Cutting the Budget

As a consequence of my Levin blogging and other posts, I’ve had folks email to ask me if there’s anything I’d cut from the budget to reduce costs. That’s a fair question. I don’t have a lot of time to delve into details, but here’s a few things off the top of my head on the federal level:

  • All subsidies to business, period. Whether they be farm subsidies, corporate subsidies, or what have you.
  • End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And by end, I don’t mean “end combat operations” but leave tens of thousandas of troops in theater. I mean end.
  • Phase out half of the defense budget over the next ten years. By ending most troop deployments abroad and refocusing the American military mission on defense, rather than force projection.
  • End prison time for non-violent offenders. Replace prison with probation, work programs, community service, etc. Mark Kleiman has some excellent reform suggestions along these lines.
  • Legalize most drugs.
  • End most tax subsidies. Including, but not limited to, the mortgage interest deduction, homebuyer credits, etc.
  • Given the unsustainability of health care costs, I also think that the Federal government needs to step in onto the regulatory field and usurp some power from the states. Namely, medical licenses should be federalized, so health care professionals can work in any state once they have a federal license. Licensing restrictions should be liberalized — for example, dental hygenists should be able to open their own shops for the purposes of routine teeth cleaning, and nurse practitioners should be able to open clinics for minor ailments and injuries that don’t require a doctor. And all of these rules should be federalized. The state hodgepodge that we have only cartelizes the health care industry. The rules need to be centralized and liberalized. I’m pretty sure this will result in lower costs for routine and preventative care, which will lead to lower long-term costs. I have other ideas along the lines of regulatory reform, as well, but that’s probably the major one.

Like I said, this is the stuff just off the top of my head. I’m sure there’s more. And in fairness, there are also places I think that the federal government should be taking advantage of low interest rates to spend more on, particularly in the realm of infrastructure. But overall, there’s a lot of fat that can be trimmed.

FILED UNDER: National Security, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. legion says:

    By and large, I’m fine with these, but with a couple of caveats…
    All subsidies to business, period.
    Subsidies are an important economic tool; we shouldn’t just flatly outlaw them. That said, I’d happily do what big business likes to do to their employees – fire them all (eliminate all existing subsidies) & make them come back and justify each one for reinstatement. In public hearings.
    Also, does this include Small Business Loans? Because fostering low-level entrepreneurs is one of the key responsibilities of a gov’t towards the economy.

    As for mortgage credits, I’d be fine with keeping, but limited to only _one_ house. People who are financially capable of and interested in buying multiple houses don’t need a mortgage credit to encourage them to do so, nor do I see any economic benefit to doing so.

    And the health care costs? YES. Everyone loves to talk about how much it costs, but nobody wants to look at _why_ it costs so much, or lift a finger to control those costs. Of course, the same people who want to declare the entire healthcare bill unconstitutional will be literally up in arms over this sort of federalization of “states’ rights”, but those people are wrong about a lot of things…

  2. Herb says:

    I like this list and would endorse all of them.

    I’d go further too:

    * End the “faith-based initiative.”

    * Comprehensive immigration reform including a “path to citizenship” and a “resident worker” program

    * Takeover all private federal prisons, including GEOGroup’s ICE detention facilities.

  3. MBunge says:

    “End prison time for non-violent offenders.”

    I largely support that idea, except something more than community service would be needed for particularly egregious non-violent criminals like Bernie Madoff.