As America heads towards a presidential election this fall, the growth and size of the federal government will and must be at the heart of the electoral debate. Both Republicans and Democrats have had a hand in increasing the size and scope of the federal government for decades. But President Obama has taken the expansion of government to a whole new level with the passage of Obamacare, the “stimulus” bill, and other government programs. In only a little more than 3 years, President Obama has added an astounding $5 trillion to our current $15.6 trillion debt. The Founding Fathers would be cringing.
What are our prospects for reducing the size of government? Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) recently introduced the Consolidate Heavy-handed and Outdated Programs Act of 2012 (CHOP Act). This bold piece of legislation will combine the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) into one department known as the Department of the Energy and the Environment (DOEE). The federal government is a wasteful alphabet soup of agencies that often duplicates work, and this bill will reduce that duplicity. Ideally, these two agencies should be dismantled, but this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.
Congressman Blackburn’s approach will streamline two very big bureaucracies into one, hopefully, more efficient department. The CHOP Act will consolidate 20 offices into eight, cut four offices completely, and eliminate or reduce 24 programs or initiatives. The savings from combining the two agencies and implementing the cuts will save the American taxpayer an estimated $5.3 billion. Now, compared to our ever-growing debt, that might not seem like much, but it is a step in the right direction that must be repeated at every agency.
One agency that is ripe for some budget cuts and savings is the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Headed by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, HHS is tasked with implementing Obamacare and all of the nefarious policies associated with it. Most of the egregious parts of Obamacare do not go into effect until after the 2012 election.
In a New York Post Op-Ed by Benjamin Sasse and Charles Hurt, the two expose what can only be described as a crude shell game to protect President Obama’s re-election prospects with Medicare Advantage, slated to be on the chopping block next year. Medicare Advantage is a market oriented program that services an estimated 12 million seniors. Liberals hate the program because they view it as an affront to traditional Medicare. With the cuts set to take place next year, affected seniors will be reminded when open enrollment starts this October 15th. The problem for President Obama and his campaign is that they do not want to anger 12 million senior citizens right before an election – especially in major swing states like Florida and Ohio with millions of seniors poised to hit the polls.
Big Government is ready and able to take care of this little problem for the Obama campaign. A little used 1967 law gives the HHS Secretary the authority to spend money that is not authorized by Congress for “demonstration projects” that are “experiments.” HHS plans to spend over $8 billion to fund Medicare Advantage through the election under this law to shield President Obama from the wrath of seniors at the polls. The Government Accounting Office issued a report this week calling on HHS to cancel this “demonstration project” and let this portion of Obamacare take effect. Fleecing $8 billion from the American people to help his reelection is a pox on President Obama and obviously an ugly misuse of taxpayers’ money. Congress should investigate the activity and hold hearings.
In closing, to curb our $15.6 trillion debt we need more pieces of legislation like Congressman Blackburn’s CHOP Act and less incumbent-protection rackets like President Obama’s HHS “experiments.” Time and again Congress and the President have expanded government. Finally, a member of Congress is trying to shrink the size of government, but is the President willing to do the same? Unfortunately, I fear we’ll just see more of the ugly for now.