What should we cut from government?

For the first time in years, both Democrats and Republicans are talking about spending cuts. But what should be cut? The Daily Caller asked political pundits, policy analysts and activists from across the political spectrum which federal department or agency they would most like to see cut. Here’s what they said:

The Department of Commerce

Which department should go? My automatic answer to this question used to be the Department of Energy. It was created in response to a crisis (never a good idea) and has produced essentially zilch with billions of research dollars. Its military atomic programs would have to be shifted to Defense, but the rest could go.

The crisis observation led me to next ponder the Department of Homeland Security. Unfortunately, there are elements of DHS, such as FEMA, that make sense. Also, it is hard to know exactly what DHS has accomplished since we can’t observe the threats that it has successfully stopped or deterred.

So I settled on the Department of Commerce. Seriously, I thought the United States was a department of commerce. Why do we need one in the government? Again, though, there are probably a few activities in Commerce that are worth preserving. NOAA should be merged with NASA to be a science-only agency. NIST, PTO and BEA should be merged with the BLS.

The lesson I think is that there are big chunks of government that could go. But departments have packaged the value in with the deadweight, a clever tactic for survival.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin is president of the American Action Forum. He was the director of economic policy for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

A trick question?

Is that a trick question? The government of the United States of America is the greatest source for good in the world. The federal government freed the slaves, defeated the Nazis and integrated our schools. The federal government cured polio, built the interstate highways and put men on the moon. Oh, and the federal government — with Al Gore’s leadership — really did create the Internet.

Libertarians, on the other hand, have given us pompous, turgid literature and plans to legalize drugs. Call me old school, but I believe in E Pluribus Unum, not Canis Canem Edit.

Of course there’s room to cut, but I reject the premise that the debate should be limited to spending cuts. The right likes to say that we don’t have a revenue problem, just a spending problem. Nonsense. When Warren Buffett’s secretary pays a higher percentage of her income in taxes than Mr. Buffett, we have a revenue problem. When a janitor at a GE factory pays a higher percentage of his income in taxes than GE does, we have a revenue problem. When a poor kid in an urban slum or an abandoned rural town is kicked off Head Start, but Exxon Mobil gets billions in corporate welfare, we have a revenue problem.

Paul Begala is a Democratic political consultant, a political commentator, and a former adviser to President Bill Clinton.

The Department of Homeland Security

The federal bureaucracy should be progressively downsized until Washington-area real estate prices approximate the Depression-era levels common elsewhere. A great place to start: The Department of Homeland Security, which spends its time and your money ($56 billion last year) devising better ways to grope grannies and frisk six-year-olds. Last October, DHS was forced to admit that:

  • its high-tech border fence was a billion-dollar bust;
  • an internal audit determined that DHS intelligence reports took six months to produce (making them of historical but definitely not intelligence interest); and
  • A THOUSAND MILES of our southwest border are not controlled either by DHS or (apparently) anybody else. (“Oh, is that, like, a problem?”)

It reminds you of the old Soviet Union, where the greatest state secret was the incompetence of the state itself. But before you begin blaming Democrats, read Donald Rumsfeld’s new book. He reveals how the Bush administration and Congress rushed to create DHS in the dark of night, like the bureaucratic equivalent of a teen pregnancy. Because I live in Texas, where the southwest border has more dead bodies than any ten Long Island beaches, pick-up trucks today display “SECEDE!” bumper stickers exactly 150 years after Fort Sumter.

Colonel (Ret.) Ken Allard rose from draftee to Dean of the National War College. A former military analyst for NBC News, he is a prolific writer on national security issues.