General Question

ETpro's avatar

What parts of government would you permanently shut down.

Asked by ETpro (34208 points ) December 5th, 2013

Three days into the Republican government shutdown back in October, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren stood up on the Senate floor and gave this stem-winder of a speech excoriating the “Anarchy” wing of the modern American regressive movement. In it, she points out things government actually does, things that need doing, that won’t just do themselves or conveniently migrate to private, for-profit industry if the government does not do them. You may agree, or you may think she’s delusional and the best possible government is one that provides for national defense and nothing else.

The US Constitution is quite clear in saying that one of Congress’ responsibilities is to provide for the common good. What do you think is covered by that, and what that the current government does should be excluded?

NOTE: Normally, I ask one question a day and try to comment on all the responses. But I have too many questions bubbling up that all are time-based and need to be asked now. So forgive me (or perhaps feel relieved) if I am unable to post an acknowledgement of each response.

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63 Answers

fundevogel's avatar

I think we could probably get by with fewer than 16 intellience agencies.

SomeoneElse's avatar

This is an excellent question, and I will have to give a British answer, though I think the question applies to both governments.

One thing which really sticks in my craw is the over-use of the word ‘democracy’. Here I think the government is creaking well away from being democratic.

I would get shot of the Foreign Office, or squash it down until it doesn’t have the money to squander on despots, tyrants and corrupt presidents . . . people are fed-up to the back teeth of the UK giving vast sums in so-called aid to countries only to find out that it has either been sent into space (India) or salted away in Swiss bank accounts.

Which bit would I like to do away with? This is difficult to say for sure as every department is linked to each other, but I’d get rid of those Quangos – overpaid staff, with nothing much to do – with dubious titles and supposed tasks.

Thank you for your time . . . . .

MadMadMax's avatar

Less military and more for infrastructure, education and people.

Check out how we compare to the second largest military. We could kill people thousands of times, over and over.

talljasperman's avatar

20% of everything.

Pachy's avatar

I agree with @MadMadMax, and with respect to @talljasperman, a blind, across-the-board cut of 20% (or any percent) seems as nonsensical to me as did “sequestration.” The necessity and budget of each governmental department, service and initiative have to be judged according to each their own unique needs.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Our founding fathers never intended our government to control every aspect of our lives. In fact, I think that is why they left England in the first place. If our constitution really does say that Congress is to provide for the common good, that is a scary thought as it could be interpreted in the wrong way. You know, take all the money, throw it in a pot and then divvy it out to the people in equal proportions, regardless of whether a person is a doctor or makes fries at McDonald’s. That would be providing for the common good. We actually need to dispose of about 90% of our government, as it has become way too big and too powerful. We can’t even say we live in the land of the free anymore. Heck, Michele Obama is trying to make ma and apple pie illegal. What next?

talljasperman's avatar

All of it.

DWW25921's avatar

What does ATF actually do that other agencies can’t?

DHS is a joke and a pawn in a government power game…

Good question though… I could probably come up with more if I felt like it.

ragingloli's avatar

The NSA would be a good start. Execute every employee in it.

CWOTUS's avatar

This is too difficult a question to answer, as there is so very much that I would like to shut down.

I would, I suppose, maintain a Defense Department and Justice Department, and (in line with @fundevogel‘s delightful response) maintain some sort of intelligence operation as well. Unfortunately given current realities, there should be both domestic as well as foreign surveillance activities.

I would certainly maintain a State Department for dealing with other governments in the world.

Certainly there would need to be legislative and judicial branches (since we’re talking about the US government, which is described and defined that way in the antique we call the US Constitution), but we shouldn’t need the plethora of legislative aides that we now have, since the Congress should not be legislating as much as it does. It simply isn’t needed.

I’d say that we could, over time – it’s not going to be an overnight thing unless the whole thing collapses suddenly, which it will if we don’t start to restrain it – reduce about 90% of government “function” and oversight, without a degradation in quality of life.

sujenk7422's avatar

Wow, this is an appropriate question for me due to my current master’s degree course in public administration. The question that you posit is why is the government so large and what parts should be eliminated? Well let’s ponder this a bit. I would like to see lobbying eradicated because this is where the true power in Washington lies. But, I do think that we should consider all the stuff government does, and the issues that cannot be trusted in the private sector:
For example, externalities such as pollution – industries on their way toward massive profits never stop to think about killing us through poisoning our air and water, so the government created the Clean Water and Air Acts, inequalities – private schools turn out some good students, but parents have to pay a lovely price for the children’s education. What of the kids stuck in low economic families and areas, would the private sector make sure poor kids get a great education without being able to pay?

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

The NSA, DHS, ATF & the IRS. Utilities & critical infrastructure need to be gov’t, that’s something that I would actually expand but at a state level.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt No, the Founding Fathers’ main bone of contention was that they were being taxed but had no representation in their government. We have representation. And sorry, but could you provide a citation to you claim that Mrs. Obama is trying to outlaw apple pie?

sujenk7422's avatar

Great answer! It’s not the apple pie that the First Lady is trying to get rid of, it’s the horrible diet kids eat at schools; by the way is provided by the private sector! I become so angry when people forget the achievements of our government such as research for cures, feeding the poor (really they are, not a bunch of loafers!), the interstate highway system that has spurred private goods to be transported all over the US, vaccines, human rights protections, and just recently (2008) regulations to ensure that the private sector is not taking our economy down the tubes! But political propaganda (which makes up about 90% of media these days) about “big government” is just a bunch of bull****! Informed Americans can read stock reports, job listings, housing increases, and know that spending on Black Friday this year was up 18% from last year! Most scholars have come up with a new term for those who are ignorantly against the president it’s called Obamaphobia (no joke)! It’s all about change, which some people cannot tolerate, but if we don’t evolve with the changing times, we’ll be sitting on the sidelines in the global environment of competition!

sujenk7422's avatar

Oh by the way, governments are audited and do have budgets and while many actors in the White House at the time are not interested in passing one. The right is too engaged in romper room tactics and corporate greed to care about US citizens. The size of government is driven by citizens’ needs, if a need didn’t exist the department wouldn’t exist.

Coloma's avatar

All of it, except for the Natl. Park service and the BLM. lol

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me That was done a hundred and fifty years ago, the Civil war.
With less federal control the south would still be segregated and England would still a world power or maybe German.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I don’t think any of it should be private though. A great deal of it is right now.

zenvelo's avatar

If I were able to restructure things, I’d take a hard look at eliminating most state governments. They are overblown and duplicative and only work because of Federal spending.

YARNLADY's avatar

I wouldn’t shut down any specific part, but I do advocate using more checks and balances to avoid waste. One large area of waste is buying obsolete items, and even worse duplicating work.

One place that could be cut back is excessive staff for congress and other non-essential personel.

ibstubro's avatar

How the hell did the USDA get in the business of making loans? Home and small business? Department of Housing and Urban Development isn’t enough of a boondoggle? My first house was financed through the “First Time Homeowners” program because I was a naive first time home buyer. It added thousands to the cost of buying the home, unnecessarily. Now the USDA is in the same game.

I’d start cutting by hiring a firm to map the entire federal government system using keywords. Then I would cut and consolidate until each keyword had a clear and confident master agency. Once that was accomplished, I’d start reducing keywords by the same process.

Eventually we’d have the same amount of government at a fraction of the cost.

THEN I’d know what to arbitrarily eliminate.

LDRSHIP's avatar

This is where that knowledge without action comes into play.

Judi's avatar

I think we could open all the military golf courses up to th public and make a profit.

ETpro's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt The US Constitution is an amazing document. If you want to claim to be a strict interpretationist, you probably ought to read it.

It starts with this:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (emphasis mine)

Here’s the full transcript. Article 1, Section 8 enumerates the powers of congress and again states one of its duties is to promote the general welfare of the United States and its people. Since the Constitution provided means that We the People select those in Congress, it was a very different form of government than the one of King George III.

zenvelo's avatar

@ibstubro Not a rationalization, but an explanation. This all has to do with the way the Congress assigns people to Committees. Whoever comes up with an idea structures a bill to flow through his own Committee so that the sponsor of the bill has influence and control over the program.

So farmers need loans to buy seed and equipment at the beginning of the season; and also need financing to buy farms, and also financing to live on the farm. Support all that and your farm district will re-elect you to Congress as a pro-family farm Congressman. And as a farm rep on the Agriculture Committee you make sure that this is all done by the Dept. of Agriculture.

Once a program gets funded and assigned that way, it is damn near impossible to restructure it.

ibstubro's avatar

@zenvelo The USDA has a division that makes home and small business loans in rural communities. Better expressed as “non-urban” communities. I have an auction house ¼ mile from an interstate highway that is eligible for federal government support through the USDA. That’s insane.

dougiedawg's avatar

The Fed needs to go. Printing money at a staggering rate is basically contributing to a free market system that rewards wealth over actual work.

We need to reinstate Glass-Steagall and overturn Citizen’s United. Wall Street banks and traders and CEO’s are making obscene amounts of money, all of which contributes to the widening gap between the average paycheck and those at the top of the food chain.

The government has become a tool of the military-industrial complex, the healthcare industry, the oil companies, the banking system, and corporate lobbyists who contribute to campaign financing.

The revolving door needs to go along with dark money if democracy is to avoid the current road toward more control by only the wealthiest few. Iowa has outlawed gerrymandering which is the main reason we have gridlock in Congress, imo. 70% of Congress is bought, according to Jack Abramoff, a former lobbyist.

We don’t need to cut gov’t., we just need to reel it back in to ensure that it addresses the will of the people as was intended.

ETpro's avatar

Mother Jones ran this interesting article today ’‘You Can Also Blame Newt Gingrich for the Obamacare Website Screwup’’. It goes on to note, “To prevent another Healthcare.gov, Washington could use a digital brain trust. Too bad Newt Gingrich killed the one it had.” Is this an instance of “pay me now or pay me later” false-savings?

ibstubro's avatar

Yes, because, @ETpro, we all know the governement does things so much better than the private sector.

Just sayiin…

Newt Gingrich is, was, and forever will be a political whore. He’s just pissed because he’s not the madame anymore.

GoldieAV16's avatar

The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, formerly the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Chuck it into the sea, along with The National Day of Prayer.

I am sorely riled that either exists within our government, and that my taxpayer dollars subsidize both.

Yes, there are more and bigger things I’d cut, but none that feel so utterly useless to me.

mattbrowne's avatar

None. But force the NSA to not cross red lines.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@ETpro I think you got it.
When you’re dumb and you say you want to stay dumb ( to save money ) you are dumb!

MadMadMax's avatar

Goldie wrote ”

The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, formerly the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Chuck it into the sea, along with The National Day of Prayer.

I am sorely riled that either exists within our government, and that my taxpayer dollars subsidize both.

Yes, there are more and bigger things I’d cut, but none that feel so utterly useless to me.
\___________________________________________________________________

Boy do I second that vote. Ridiculous nonsense to pander to zealots. Bizarre crap.

And Michelle Obama has only pursued programs that are of best interest – it’s what each first lady traditionally chooses as volunteer work – her’s is childhood obesity and good nutrition.

Nancy Reagan’s was I believe: “Just say NO” to drugs. I’m sure that reached inner city kids

I don’t know What Barabara Bush’s focus was. I think she encouraged reading. I don’t know how.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I think the states should have more power, and the federal government less. @zenvelo mentioned that state governments duplicate what the federal government is doing, and that is true, but the reason behind state governments (I think) was to limit the power of the federal government, so as not to allow it to become too large and too powerful, and start oppressing the people. Politics is not my strong point, so I can just tell you how I feel, and I feel that the federal government has become big brother on steroids.

zenvelo's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt State governments arose from the Colonies, not in response to the Federal Government, But this was in the days when it took weeks, if not months, to travel or communicate. That is no longer the case.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I would still rather the state governments oversee what we can eat, drink, wear, see and smoke. Then at least I wouldn’t have to travel 3,000 miles to protest on the steps of the capital building. Also it would be easier to tar and feather the culprits.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I agree, states should have the vast majority of power. The people will have more of a say since local elections will have a direct impact. Also if you don’t like how your state runs things you can move to one that does.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me Amen to that! You can move, or you can vote out the leaders that don’t share your view. At the federal level, it is difficult to know who is the problem.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

And, for a state like Utah, even if you knew who is the problem, they more than likely come from a different state, so nothing you can do about it.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Checks and balances seem to breakdown at the federal level. The smaller it is the less bureaucracy we deal with and the more power people have. There is less room for far reaching corruption. Like minded people will gather, states will compete a little more and the end result should be beneficial for the average citizen.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me Thanks for that. Like I said, politics isn’t my strong suit, but you just said exactly what I was thinking but couldn’t put to words. I think you should run for office.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

No, I don’t have the stomach for it.

ibstubro's avatar

For the record, I agree with the more states rights debate. The federal government duplicates the state’s rights as the states were in existence first.

Why, for instance, should the federal government be subsidizing local preservation efforts or parks.

MadMadMax's avatar

People have literally no idea what the federal government has given us from helping to fund the railroads to funding computer research and production, to medical research and endless, endless. The Federal government gave us polio shots for Christ sake, from funding to free injections to school children.

CWOTUS's avatar

Apparently, even more people have no idea that the federal government ‘gives us’ nothing.

ibstubro's avatar

Funding Programs: 1607

# 8.) Abstinence Education, $40,895,000 total funding.

ETpro's avatar

@CWOTUS Somalia beckons for all those who despise paying for what a federal government does. I’ve noticed that while you often claim such a place would be paradise, you’re still here.

CWOTUS's avatar

I have a strong masochistic streak, apparently. I’m still on Fluther, too, despite the prevailing winds against me.

ibstubro's avatar

Awww, @CWOTUS. Take a couple million billion and call us in the morning:

Health Administration Traineeships and Special Projects Program, $1,045,000 total funding
Health and Safety Programs for Construction Work, $5,000,000 total funding
Health Care and Other Facilities, $308,972,000 total funding
Health Careers Opportunity Program
Health Center Grants for Homeless Populations
Health Centers Grants for Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers, $93,000,000 total funding
Health Centers Grants for Residents of Public Housing
Health Disparities in Minority Health, $1,000,000 total funding
Health Education and Training Centers, $3,851,000 total funding
Health Education Assistance Loans
Health Professions Pregraduate Scholarship Program for Indians, $1,965,000 total funding
Health Professions Preparatory Scholarship Program for Indians, $2,573,000 total funding
Health Professions Recruitment Program for Indians, $3,520,000 total funding
Health Professions Scholarship Program, $9,259,000 total funding
Health Professions Student Loans, Including Primary Care Loans/Loans for Disadvantaged Students, $26,000,000 total funding
Health Program for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, $5,602,000 total funding
HEALTHY COMMUNITITES ACCESS PROGRAM (HCAP) DEMONSTRATION AUTHORITY
Healthy Homes Demonstration Grants, $5,000,000 total funding
Healthy Homes Technical Studies Grants, $2,000,000 total funding
Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities
Healthy Start Initiative, $93,361,000 total funding

sujenk7422's avatar

Let’s mention a few other issues shall we? By 2003, as a result of economic recession, the states faced their worst fiscal nightmare since the early 1990s. In the past, the states could look to the federal government for assistance; however, the national government faced a massive budget deficit of its own, over $400 billion, because of tax cuts and costs associated with the war on terrorism and homeland security. The president did include $10 billion in emergency Medicaid spending for the states in his $350 billion economic stimulus package, most of which was devoted to tax cuts, passed in 2003; if we remember who was sitting president at this time, we can’t blame our present president or government for the huge deficit.

Federal grants to states and localities take different forms depending on the types of effects they are supposed to achieve. The two main classes of grants, are categorical grants and block grants. Categorical grants are the most common and are used to achieve very specific goals set by Congress. Categorical grants number in the hundreds, and they represent the overwhelming percentage of total national grant funds. This type of grant, because of its narrowly defined purpose, substitutes Congress’s discretion for that of state and local officials. As a result, it is the least favored by state and local governments. Remember, Congress is in the driver’s seat here.

The two types of categorical grants are project grants and formula grants. Project grants require potential recipients to make a grant application to a federal agency and to undergo a federal review process prior to receiving funding. In this process, federal administrators play a major part in determining who gets the money. In the case of formula grants, recipients who meet the grant’s legislatively established criteria automatically receive federal funds.

In conclusion, most of the above funding was done by previous legislation and governing bodies. I really understood the question of what part of government should be cut now? But I may be mistaken?

Cropf, R. (2011). American Public Administration: Public Service for the 21st Century, New York: Pearson/Longman.

ibstubro's avatar

Honestly, @sujenk7422, I think you’re making a valid point, but we need the Cliff Notes version?

I read it all and it seemed logical, but I’m proud American with the attention span of a gnat. The commercials are more compelling than the content. What were you selling?

sujenk7422's avatar

I’m not really selling anything, only sharing scholarly information about exactly how funds are determined and distributed. All that you’ve posted in your previous post are what we have to deal with retrospectively! All the past screw-ups are paid for in the present tense and not necessarily created by the present administration. Sorry for the confusion…But your Cliff Notes Version was about as entertaining as mine… At least mine was in a neutral tone…

ibstubro's avatar

“At least mine was in a neutral tone…”?

I could not have been more neutral, @sujenk7422. If you’re looking for offense, let me know. I’m ready, willing, and able.

sujenk7422's avatar

Sorry for the offense, never intended it (swear it!). Politics are never a good subject with me, sorry!

reijinni's avatar

NSA and some non-government agencies.

fundevogel's avatar

@reijinni Good point. You hear about various private businesses on the government’s teat from time to time doing a piss poor job of delivering on their end or benefiting from contracts or payments they have in no way earned. The government should do a better job or vetting the services they contract.

ETpro's avatar

@fundevogel Haliburton and the incredibly bloated pricing for their shoddy work in Iraq and Afghanistan comes to mind.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@MadMadMax Well, the railroads were funded in the 1800’s, and polio shots were funded in the 1950’s. Besides all of the crap that @ibstubro listed, and programs like it, what have they done for me lately. Their only talent seems to be to hemmorage money.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt Try agricultural subsidies that enable us to have cheap and abundant food. Try oil subsidies that keeps the price of gas artificially low. Try the highway system that enables convenient and quick (relatively speaking) travel around the country.

ETpro's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt When they “hemmorage [sic] money” where do you think it goes? Do you think they incinerate it? No, they spend it with government employees, the military, government contractors. All those then inject the money collected back into the economy. If the government suddenly stopped spending the economy would drop into depression almost overnight.

Darth_Algar's avatar

“Drop into depression” almost seems like understating the effect.

ETpro's avatar

@Darth_Algar Bear in mind folks like the Kochs and the Waltons that fund the Greedy Oligarch Party have plenty if billions locked away in depression proof investments. It they can get their GOPer sycophants to create a depression, they can buy up another large part of the world while it’s on fire sale. They want the financial apocalypse.

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