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wundayatta's avatar

When tax revenues fall, what kinds of programs should get cut first?

Asked by wundayatta (58357 points ) June 5th, 2012

In the federal budget, there are certain programs you can’t cut—at least not easily. The entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare can’t be cut. But if you want, you can name them. Just realize that it takes an awful lot more political power to cut them than it does to cut other programs.

Defense. Highways. Space. Education. Health care for poor people. Housing for poor people. Food assistance for poor people. College education. Science. Research. Prisons. Environment.

What do you think it makes most sense to cut away first and why?

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48 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Thanks for having this question in social

The US Congress.

bolwerk's avatar

The Federal Reserve!

wundayatta's avatar

And why?

ragingloli's avatar

The DoD. Cut it by 90 percent, and you still have more than enough money to run it.

woodcutter's avatar

I just can’t wait for someone in Congress to bring up the idea of a pay raise for themselves. You’d almost have to admire the ballsiness of the act…right before we call for their heads.
There are probably volumes of really unnecessary special interest subsidies that could be reined in but don’t hold your breath for it.
I’d like to see funding terminated for BATFE. At least they won’t have the ability to ship guns to Mexico after that. We have our state police and FBI that could handle the duties. It would work.

tom_g's avatar

Is rolling back tax cuts and/or shifting to more progressive taxation on the table?

bolwerk's avatar

@ragingloli If we got rid of the DoD, we’d finally have lower taxes than Germany!

ragingloli's avatar

@bolwerk
But then you would have to get actual universal single payer healthcare to match up, or it would not count.

bolwerk's avatar

@ragingloli: ...and pay for roads, railroads, and other infrastructure.

flutherother's avatar

We should rein in the ‘defence’ budget before it reaches one trillion dollars per year because it would start to look absurd.

mazingerz88's avatar

I don’t know enough details on any of these programs to give a credible answer on which possibly to cut first. I would be very interested in a post that dissects well the issue of funding a certain program and why it could be a rational candidate for cost cutting.

Linda_Owl's avatar

Military spending should be cut FIRST, but it will never happen in the United States where being Patriotic is considered to be sacred.

nikipedia's avatar

defense defense defense defense defense defense

King_Pariah's avatar

Defense and Social Security.

josie's avatar

The ones that benefit those who pay no tax, one way or the other.

Ron_C's avatar

Congressional pay and staff, then military bases over-seas.

Pandora's avatar

Military cutbacks always seems to be the answer. But no one ever considers what that really ends up meaning. It means, pilots fly stuff that is over 20 years old, and our military men and women end up going out to dangerous places without the proper gear or defense. You can cut back till there is no real military but it doesn’t mean that wars will end.
It always irks me that people want to be in a free country and they think that it comes without a price tag.
In case no one has heard it before. This is something I have been told since I was a kid. Nothing in life is free. There is a cost to everything. Either financial or personal cost.

Ron_C's avatar

@Pandora You are right and the military does need updated equipment but I was thinking about expenditures on exotic weapons like laser cannons and sonic bombs and million dollar drones that kill anyone the president selects. We could save billions tightening up on civilian contractors, and excessive standards for some equipment. Nobody needs a $100 toilet seat or $200 hammer.

Further I would insure that all expenditures for government projects were made for American Equipment. We can also stop military support for the middle east and south Americans.

nikipedia's avatar

@Pandora, my definition of a “free country” doesn’t involve invading other countries and leaving our troops stationed there.

Pandora's avatar

@nikipedia I rather be the invader than the invadee. But the truth is that when you are a leading country, you are dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t. So if I’m going to be dammed, I rather it be for something I did.
@Ron_C I agree, but what happens there is that overseer’s are probably the first people to get cut, so it becomes like asking the wolves to watch the hen house and then get mad when the wolves eat the hens. ( I actually know about a civilian contractor company that was hired to make realistic cut backs for a certain military branch. Cut backs that would come from unnecessary expenditures and make sure that the money could be used for better things) Well, needless to say the contracting company was the first and only thing cut. Not because their ideas where no good, but because someone didn’t want to lose their play money.

GracieT's avatar

@Pandora, in your last post you said something about being “dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t.”. Why? Why is the US the police force of the rest of the world?

Pandora's avatar

@GracieT If we don’t help out countries in need, than we risk not only being hated by that country but also by neighboring countries. Countries that we may need their support some day or presently do. We are seen as the rich, self absorbed country who doesn’t care about anyone. Even when we do help or offer aid, it is seen as never enough.
As to why? Because it is always expected and always will be expected of countries that are seen as prosperous. To most of the world we are still seen as being on top of the food chain, and as such, we must help maintain order, or we risk being seen as weak. Then it becomes a game of king of the hill. Its not an american thing or anything like that. It’s a historic thing. During world war 2, many european countries try to stay out of Germanys way. How did that work out for them? There will always me some mega maniac who will build his power up and try to move in on other countries. If we don’t stop them early on, than we take a chance of letting it develop into WW3. I’m not sure that would be wise. A WW3 could mean the devistation of the whole world. Our weapons of mass destructions are only getting worse. Man kind has become experts in the ways of killing.
If you know of your neighbors homes being destroyed by termites; would you wait for your walls to fall before you decide to do something to protect your home? By then it would be too little too late.

tinyfaery's avatar

Yeah. Like home Switzerland is always being attacked.

zenvelo's avatar

Farm Subsidies. Or, at least Farm Subsidies for non organic farms or farms over 40 acres.

Water delivery subsidies for cities built in deserts.

Ethanol subsidies.

Pandora's avatar

@tinyfaery
All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing

Yes, they are successful at taking care of their own ass. Yeah, Switzerland!
Everyone says they want world peace but only a few are ever willing to fight for it.

Jaxk's avatar

The theme to always end up with cutting programs. That is not where I’d start. We could cut the Department of Education entirely. The states are chartered with education and we did just fine all the way up til 1980 when the DoE was created. Since the DoE has been in existance our education system has only declined. Even if you don’t blame the poor educational system on the DoE, their existance has certainly not made anything better. Waste of money. They cost us $100 billion/yr.

Even things like Social Security can be cut way back without reducing services but rather better policing of the recipients. We have 1500 federal government employees receiving SS disability. If they are working for the government they don’t (aren’t supposed to) get disability. It’s for people that are disabled and can’t work. If we have that many in government, how many do we have nationwide? The list of places to cut is way too long to cover here.

There is so much waste and abuse we could actually balance the budget. Anyone that tries to tell you we have to look at the big tickets and cut services is lazy. IMHO

augustlan's avatar

I’d go for the non-essentials first. Eliminate all “pork barrel” spending and subsidies to oil companies as well as any other completely unnecessary subsidies that are still in place long after they were necessary. Cut the defense budget by a reasonable degree. Reduce prison and law enforcement spending by legalizing minor drugs (not to mention the increased revenue this could provide by way of regulating and taxing those drugs.) Why those things? Because they just aren’t necessary, they don’t really help (many) people or the country as a whole.

@josie I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t pay taxes on something, except children. Are those the people you want to cut programs for?

ETpro's avatar

I’m with @Tropical_Willie. Since Congress has the direct responsibility for the purse strings, when revenues fall, cut their salaries first.

GladysMensch's avatar

I’ve said it before, and apparently I need to say it again. How is social security an “entitlement”. I have paid into it with every paycheck I’ve ever made. I feel entitled to my Social Security in the same way I feel entitled to a meal when I’ve paid for one in a restaurant.

GladysMensch's avatar

For an answer… Department of Homeland Security. No one, and I mean no one, knows where the $Hundreds of Billions are going, and where they are being spent. A simple change of policy regarding communications between the CIA and the FBI would have solved most of our problems. Instead, we edge closer to a police state.

bolwerk's avatar

@GladysMensch: that basically is what an entitlement means.

mattbrowne's avatar

The interest expense which is related to the program of boosting consumption. Increasing debt and paying more and more interest to China owning US treasury bonds is one of the key problems.

wundayatta's avatar

@GladysMensch That’s what an entitlement program is: one that Congress can’t take away. They can’t take away Social Security because you have paid into it. Same with Medicare. But because it’s an entitlement, they can’t cut it.

Or can they?

Since Congress borrows against the SS Trust Fund to do other things, a situation could arise where the money is not there to pay for the obligations of SS. Then what would Congress do? Might they cut benefits? It’s possible.

Most people know this, and that’s why people don’t trust Congress to keep their entitlements intact. Now, some people think they’ll lose SS entirely, but that is unlikely to be necessary. If benefits are cut back, that could make the Trust Fund solid again. So the elderly would get less from SS than they had been expecting. They’d be poorer. Maybe they’d have to go back to work.

@mattbrowne Surprised to hear you say that. Borrowing to spend now and paying back with inflated dollars is usually a smart thing to do. It’s how people get rich.

mattbrowne's avatar

@wundayatta – It’s not so smart as it may seem. For one, the approach supports the process of financial bubbles. Getting rich with phantom wealth won’t last. A lot of people have to pick up the tab at some point. Some honest borrowing makes sense, of course. A young family of well-educated people with good jobs need a bigger home when they have children. However, the concept of borrowing to spend now can turn into an excessive process. A good example is Greece. This country has little to offer in a globalized world except tourism and container vessels, yet the people consumed like the ones further north. Without paying enough taxes. Almost everyone cheats significantly. Overspending can ruin a country. Boosting consumption, especially for products manufactured in Asia won’t help Europe or America. If countries want to boost something it should be education and innovation. Having 32” flat screens in every room won’t solve the problem.

GracieT's avatar

@Pandora, maybe it would be too late, but I still do not think that the US has to be the police force of the world. I know that it sometimes seems like we have to because no one else will, but we need to talk to the other countries. I think that despite what we think the rest of the world sees the US as a bully. It doesn’t matter what we say, we seem to strike first, look to the rest of the world for help later. I think that by joining with other countries we will earn the respect and goodwill we will never get by striking first, asking for help later. The world is becoming smaller, more tightly interconnected. The old way of handling matters needs to change.

Pandora's avatar

@GracieT I agree that we need to change but I think we do try diplomacy first. Its just that so many other countries bury their head in the sand while looking our way to fix things when diplomacy fails. I would love it if our world work like the original Star Trek, where we have become so far advance that war no longer exist. But that is a fantasy. There will always be evil people in the world who oppress others. People who can not run or hide or protect their love ones. America was founded by people looking to escape oppression. No we are not perfect but I think we genuinely try most of the time to do the right thing.
You also have to wonder, if we truly ever invade any country without world approval. If we were honestly being hostile than I would think that the UN, would protest and have countries all over stop trading with us. So I’ve always thought that many of them agree. They just don’t want to invest money or lives or the time and resourses. They simply do like the ostrich and bury their head in the sand. Trust me some days, I wish we would let them all rot in their own troubles, but as you pointed out. The world isn’t so large any more. Its way to easy for someone elses weeds to come into our yard.

wundayatta's avatar

What do you think of the case of Syria in terms of not going in guns blazing and making all kinds of attempts to use diplomacy?

mattbrowne's avatar

Syria is clearly showing the civilized world the limitations of diplomacy. Besides the Assad regime, Russia and China are also fully responsible for every dead child, dead woman, and dead man in Syria. Putin got lots of blood on his hands.

dabbler's avatar

Depending on why revenues are falling. If a stalled economy is the reason it’s a flawed premise that programs should get cut.

It’s historically proven that slack times are when the government spending is most beneficial.
During boom times government spending should slow (puts a lid on inflation for one thing) and taxes should rise to pay off debt and fill the coffers for a rainy day. We’re in our current debt hole because politicians have ignored history.

On the other hand it’s clear that if any of our federal departments needs cutting it’s the War Department Defense Department.

Ron_C's avatar

@mattbrowne Putin is ex-KGB so it is likely that he is used to having blood on his hands. Unfortunately, Russia needs a strong leader because they have no history with democracy. I am afraid that he is the best they they will get until they learn to follow laws, respect democracy, and reduce the power of organized crime.

ETpro's avatar

@Ron_C They didn’t have any serious organized crime in Russia till the American free marketers ran in there and convinced Boris Yeltsin and his heirs that government should be virtually dismantled and the free market would solve all their problems as long as they left it totally unregulated.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Ron_C – This doesn’t help the Syrian freedom fighters. At some point Assad will lose the battle and then the future Russian business in Syria will get reduced to zero. Same for China. Putin’s making a big mistake keeping Assad as an ally.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne Agreed on that. The blood will be on Putin’s hands and on those of the Chinese central communist party.

Ron_C's avatar

@ETpro sure, organized crime was pretty quiet during the communist regime bu they existed under party sanction. I isn’t it strange that they popped up so strong and vital immediately after the fall of the Soviet government?

@mattbrowne, of course this doesn’t help the Syrian fighters and I don’t see a way for Assad to regain real control over his country. Unfortunately a lot of Syrian freedom fighters, government soldiers, and probably some Russian mercenaries will die. I just don’t see a way around it. After all, China and Russia’s real job is to counter American strength, otherwise only the corrupt American power structure would be calling all the shots. all over the world. I don’t want an American empire!

ETpro's avatar

@Ron_C The real danger in Syria is that the civil war (I hate that oxymoron) will spill beyond its borders and into Lebanon, the occupied territories, the Gaza Strip, etc.

bolwerk's avatar

@ETpro: if it spills over, it will be more than a civil war. Problem solved!

Ron_C's avatar

@ETpro I wonder if the civil wars aren’t a planned result while Britain and France relinquished their colonies in the middle east. I suggest that they gave power to corrupt families and politicians, and split states into unnatural groupings with the intention that all would fall apart and leave the western powers free to pursuit their economic goals in a permanently unstable region with desirable resources.

ETpro's avatar

@Ron_C I wouldn’t doubt that for a minute.

I saw a very interesting report by Richard Engel who was able to spend a week inside Syria and reports that the rebels now control much of the countryside and villages. Assad’s grip is slipping. I’m not sure that’s the way the corporatist powers would have it play out. Sometimes, when you let the Genie out of the bottle, it’s really hard to stuff him back in.

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