Jonathan Bydlak: The Wrong Way to Avoid a Shutdown

In an email to supporters today, CRS founder and president Jonathan Bydlak explained the bad deal that Congress has worked out to avoid a shutdown — and why it’s one of the worst we’ve seen.

Read the full letter here, and click here to sign our voter pledge and receive regular email updates on our work.

Almost nobody wants a government shutdown.

But yesterday, establishment leaders in both parties may have come up with the worst idea to stop it that I’ve ever heard.

You see, they are “daring” President Trump to refuse their spending bill by loading it up with plenty of Pentagon spending he wants — and also plenty of extra spending on other projects, billions more than the President requested.

Simply put, this is a terrible plan. Members of the Republican Study Committee and the House Freedom Caucus are angry, even though many of their members also want increased Pentagon spending.

HFC Chair Rep. Mark Meadows called the bill a “Democrat ‘Labor-HHS’ bill.” The RSC released a statement suggesting its members would be willing to vote No.

Good. We hope President Trump keeps his word and doesn’t sign another big spending bill that breaks every promise Republicans have made for generations.

It’s hard to emphasize how bad this problem is.

Between August 2017 and August 2018, the US budget deficit roughly doubled, driven mostly by a 7-percent increase in spending.

The deficit is almost $900 billion, and there are no signs that Congressional leaders have the political courage to address the problem before it becomes truly unmanageable.

For decades, politicians have promised to deal with the cause of our generation, only to join hands and say “I’ll vote for your spending, if you’ll vote for mine.”

Enough is enough.

Please join me in demanding better.

Coalition congratulates pledge signer Greg Steube for winning Congressional primary

By a decisive margin, voters in Florida’s 17th Congressional district have chosen pledge signer and state senator Greg Steube as their Republican nominee. Senator Steube has long been a champion of fiscal responsibility in the Florida legislature, and we are thrilled to see voters choose him to advance to the general election.

Mark Callahan is Committed to Stopping the Growth of Government in Washington

Mark Callahan is running for Congress in Oregon’s 5th Congressional district. He recently won the Republican primary and will go on to challenge the incumbent, Congressman Kurt Schrader, in November.

Yesterday after signing the pledge, he spoke on the issue of federal debt:

“I feel that the federal government should live within its means.  As Americans, we all have check books.  We know what goes into our check books in the form of income, and what goes out of our check books in the form of expenses. We, as Americans, have to keep our check books balanced to be fiscally responsible.  I feel the federal government should have to do the same, i.e. balance their checkbook.  Running up more debt, that will be saddled on the backs of our children and grandchildren for generations to come, is a not solution.”

It is vital that we support candidates who will fight in Washington against the status quo of continuing to pile up the debt. Mr. Callahan would be a great ally in Washington and we wish him the best of luck in the general election in November.

Check out his website here and the full list of pledge signers here.

On entitlement spending, doing nothing is worst of all

Part of the reason why reforms to mandatory spending — by far, the largest chunk of US federal spending — remain elusive is that politicians are hesitant to make any cuts to promised benefits. While this is certainly an understandable worry, politicians are willfully ignorant of the other fact: Ignoring the problem will make it worse, and could cause drastic cuts within our lifetime.

Writing in USA Today, David Schoenbrod and Brian Riedl explain why:

Politicians promise changes to avoid cuts in Social Security and Medicare, but their alternatives are plainly insufficient. Democrats favor tax hikes on the rich, but even doubling the highest two tax brackets to 70 and 74 percent would close just one-fifth of these programs’ shortfalls — and even that assumes people keep working at 90 percent tax rates when including state and payroll taxes. Slashing defense spending to European levels would close just one-seventh of the gap. Single-payer healthcare proposals are projected by even liberal economists to increase the debt. Republicans favor cuts in antipoverty and social spending, but even the unimaginable elimination of all anti-poverty spending would close barely half of the shortfall.

Responsible lawmakers should move quickly to stabilize Social Security and Medicare, and take no option off the table. Delay only makes the inevitable reforms even more drastic and painful.

Read the full piece here.

Jake Grant in National Interest: More Spending Doesn’t Equal More Safety

Writing today for The National Interest, I make the case that more money for the Pentagon does not necessarily mean increased safety. Guide for a Strong America is also referenced throughout the article.

On August 13, President Trump traveled to Fort Drum, a U.S. military base in upstate New York to sign the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This legislation authorizes $717 billion in defense spending, an increase of more than $20 billion from the 2018 NDAA passed in December of last year. Infiscal year 2017 , defense spending totaled just north of $600 billion, a nearly 20 percent increase in funding in the past few years.

Despite the massive increase in funding it is receiving, the Pentagon has simply ignored various policy proposals that would make the agency more efficient and save taxpayers billions. For instance, over $2 billion could be saved by implementing roughly thirty reforms proposed by the Department of Defense inspector general (DoD OIG), outlined ina March 2018 report.

In total, there are over fifteen hundred open cost-saving recommendations that haven’t been addressed by the Department of Defense (DoD), which would save billions if implemented. In 2017, the DoD successfully implemented just under one-third of the 1,298 recommendations, but every year the recommendations continue to pile up. Furthermore, there are more than fifty of these recommendations that have not been addressed in over five years.

While the Pentagon gets increased funding every year, it merely ignores requests to make changes that would improve its efficiency and fiscal stability. Defense hawks push these massive increases in spending year over year, but it’s hard to defend them when thousands of cost-saving measures are available and waiting for DoD implementation.

The reforms recommended by the DoD OIG aren’t difficult to find, as the five-hundred-page report lists and prioritizes them. Some of the high-priority recommendations include recouping improper payments from contractors for incorrect labor costs and fixing management oversight in medical centers. Each proposal is pages long, with detailed insight on the various suggestions.

The Institute for Spending Reform has also found and compiled proposals from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), members of Congress, and defense-policy experts. With over eighty proposals in six different categories, the compilation of ideas in Guide for a Strong America is another resource for the Trump administration and members of Congress to use when debating spending levels.

Proposals such as improving the DoD’s surplus equipment disposal procedures would save several million dollars while limiting increases in basic pay would result in hundreds of billions in savings over the decade. These ideas may not be popular with everyone, but debating them is necessary if Americans want to slow the growth of military spending in the long-term. Unfortunately, that’s seeming less and less likely.

Additionally, Vice President Mike Pence has now outlined a plan for implementing the U.S. Space Force by 2020—a new separate, sixth branch of the military. With no current cost estimate, nobody knows how much this will increase spending at the Pentagon, but it surely won’t be cheap. Already, members of Congress are proposing building space weapons , without any indication whether they will be successful, are necessary, or that the Pentagon even wants them. Expensive new weapons projects should at least be proven to work before funding is allocated.

There is some good news. This year, the Pentagon will undergo an audit for the first time in the agency’s history, something that should make taxpayers happy. Already, the Navy is cutting costs by entering data in a more automated and detailed format which is saving millions of dollars . These reforms may be a drop in the $700 billion military budget, but they represent a genuine step toward fiscal responsibility.

If the DoD determined that all of the money it is awarded is necessary to protect the United States from foreign invaders, that would be one thing. Nobody who is advocating for cuts to the Pentagon wants to undercut America’s security. However, Americans do insist that their policymakers should weigh the pros and cons of different programs and determine which are efficient, which need to be improved, and which can be cut or eliminated. Let’s implement basic cost-cutting proposals before settling for throwing more money at the federal government’s largest agency and pretending that more dollars always equal more safety.

The safety of Americans should be the Pentagon’s number one priority, but acting as good stewards of taxpayer money should not conflict with this goal.


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