By Charles S. Clark
March 12, 2013
The “Path to Prosperity” House budget put forward on Tuesday by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would draw on some of the same new efficiencies being pursued under the Obama administration’s Campaign to Cut Waste, with nods to curbing improper payments and selling off unneeded real estate presented alongside more macro policy changes to produce a balanced budget within a decade.
“We need government to focus on the people’s priorities -- not its own. And so our budget returns the federal government to its proper limits and focus,” Ryan wrote. His document blasts “the administration’s uncontrolled, wasteful spending in combination with an overzealous regulatory agenda has weakened an anemic economy and created barriers to job creation, especially for small businesses. To restore fairness -- and vitality -- to our economy, this budget ends cronyism; eliminates waste, fraud, and abuse; and returns the federal government to its proper sphere of activity.”
The plan puts heat on a wide swath of agencies, ranging from the Interior Department, which would curb its purchasing of land and redirect 70 percent of proceeds from lands it sells toward deficit reduction, to the government-sponsored home financing agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which would lose their subsidies.
Areas where agencies would feel the most impact include education and health care spending. The agency that would perhaps benefit the most if Ryan’s budget makes it into law is the Defense Department, which would receive an extra $500 billion over 10 years above funding levels established in the 2011 Budget Control Act. “This budget puts us on a better course to ensure our troops and military families don’t pay the price for Washington’s failure to budget responsibly,” Ryan wrote.
Many lines in the plan are devoted to Education Department savings, including a proposed cap on Pell Grants and consolidation of programs seen as redundant. “The current structure for K–12 programs …. is fragmented and ineffective,” the plan said. “Many programs are duplicative and poorly targeted to students with the greatest needs. This budget calls for reorganization and streamlining of K–12 programs and anticipates major reforms to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”
In calling for repeal of the Affordable Care Act to reduce health care spending, the Ryan plan would recast the direct lending student loan program that was contained in the landmark health reform law. To discourage “even riskier lending—this budget authorizes the use of fair-value accounting for any legislation dealing with federal loan and loan-guarantee programs,” the plan said.
“The federal government’s incompetence extends to job-training,” the plan continued, citing Government Accountability Office and other studies documenting overlap across agencies. “Many of these job-training programs are uncoordinated, difficult to access and not accountable for results.”
To reduce duplication, the plan would require all congressional authorizing committees to give the Budget Committee -- and make public -- annual recommendations for cuts in programs deemed “duplicative, wasteful, outmoded, or excessively expensive for the benefits received.”
Ryan would add to the ongoing anti-waste efforts by the Obama administration Office of Management and Budget increased funding for tools to reduce improper payments and fraud in Medicare, Medicaid, supplemental security income and disability insurance programs.
The Ryan budget endorses legislation sought by Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah and Jeff Denham, R-Calif., to establish a new process for streamlining sales of unneeded federal properties. (The administration has its own version.) The Republican plan would also reduce the federal auto fleet (excluding the Pentagon and the U.S. Postal Service) by 20 percent as well as “hold government agencies accountable for the buildings they oversee.”
By Charles S. Clark
March 12, 2013