How to Cut $60 Billion

John Boehner told Brian Williams he couldn't think of a program he'd cut "off the top of my head," but other conservatives are thinking for him. Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute sneaks a peak at Brian Riedl's plan to cut $343 billion in spending. Hassett finds about $70 billion in (relatively painless?) cuts:

-- $23 billion from slashing federal employee travel and halving the maintenance cost on vacant federal properties (Kevin asks: How about selling them?)
-- $20 billion from reforming farm subsidies and closing the U.S. Agriculture Department's Foreign Agricultural Service
-- $12 billion reclaiming money allocated to special projects like high-speed rail
-- $7 billion from cutting Justice Department block grants to states and local governments
-- $6 billion from cutting energy subsidies

Why do I keep advertising Riedl's and other conservative's plans to cut spending if I'm neither a conservative nor an advocate for short-term spending cuts? Two reasons. First, to point out that despite the uninspiring media appearances of some Republican electeds in the House, there are thinking conservatives out there who actually answer, rather than stonewall, the question, If you're going to cut spending, where do you do it? and they deserve more attention among progressives than they're getting.

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Second, I would like to see more stimulus spending. But the new House rules require any new spending to be offset with spending cuts, rather than tax increases. As a result, future stimulus legislation (say, to send states money for infrastructure updates in exchange for plans to reduce future outlays) requires a bipartisan plan to cut domestic and military spending, dollar for dollar.

Democrats have an opportunity in 2011 to draft deficit-neutral stimulus to protect states from record projected tax increases or layoffs; but to pass the House, liberals have to show a willingness to cut some spending. If there is trimmable fat in the $700 billion or so of domestic discretionary spending, Democrats have just as much interest in finding the low-hanging fruit as Republicans.