Cutting the Budget of the Department of Everything

Republicans won’t let Obama raise taxes again until he agrees to real spending reform, and the President won’t reduce spending. Stalemate. While visiting House Republicans for the first time in years, some Americans thought maybe the President was really going to work with Republicans this time and get serious about a budget. That is, until a senior White House official who was promised anonymity honestly told reporters, “This is a joke. We’re wasting the president’s time and ours. I hope you all (in the media) are happy because we’re doing it for you.”

Can there be two honest brokers in D.C.? The Republicans have one: Senator Tom Coburn. Unlike so many in Washington who behave more like reality show characters than legislators, Coburn takes to his job like achievers of the past such as Bill Roth and Jack Kemp, detailing $67.9 billion that can be cut from defense spending.

Some of the more entertainingly silly spending uncovered by his staff’s investigation makes for fun talk radio conversation, like Pentagon-branded beef jerky, a reality cooking show called “Grill it Safe” featuring two “Grill Sergeants” who performed a 46-minute cooking video, Pentagon-run microbreweries, a smart phone app to alert users when to take a coffee break, a bomb detector less effective than “a coin flip,” research examining the social interaction between robots and babies, and a workshop asking “Did Jesus die for Klingons too?”

The $67.9 billion in savings in what Senator Coburn calls the “Department of Everything” report could pay for a third of the cost of the planned fleet of new strategic bombers for the Air Force. It could, Coburn reports, pay a third of the cost of the fleet of Ohio-class replacement nuclear submarines for the Navy. For the Army, $16 billion over ten years – about 25 percent of the savings in the report – could mean robust funding for modernization or purchase of new rifles and light machine guns for every soldier. Moreover, it’s $67.9 billion in savings that Congress could use in budgeting.

You’ve noticed congress critters annoyingly crow their dedication to eliminating “waste, fraud and abuse,” their exhortations so cheerfully applauded at fundraisers, only to abandon their child of responsible behavior in the alley of broken political promises.

So, why is the military involved in so much non-military research and development? Is this by design to bring billions of dollars in pork to hundreds of representative districts around the country? After all, having defense contractor employees in every state in the country sure does prevent congressional representatives and senators from wisely closing unneeded military manufacturing.

Why does the military need its own education system? That’s $15.2 billion of unnecessary spending that could be handled well by public, parochial and/or charter schools in military towns.

Why is the U.S. military spending $700 million on alternative energy? Are there even more Solyndra fiascos out there, hiding under the umbrella of military projects? Why not let them flounder in public under the auspices of the Department of Energy where these bloomdoggles* belong?

As much as my relatives have enjoyed the PX over their lifetimes, the uncomfortable question needs to be asked: Does the military really need to spend $9 billion on grocery stores? Don’t ask my Aunt Gwen because she’ll say, “Yes, if it saves me 30 percent on all my shopping! That means more money for an after-shopping mai-tai or two! Why not save a few billion by getting rid of the overhead and provide military with discount cards that provide the savings needed by enlisted personnel and their families?

So, who’s the honest broker on the Democratic side that will push for these spending cuts? Unfortunately, it will have to be someone other than the President who callously locks schoolchildren out of the White House while spending enough money on golf that would pay for a year’s worth of White House tours.

*bloomdoggle: Government scheme of putting citizens’ money into the pockets of corporate cronies without the citizens’ permission.

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