How Conservatives Would Cut $2.5 Trillion in Federal Spending

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Republicans stress the need to reduce the size of the federal government and tackle the nation's mounting debt, but they've been criticized for evading the thorny question of which specific programs they would cut to realize their goals. Today, we have at least one answer.

The Republican Study Committee--a conservative caucus that includes more than two-thirds of House Republicans--has unveiled legislation to reduce federal spending by $2.5 trillion over the next ten years without touching the military, Medicare, or Social Security, at least for now. The Spending Reduction Act of 2011 calls for the government to slash non-security discretionary spending to 2006 levels in 2012 and freeze spending thereafter, while reducing the federal workforce by 15 percent and canceling pay raises for federal workers for five years. Other proposals--and accompanying annual savings--include:

  • Withdrawing stimulus funds that have yet to be dispensed ($45 billion in total savings)
  • Privatizing the government-backed mortgage providers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ($30 billion in total savings)
  • Terminating inter-city and high-speed rail grants ($2.5 billion in annual savings)
  • Eliminating Amtrak subsidies ($1.565 billion in annual savings)
  • Ending funding for the administration of President Obama's healthcare reform program ($900 million in total savings)

How are commentators reacting?

  • A Good Start, But Spending Freezes Are Tough, says The American Spectator's Philip Klein: "The problem with relying on spending freezes is that you still have to figure out down the road where the actual savings are coming from, especially as time goes by and inflation makes it more challenging to meet those annual spending targets." But Klein adds that he doesn't see anything in the RSC's list "that would not be worthwhile to cut."
  • Proposal Doesn't Go Far Enough, argues Reason's Nick Gillespie, libertarian: "As long as GOP reps refuse to put entitlements and defense spending on the table, they're hunting rabbits rather than buffaloes."
  • Conservatives Are Still Being Cagey, states liberal David Dayen at FireDogLake: Dayen notes that only $330 billion of the RSC's cuts name a specific source. "Again," he laments, "Democrats trying to argue with this document are left to largely chase phantoms."
  • This Is a Massive Anti-Stimulus, argues David Roberts at Grist: "Tens of thousands of jobs would be lost, though of course Republicans don't acknowledge that, because in their worldview it is Revealed Truth that, as [RSC Chairman Jim] Jordan put it, 'if you reduce federal government spending, you actually create jobs.'" Roberts dismisses the legislation as "a laundry list of targets conservatives have been after for decades, most of which will make no appreciable difference to the nation's fiscal health."
  • Is This Revenge for NPR's Firing of Juan Williams? wonders Dave Weigel at Slate, pointing to the RSC's proposals to cut, each year, $445 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, $167.5 million from the National Endowment for the Arts, and $167.5 million from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
  • Proposal Won't Pass, But Provides Insight, claims David M. Herszenhorn at The New York Times: The Democratic-controlled Senate and the White House are unlikely to approve of the cuts, he explains, and some experts believe the proposal is "untenable" because it would "cut much of the federal government nearly in half by 2020" and threaten the very existence of entities like Amtrak. But the legislation also "offers the clearest picture yet of the cuts envisioned by Republicans" and exemplifies the pressure the GOP is feeling from the right that threatens "to complicate the battle with the Obama administration and to set unrealistic expectations among grass-roots conservatives eager to scale back government."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.