Saturday, March 2, 2013

Obama's Light-saber Auto-pen Trims the Fat

Those listening to Obama's finger-pointing scolding of Americans who supported cutting inflated federal spending heard him make a few remarkable statements.

First, he stated that he couldn't do a "Jedi Mind-meld" with conservatives in congress. Well, Star Wars fans know that Jedi didn't do "mind-melds" either. So Obama shouldn't feel too emasculated over his lack of ability. However, he may have offended his supporters in the mom's-basement-dweller-occupy-supporter demographic.

Second, Obama claimed "I am not a tyrant". The jury is still in deep deliberations on that comment as more data and evidence pour in on an hourly basis.

Obama has mandated his bureaucratic Office of Management and Budget to the task of recommending where, without violating the stipulations of the 2011 "sequestration bill", to make these cuts and how much. Unfounded rumors have floated about that he'd cut things that would hurt the most and garner him the greatest support from the masses. So, Obama borrowed The Doctor's sonic-screwdriver. He made a couple of quick adjustments to his auto-pen, giving it light-saber qualities in a straight razor size. With a copy of the OMB's report in hand, He began giving department budgets a long overdue trim.

With a copy of the OMB's report now publicly available, the citizens of  the US can see what was cut from where and its real impact on our individual liberties and daily lives.

 Of course, one of his first punishments was to cut the Government Accountability Office (GAO). He likely did so because, between the GAO and the CBO, the PPACA was discovered to be responsible for increases in health care costs instead of reducing them as he and Pelosi promised. In addition, the GAO helped uncover fraud, waste, and abuse by Eric Holder, the director of the FBI, and other high-ranking DoJ officials.

Government Accountability Office                              
001-35-0107 Salaries and Expenses       $514 Million  5.0%

He also set to cut Judicial Branch funding. Among that funding, probably in an effort to punish them for Heller v DC and McDonald v Chicago, plus declaring certain executive orders and policies enacted by the EPA as unconstitutional executive over-reach.

Courts of Appeals, District Courts, and other Judicial Services              
002-25-0920 Salaries and Expenses      $4,716 Million      5.0%
                                                                   $65 Million      5.1%
                                        Account Total $4,781 Million               
For those who misplace decimals, that's a $4.7 BILLION dollar cut to the lower courts.

Three years after  the last census, some no-longer justifiable temporary allocations and job positions had to be cut. This, no doubt, will be spun into conservatives not being for job creation. However, these people, with their time among the government bean-counters done, now have a nice bullet on their resumes to help them get real jobs.

Bureau of the Census                                                       
006-07-0401 Salaries and Expenses                 $255 Million  5.0%
                                                                          $30 Million   5.1%
                                                 Account Total $285 Million            

006-07-0450 Periodic Censuses and Programs  $638 Million  5.0%

Other cuts that may send some into a furious spin are those within the Department of Education. However, people need to read the Constitution and the Federalist Papers before they allow their tights to get too twisted. The founders and framers strongly supported public education. However, they also saw the necessity for such programs to remain relevant to the people they actually served. Local education programs were intentionally not enumerated in Article 1 Section 8 or Section 9 for a reason. The Tenth Amendment further enforces that reason. Education should be primarily a parental responsibility until a student reaches adulthood. At that point, the student is a free citizen and responsible for his or her own education. Education is a right implied by the natural rights of "life and liberty". However, the extent, means, depth, and price-tag reside solely in the individual acquiring that education. In simple terms, the federal government has no authority or responsibility when it comes to education, with a couple of exceptions. Those exceptions are benefits of military service (GI Bill, schools for military dependents) and as part of treaties made with indigenous tribes (public debt).

So, these cuts were much needed in order to put the choices and responsibilities back where they belong.

Department of Education                                            
  Office of Elementary and Secondary Education                            
   018-10-0101 Indian Student Education                                        $132 Million  5.0%
   018-10-0102 Impact Aid                                                          $1,299 Million  5.0%
   018-10-0203 Supporting Student Success                                    $257 Million  5.0%
   018-10-0900 Accelerating Achievement and Ensuring Equity   $10,841 Million  5.0%
                                                                                                    $4,931 Million  5.0%
                                                                       Account Total     $15,772 Million          
  018-10-1000 Education Improvement Programs                        $1,681 Million  5.0%
                                                                                                   $2,881 Million  5.0%
                                                                      Account Total       $4,562 Million          
Looking in an objective manner, the cuts so far make reasonable sense. They cut the fat out of federal spending in areas the federal government really should not be overly involved in the first place. Those who will decry these cuts the loudest are those who prefer their lives to be run by the government instead of taking individual responsibility as adult human beings and living their own lives.

Some cuts that will also bring some cringes and screams from the not yet weened who are addicted to the government teat include cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services. In reality, these cuts should be championed on both sides of the aisle. From the perspective of conservatives, these involve some level of defunding the PPACA tax bill commonly called "Obamacare". For those who love having the government in charge of their very lives (progressives, liberals, socialists), these cuts could keep programs created by the PPACA affordable for a month or two before they completely bankrupt our nation. Below is a small selection of cuts in DHHS.

Department of Health and Human Services                      
  Food and Drug Administration                                    
   009-10-4309 Revolving Fund for Certification and Other Services                    $8M  5.1%
   009-10-9911 Salaries and Expenses                                                         $2,521M  5.0%
                                                                                                                    $1,328M  5.0%
                                                                                                                       $319M  5.1%
                                                                            Account Total                   $4,168M          
  Health Resources and Services Administration                   
   009-15-0321 Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs $400M  5.1%
   009-15-0350 Health Resources and Services                                              $6,232M  5.0%
                                                                                                                           $11M  5.0%
                                                                                                                         $498M  5.1%
                                                                                                                      $1,352M  2.0%
                                                                                                                           $16M  5.1%
                                                                           Account Total                     $8,109M          
 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services                  
   009-38-0115 Affordable Insurance Exchange Grants                                    $868M  5.1%
   009-38-0511 Program Management                                                             $458M  5.0%
                                                                                                                        $253M  5.1%
                                                                                                                          $72M  5.1%
                                                                           Account Total                        $783M         
   009-38-8004 Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund           $3,446M  5.0%
                                                                                                                        $128M  5.1%                                                                                                                  $257,533M 2.0%
                                                                           Account Total                   $261,107M         

 "Salaries and Expenses" mostly translates to lower-level civil servants and bureaucrats as well as travel expenses for conferences, discretionary travel, and non-essentials. "Program Management" pretty much equates senior level bureaucrats. Many of these in the Medicare arena don't do much for Medicare recipients. Their primary duties are to write and audit policies, many of which are redundant. The only real cut is the more than a quarter trillion dollars from the supplementary insurance trust fund. These are not primary Medicare benefits, however. But they will likely be spun as though they are.

The above are just some examples of  the non-military and non-defense cuts. While they were anticipated to average 2% across the board, most of them seem to target closer to the 5% range. It would be like cutting 2% of your overall household budget by targeting in on cutting your Netflix subscription from 6 disks at a time to 2 and stating you cut your overall entertainment fund by 5%.

Where some pain may be felt is in the defense cuts. Among those are cuts to family housing and single soldier/airman/marine/sailor barracks maintenance. Those could directly affect the welfare of our service members. However, in some military communities, the largest real cuts will be to contracted maintenance services that older soldiers remember having to do themselves back in the 1990s.

The real pain in the defense cuts come in other accounts. For instance, the US Army will face an over $2 Billion cut in ammunition. This ammunition would be used for both operational purposes (fighting the war) and training. The cut in training ammunition may lead to a reduced readiness unless crafty Non-Commissioned Officers re-instate effective dry firing and simulated training programs. Even so, this example from the US Army illustrates the approximate 8% cuts in defense spending being cut from the wrong accounts:

007-15-2034 Procurement of Ammunition, Army     2,239M 7.8%
                                                                                    22M 7.8%
                                                                                  299M 7.8%
                                                        Account Total   2,560M         

 Another is the cut in the Army's operations and maintenance account. Deep cuts in this fund back in the late 1970s under Jimmy Carter were directly responsible for the failed Desert-One mission to rescue the hostages held in Iran.

007-10-2020 Operation and Maintenance, Army   $59,336M  7.8%
                                                                                    $84M  7.8%
                                                    Account Total    $59,420M          

However, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Office's budget is about to take a deep cut. Some may claim that this office within the Defense Department has done our military members great service. From the point of view of somebody who was forced to read and review their products, they were redundant. Most of their analysis was repackaging of what Soldiers on the ground already knew. By the time they compiled their studies and reports, the Soldiers on the ground had already adapted and learned to avoid or defeat the enemy tactics, equipment, and procedures the reports addressed. The enemy had already evolved their TTPs or acquired new equipment, and the Soldiers were already working new solutions. JIED-DO always seemed to be two steps behind the pace of the war.

007-15-2093 Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Fund   $1,675M  7.8%
                                                                                                    $303M  7.8%
                                                                           Account Total $1,978M          

Not all of the Defense Spending cuts will have the impacts that the housing, maintenance, and ammunition procurement account cuts will have. Some, such as JIED-DO could have been cut more without impacting readiness or the war effort. If deeper cuts in those programs had been examined, perhaps military health and medical accounts could have been spared their 7.8% cuts. Scanning the defense cuts in the OMB's report, it appears that they didn't pay much attention to which accounts they would cut, though. It seems that they just gave a blanket 7.8% cut to every defense-linked account.

In order to see some good cuts like those to OSHA, The EPA, HHS, and the Department of Indoctrination Education, we have to be willing to accept some that may sting a little. As previously stated, industrious military leaders particularly at the Senior NCO, Field Grade Officer, and Company Grade Officer levels should be able to manage with little impact to their readiness. It will just take some adaptations, which they should be used to after being at war for the past 11 years.