Sens. Mark Udall and Orrin Hatch: Need to take action now on economy

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During the last election, Americans spoke loud and clear. Regardless of the political party they belong to, they want Congress focused on the economy, and they want us to work together to get our nation’s fiscal house in order.

Specifically, they want Congress and the president to focus on reining in federal spending. We face a $14 trillion debt, and every day we wait to take responsible steps to control spending, we leave our fiscal situation less sustainable for the future. The markets are demanding immediate action. Just last week, Standard & Poor’s placed the United States’ AAA bond rating on a negative outlook, citing a greater than one in three chance of a downgrade within the next two years. 

While there are plenty of areas where we disagree when it comes to the federal budget, we agree that it’s time for immediate reductions in government spending. We need to take action now, and a recent report by the Government Accountability Office offers a constructive suggestion for where to start. This eye-opening study identifies multiple overlapping federal government programs that, if consolidated or cut, could dramatically reduce administrative and overhead costs, among other savings. The duplicative programs span a range of federal government agencies from domestic food assistance and education to homeland security and defense. For example:

■ More than 20 federal programs address homelessness, spanning seven federal agencies, including the departments of education, health and human services, labor and veterans affairs.

■ At least 44 programs run by the departments of education, health and human services, and labor provide employment and training services.

■ There are 80 economic development programs at four agencies, 52 of which have authority to fund “entrepreneurial efforts.”

■ More than two dozen individuals appointed by the president are responsible for biodefense.

■ And 15 agencies are involved in food safety — a costly overlap that Government Accountability Office reports has caused inconsistent oversight, ineffective coordination and an inefficient use of resources. 

This report is a wake-up call for anyone who cares about saving taxpayers’ money and reducing waste in the federal budget. Conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C., has been that authorizations don’t add to the deficit. This just isn’t true. With every new program that Congress creates, comes a new constituency asking for new federal funding. Throughout time, spending on these programs tends to increase, creating a new baseline for further increases, freezes or cuts. 

And while many of these programs were created with good intentions, they also were often created without first examining whether a similar program already existed. In fact, most departments and agencies are not even able to tell Congress how many programs have been authorized. We need to study which federal programs are needed and which can be consolidated or cut. 

Last month, we proposed legislation that would create a Committee to Reduce Government Waste. This committee would add teeth to Congress’ ongoing efforts to pare down our national budget, save taxpayer dollars and strengthen the economy by chipping away at the federal debt.

Our bill would require the committee to submit a report to the Senate at least once a year identifying under-performing and wasteful government programs in need of cuts or elimination. The report’s recommendations would receive expedited consideration in the Senate. The committee would be composed of 12 members, four from each of the Senate finance, appropriations and budget committees. The Senate majority and minority leaders each would pick six members, and each member’s service would be limited to six years.

This is an idea that has worked before. A similar committee was formed in response to increased government spending during World War II. That committee succeeded in saving more than $38 billion in present dollars throughtout three years just by reducing wasteful spending. We are convinced that such a committee, if reconstituted today, could save more than $100 billion.

That is real money.

While we acknowledge that it will take more than cuts to duplicative discretionary programs to reduce our structural debt, this is an obvious and important place to begin. Each American’s share of our current debt equals $42,000. It’s time to reconstitute a similar committee to bring more fiscal accountability to Washington and much-needed relief to taxpayers.

Mark Udall is a Democratic senator from Colorado and Orrin Hatch is a Republican senator from Utah.

Comments

rhys jones 2 years, 11 months ago

It's smoke and mirrors. Congress and the White House are just the talking heads of the Federal Reserve, which pulls the puppet's strings. As long as they are running the show, as they have since 1913, we can look forward to more wars to bolster their personal and private bank accounts. There is nothing Federal about the Federal Reserve -- they are privately held, not even publicly traded. That's why it's been just one war after another for almost 100 years now, and how much are the current ones costing us every year? Bush, Cheney, and their myriad of contracting companies continue to rape this country. Mess duty, troop and material transport, virtually every non-fighting job -- and many of the fighting jobs; ask my brother -- are now performed by contractors, not the military, as they always have been. We'll NEVER get out of the current debt, and yet it continues to build. Soon we will join forces with China, having no other choice.

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jerry carlton 2 years, 11 months ago

How about starting with eliminating the pensions for past, present, and future Senators, House of Representative members, and the President. Do you know of any other job you can work 4 years or less and get a HUGE lifetime pension? Next give them the same crummy healthcare insurance that most American working people have. When they are old enough, they can go on Medicare like the rest of us old people. Then cut their salaries by 50%. That is what I call "shared sacrifice". We do not need an elite ruling class in this country. That is not why we revolted from England. Next install a limit of one term for Senate, House, or President. If you serve one term in any of these offices, you can not serve in any of the others. Then maybe you would really "serve" and not concentrate on lining your pockets from corporations and being reelected. The time for professional politicians is past. They have done enough damage to this Country and if we are to survive something major has to change.

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seeuski 2 years, 11 months ago

Global governance is what we are paying for through Institutions like the UN, the Fed, the IMF and all the rest of the global organizations that WE fund. Agenda 21 in the UN is a direct assault on the economy of the US. These tit for tat arguments about spending, taxing or like highwaystar wants us to believe, that it's all Bush and Chaney's fault is silly. This Country is purposely being destroyed by those inside and outside who want a globally Elite run World and until people can learn to see it when it comes in the form of supposedly useful causes like , climate change, health, ecology etc, we are going to continue down this planned road to the demise of the USA as we have known it.

Just say NO to Agenda 21 and the Soros globalist ideologues. http://www.iclei.org/index.php?id=global-themes

Vail, Aspen and Breck to name a few, are towns that have been sucked into this destructive movement, don't let it happen here.

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sledneck 2 years, 11 months ago

I guess I just take issue with the presumtion of the headline: that senators "need to take action on the economy".

Anyone who thinks politicians do anything positive for the economy must also believe that the rooster causes the sun to rise.

These criminals put obstacle after obstacle in front of the people of this nation. They are a favor train running down the tracks passing out our hard-earned money to their buddies, placing barriers in front of businesses who wish to compete with their buddies' business, harrassing and "shaking down" legitimate business over a 7 cent proffit while taking 48 cents on the same product for themselves.

And then these A**S have the gaul to pretend to be some sort of insrtument through which all economic progress must flow. Preposterous. In fact, the only thing MORE ridiculous is that the people can't seem to see through this nonsense or, worse, they like it.

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