization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as both a result of the mortgage meltdowns and as a matter of saving another $30 billion for taxpayers. The bill also addresses the exploding federal workforce as it reduces the number of employees by 15%, eliminates automatic pay increases for 5 years, prohibits taxpayer funded union activities by federal employees and repeals the “prevailing wages” act for workers assigned to federal projects. All of these workforce moves will save $2.2 billion or more as the employee rolls are diminished.
Finally, the GOP also eliminates federal subsidies for both Public Broadcasting and Amtrak, another savings of over $2 billion.
Democrats will attempt to portray Republican efforts as harsh but the voters in 2010 demanded a more responsible government and new conservatives in Washington are making every effort to remain true to the promises they made. Tackling the budget problems is a serious matter as the economy struggles but the spending issues have been ignored for the better part of the last decade as both parties ignored the out of control expansion of the federal government.
It remains to be seen how much Republicans can achieve with control of the Senate and White House still in Democrat hands but the GOP appears to be listening to the constituents who elected them with the demands of a smaller government and less spending. This legislation appears to be a good start in fulfilling some of their promises but more needs to be done as every part of the budget needs to be reviewed, especially entitlement spending. Any attempts to remedy the budget problems will ultimately fail until the leaders in Washington DC address Social Security and Medicare, a hot button issue to be sure.
While not looking at entitlement spending yet, Republicans at least have made a beginning effort in their work to control spending. Democrats will be watching closely for opportunities to exploit any cuts for political gain. Unfortunately for them, the electorate appears ready to force responsibility on Washington whether they like it or not. Taxpayers have been stuck with a gargantuan bill for too long and it is time to trim some of that tab.