Welcome to Gadfly Economics.  (Warning – I am not a real economist.)

Having wandered through the blogosphere now for a little over a month I now believe I have identified our basic economic problem.  Government, mainly federal, spends too much.  The numbers prove it.  HERE is a link, one among many, that supports the statement.  I know that persons of the Liberal Persuasion may argue that we can’t afford not to have Government do certain things, but I welcome that debate.  (Please see my May, 2010 post, “Beware of Greeks Bearing . . . Bonds!”)

I thought it might be useful to post a list candidates for reductions in government spending, so I will start with a list of six which were more-or-less agreed on by conservative Cal Thomas and liberal Bob Beckel in THIS USA Today column.

Please note, by making these suggestions  I do not intend that such cuts be made in a draconian fashion, or that regular political process be bypassed.  I am under no illusion that any of them would be easy.  But, let no one say that there is a shortage of ideas for worthy cuts either.

I plan to continue the list with other candidates as I discover them and will edit the list from time to time.  Who knows, it could help.

  • Department of Education. Reduce or eliminate it.  What really matters is the 3 R’s, and why should we need federal help with that?  Bring back the McGuffey reader!  And by the way, how come the schools need new mathematics textbooks every few years?  Shouldn’t we have figured out one good way to teach that by now?  It’s been a couple thousand years, for Pete’s sake!
  • Department of Agriculture. Shrink the department and reduce the massive subsidies, 72% of which go to “huge corporate agribusinesses and the largest privately owned farms”.
  • Faith-based Initiatives. Stop funding them.  Government and religion shouldn’t be mixed.
  • Bailouts. No more.  Inefficient and unfair.
  • Defense Department. Cut unnecessary programs, like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet.  Secretary Robert Gates is campaigning for this and others.  He should get the Incredible Candor Medal!
  • Entitlements. Reform them.  As Cal and Bob say, Social Security was never meant to dole out 30 years of benefits.  Increase the age for payments and use means-testing.
  • Directorate of National Intelligence. Scrap it and make the CIA do the job it should have been doing all along.  The DNI was the dumbest and most-costly “solution” possible to the CIA’s failures for 9/11 and the WMD’s.  Its creation added 5,000 extra highly-paid bureaucrats (where did they come from?) and a whole extra layer to the intelligence bureaucracy, but without any power over the budgets of the other agencies it was supposed to supervise!  The latest Director, Admiral Blair, just got fired for failing to do the job for which he was given no power.  He should get the Bureaucratic Dunce award for failing to read the job description carefully before accepting.
  • Ethanol subsidies. Scrap them and concentrate on R & D.  They mainly benefit big farmers while boosting food prices.  The ethanol takes more energy than it saves and makes a product that gets poorer mileage and might even hurt engines.  Congress gets the “Forgot to Ask an Engineer, Dummy” Award for this one.
  • Afghan War. End it and bring our troops home from this self-defeating excursion, once again, into nation-building.  (See my post in March, 2010, “Is Afghanistan the Next Viet Nam?”)
  • SCASDP. (Added 5/24/2010) Small Community Air Service Development Program.  Clean it up.  Cities across the country are getting expensive subsidies for small-plane travel that gets low usage.  Some, like Tunica, MS and Rockford, IL are close to large airports anyway, and each is getting $500,000!  Joplin, MO too.  Why on earth, for example, do we taxpayers need to pay to funnel a few more gamblers from Atlanta into Tunica?  Dumb.  Reference HERE.
  • Obama Anti-Pork Tool.  (Added 5/26/2010) On 5/24/2010, according to USA Today,  President Obama sent legislation to Congress that would allow the White House to look for Pork in any bill already signed into law and then force a vote in Congress on rejection or affirmation of the Pork. Pork is expensive.  If it were necessary it would be the subject of its own legislation.
  • Reform Incarceration in America.  (Added 6/5/2010) The United States is currently spending about $125 Billion dollars a year supporting its prison system ($50K times 2.5 million prisoners).  A great many of these are non-violent people.  America incarcerates far more people than any other first-world country.  See the post of 6/4/2010, “Symptoms”.

About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Democratic.
This entry was posted in Economics, Federal Government, Fiscal Policy, Foreign Policy / War, Government size, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. ansonburlingame says:


    Other than leaving Afghanistan immediately I have little argument with your cost saving suggestions. However I wonder exactly how much would be saved on an annual basis if EVERYTHING you suggest was enacted in FY 2011 or 2012. I suspect the saving would not put a dent in our current $1.5 Trillion deficit. I would go so far as to describe “dent” as cut it in half at least.

    I wrote a tongue in cheek blog several months ago suggesting ELIMINATING the DOD and showed that while it would cut the deficit in half we would STILL be left with an unmanagable figure. The same could be said if we ELIMINATED SS and Medicare.

    Those three are the real heavy hitters in any deficit reform and ALL THREE would have to be reduced simultaneously by about 1/2 to even come close to a balanced budget. To close the gap between “close” and balanced would require your suggested cuts as well.

    Then move to the revenue side of the argument. Look at cutting the BIG THREE in half and THEN raising taxes to balance the budget. If we did that the “poor” would be joined in riots by “rich” and national security proponents, much less the fat cats in the military industrial complex. We could ALL have a riot(ous) time.

    Everytime I try to “spit into this wind (of fiscal sanity)” it blows right back in my face with or without left wing or right wing ridicule.



    • Jim Wheeler says:


      Obviously it would be impractical to leave Afghanistan “immediately”. I am not that naive. I just want it to happen. I guess if I was Big O I would call the Joint Chiefs, the Secretary of State and the DNI into the War Room and tell them to draw up a plan. I realize it would be a tough sell politically too. The GOP would jump all over it, so it would require a major speech campaign justifying the new strategy. But, we never told him it would be an easy job!

      Are you sure about eliminating SS and MediCare leaving it still unmanageable? That doesn’t sound right. Aren’t those are the biggest parts of it? If not, what is? Don’t forget, if you pare programs you also pare the number of civil servants on the payroll.

      Anyhow, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” We need to start somewhere.

      BTW, I just added another item to my list. Amounts to less than a billion, I imagine, but, chip, chip, chip. 🙂



  2. ansonburlingame says:


    SS is about $700 Billion and year and IS NOT PART OF THE BUDGET DEFICIT. Medicare is about $800 Billion or so. Eliminate BOTH and we “save” around $1.5 Trillion. Not exact accounting by any means but somehwere in the ball park.

    DOD, SS (on budget) and Medicare amount to some $2.2 Trillion in Federal outlays each year. Cut them all in half and we still have a real deficit if we count everything.

    THAT in my view is why this topic is so hard. Politicians and pundits all nip around the fringes without acknowledging the big picture. AND we slowed moved into this mess over 70 years, not because of Bush or Obama alone. Everyone has done it and now….?



    • Jim Wheeler says:


      Dang. It really is hard to keep track of. You know, a trillion here, a trillion there . . . Oh my. When we go down the tubes I’ll probably still be adding to my list. Glub, glub.



  3. Pingback: What Were They Drinking? « Still Skeptical After All These Years

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