What should we cut from government?

The Presidential Election Campaign Fund

The Presidential Election Campaign Fund is a well-intentioned but failed attempt to entice presidential candidates to limit private fundraising and campaign spending. In recent years, top presidential candidates have either given up on the system entirely or, worse, gamed the system by rejecting public matching funds and spending limits for the primaries only, and then artificially lengthened the primary season by pushing their official nominations into the late summer. That allows candidates to spend nearly their entire campaigns racking up special interest contributions and get a fat check from the taxpayers for the final general election sprint.

And since the Fund does nothing to dissuade special interest groups from swamping the campaign system outside the realm of an official presidential campaign, it amounts to a mere finger in the dam.

Furthermore, the fund’s odd revenue stream — that box at the top of your 1040 form asking you to divert $3 of your tax dollars to the fund — is an offense to proper budgeting. Taxpayers cannot make an informed snap decision while filling out a tax return without any attempt by our government to explain how that decision will affect the rest of the budget. It’s no wonder why only 8 percent of taxpayers check the box.

I’m all for public financing of campaigns, by constitutional amendment if necessary. And I’m all for incremental progress, if any is possible in the “Citizens United” era. But I’m not for maintaining failed programs for symbolic reasons.

Bill Scher is the executive editor of Liberal Oasis.

The Department of Energy

The Department of Energy was created by President Jimmy Carter in response to the OPEC oil crisis of the 1970s. The purpose of the department was to promote alternative energy sources and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. The department has been a dismal failure on both fronts.

When DoE was created, the U.S. imported roughly 45% of the petroleum it consumed. Today, that number is closer to 70%.

DoE has spent tens of billions of dollars in the name of energy independence and the advancement of alternative and renewable energy, with extremely little to show for the money.

Further, DoE has chosen over the years to support research and production of energy sources that are not — and likely never will be — viable without continual taxpayer subsidies. DoE has tried to pick winners and losers in the alternative energy field, with very little success.

America’s energy future is safer in the hands of the free market than in the hands of Washington bureaucrats. I would move much of the duties and responsibilities of the Office of the Under Secretary for National Security (as well as any other programs dealing with nuclear energy) to the Department of Defense, and then work to eliminate the balance of the DoE.

Jamie Radtke is a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Virginia. She is Chairwoman Emeritus of the VA Tea Party Patriot Federation and a former president of the Richmond Tea Party.

The Community Development Block Grant program

Having to choose one department or agency to eliminate is like going into the world’s largest candy store and being asked to pick only one item. Therefore, I’ll choose something symbolic: the Community Development Block Grant program in the Department of Housing & Urban Development.

The $8 billion CDBG program, which funds local development activities, epitomizes the breakdown in the boundaries the Constitution erected between the federal government and the states. Adjusted for inflation, federal subsidies to state and local government have skyrocketed 75 percent in just the past decade.

CDBG funds are initially handed out to state and local governments, but the ultimate beneficiaries are usually private businesses and organizations working on particular projects, such as shopping malls, parking lots, and swimming pools. Recent examples include funds for renovations to a wine bar in Connecticut and money for a brewery in Michigan to expand its facilities.

Local government officials love this program because they get to spend money coerced from taxpayers across the fifty states instead of having to ask their own constituents to pony up. While the lunch might be free for local officials, it comes at a cost to the country because the resources to pay for these projects have to be taxed or borrowed out of the economy. Those costs have a negative ripple effect on the economy, just as proponents will argue that the benefits have a positive ripple effect.

Ineffectiveness, waste and abuse, politicization, and excessive bureaucracy are just a few of the problems with the CDBG program. Most importantly, this program represents a morally dubious redistribution of resources from federal taxpayers to parochial interests.

Tad DeHaven is a budget analyst at the Cato Institute and co-editor of www.downsizinggovernment.org.