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10 Costly Programs Congress Should Cut from the Budget

by Bob Conner, published
In today's congressional atmosphere, suggesting ten costly programs that could be reasonably cut from the budget is analogous to placing warring siblings in a room with one toy and expecting them to cooperate. However, .

Obvious areas such as the morbidly obese defense budget and the contentious NSA surveillance programs are not listed here as the siblings just aren't ready for such a task, but here are ten things both sides could reasonably find common ground on:

$77.5 billion - Mine Royalties

Levying a royalty on all mined minerals in the U.S. of 5 percent for U.S. firms, 10 percent for foreign interests, and transferring clean-up responsibilities estimated at $72 billion from taxpayers to the operators is something both sides could come together on.

More than $80 billion in precious minerals is mined from U.S. public property every year, including foreign mining interests controlling as much as 20 percent of U.S. mining operations.

$63.3 billion -  Foreign military aid

At first glance, military aid provides leverage for the U.S. with the recipients, but historic patterns strongly suggest otherwise.

The report from Patricia Sullivan at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill clearly indicates the existence of a reverse leverage effect military aid to foreign countries creates. Nations such as Afghanistan, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Guatemala, Iran, Iraq, Panama, Venezuela, Yemen, all countries with which the US has engaged in military actions in recent decades have all received military aid, placing our own military personnel in danger.

$67.1 billion - Farm subsidies

When farms were small, family-owned operations, subsidies were necessary to stabilize food supplies and prices and to assist farmers.  Prior to the advent of large corporate farms, farming was a precarious venture. High-yield years drove prices down and low-yield years drove prices up, but supply was diminished, creating the farmer's paradox. With advances in agricultural methods, machinery, and foreign markets, farm subsidies are an expensive relic.

$52 billion - Fossil fuel subsidies and fossil fuel research 

Fossil fuel producers create massive profits, but benefit excessively from subsidies and direct tax breaks giving them a double dip at the taxpayer's well.

$132.3 Billion - Community development

Community development began as a grand experiment to improve living conditions for the poor, but has done little, if anything, to develop communities. In fact, the CATO Institute found the program to be a dismal failure. The federal government’s efforts to micromanage communities have created waste, overspending, high crime rates, fraud, and poor living conditions as housing projects receive little to no attention upon construction.

This is not a federal responsibility; they are neither capable of nor equipped to manage localized development programs. Community development would be better served by the respective states.

$17 million - Alaska Land Conveyance Program

A pure pork program providing little to no benefit.

$85 million - Brownfields Projects

Brownfields is a term used to describe land contaminated by low concentrations of industrial waste left unattended by the land owners and industries; responsibility for clean-up should reside with those industries, not the tax-payers.

$35 million - The CMMR facility

The Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Facility at Los Alamos has long outlived usefulness according to the Project On Government Oversight (POGO):

“CMRR-NF is a massive money pit and a project without a cause.  Its estimated price tag has climbed from $375 million to $3.7 to $5.9 billion.” Dana Liebelson - POGO

$7.2 billion - Transportation Security Administration

The TSA dog-ears 12 percent of the Department of Homeland Security's massive $59.9 billion budget, creating a function which fails miserably in a cost-benefit analysis of how necessary it is to national security.

TSA amounts to an insurance premium cost of $89,428.57 for each chance encounter with a terrorist, or $732,626.05 for every domestic and international flight by US owned airline companies.

$77.25 million - Bureau of Land Management

BLM's wild horse and burro management program, a controversial program ostensibly intended to remediate the negative impact these wild animals cause to the environment, is a lesson in gross mismanagement and a picture of abject failure.

The process currently used by BLM is a grossly ineffective and inhumane method of round-up, corral and adoption in order to curb the growth of herds. 60 percent, or more than 50,000, wild horses now live in BLM's holding pens costing us $120,000 per day and increasing with each round-up due to a lack of qualified "adopting parties."

Cheaper, more humane means of controlling the herds has been available for decades, according to the American Wild Horse Preservation.

Total - $415.3 billion

So, there it is, cutting costly programs AND adding new revenue to the federal coffers in ten easy steps. Now all we need to accomplish this is for the children to play nice.

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