Ask Your Government: Trimming The Federal Fat
A few weeks ago The Eye asked readers to submit questions via Google Moderator to help launch a new series called, "Ask Your Government." Every week The Eye plans to answer a new reader-submitted question and will post the answers on Fridays. Google Moderator is a new interactive tool that allows users to submit questions or ideas to a forum. Participating group members then rank the strongest submissions. The Obama transition team uses Google Moderator on the Change.gov Web site.
Several readers have submitted FANTASTIC questions to The Eye's Moderator group, surely enough to keep him busy for a long time.
Today "Ask Your Government" launches with a question from group member KatieJS of Los Altos, Calif:
"Which agencies do you think we should eliminate?"
It's a great question worth asking as President-elect Barack Obama and Congress prepare to pass a large economic stimulus package that could create or support hundreds of thousands of local, state and federal government jobs.
"If we're going to make the investments we need, we must also be willing to shed the spending we don't," Obama said at a late November news conference when announcing his picks to lead the Office of Management and Budget.
"We cannot sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness or exist solely because of the power of a politician, lobbyist or interest group."
Obama cited crop subsidies to wealthy farmers as an example of government waste during that November press conference and during the campaign he vowed to focus on "wasteful spending in the Medicare program."
While the president-elect has yet to provide specifics, other groups have plenty of suggestions on where to trim the federal fat.
Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, specifically recommended several programs at the Energy Department -- and maintained he could provide plenty of others.
"If you look at the Department of Energy, I don't think there's a department who's enjoyed more waste, dollar-by-dollar." He cites several big programs, including the Yucca Mountain project, which has cost $10 billion and "will not be operational for at least another decade or so, if it ever is because of continued political opposition," he said. There's the Clinch River Breeder Reactor that "cost taxpayers $1.7 billion and produced nothing," or DOE's Clean Coal research, which it has conducted for "decades, but it has little to show for the effort," he said.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform suggested during a recent interview with The Eye that the government needs to fix its procurement process.
"Right now what government's done is that anyone who has a budget can be a buyer and then they can negotiate with the rest of these. That's not how smart organizations that see billions of dollars being spent organize," Issa said. The lawmaker has also supports the elimination of the National Drug Intelligence Center, a government program located in the Pennsylvania Congressional district of Rep. John Murtha (D) that members of both parties have called "expensive and duplicative." As CBS News reported last April, "Every year the White House tries to close it because they already have a Drug Intelligence Center. But Murtha keeps the duplicate open using half-a-billion dollars in earmarks."
Citizens Against Government Waste also suggests several thousand projects that deserve the ax in its interactive Congressional Pig Book that allows anyone to see the allegedly wasteful projects each member of Congress has proposed.
What do you think? Which government programs would you eliminate? Are there others worth keeping? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below -- then submit your questions for the federal government to our Google Moderator group.
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