On June 10th, the United States’ national debt hit a new milestone, reaching an exuberant $26 trillion. This milestone comes less than one month after the debt reached the milestone of $25 trillion in May and less than two months since it passed $24 trillion. Yes, all of those are trillions—with a T. Lately, the debt has been inflated by the “CARES Act,” an emergency relief package to address the economic chaos caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
However, there has always been a national debt. That being said, it was never close to today’s proportions, not even in times of war.
What triggered the dramatic accretion in the debt?
Federal spending is divided into two different categories: discretionary and mandatory. First, budget writers should look towards cutting discretionary spending as it is the easiest to reduce. In Article I of the Constitution, the Founding Fathers laid out the responsibilities of Congress when it came to funding the government. Thus, a simple and Constitutional proposal that would decrease federal spending would be to eliminate many federal departments.
The Department of Education would be one of the key federal departments that could be abolished. Since its inception in 1979, test scores have remained stagnant, although national and state expenditures have steadily increased. Moreover, the lavish provision of student aid by the Department of Education has led to an increase in the cost of college and thus made college unaffordable for many Americans. If this bureaucracy were to be dissolved, the federal deficit could be reduced by approximately $75.9 billion per year.
Another government bureaucracy that could be dissolved would be the Department of Agriculture, which has become outdated as well. The department, which is most commonly referred to as the USDA, has a history of unnecessary regulation, counterproductive price control, and wasteful subsidies. Nonetheless, these problems are nowhere near the central problem of the USDA’s massive spending problem as that award goes to food stamps, for which there was about $3.3 billion worth of overpayments in fiscal year 2017 according to the Congressional Research Service. Truly, the USDA should be given mostly back to the states to handle and many programs should be completely abolished or have vast overhauls, such as food stamps.
With these changes, about $140 billion could be saved, according to the Cato Institute.
A third department that could face massive changes would be the Department of Energy. Having a long history with wasteful spending despite its short forty-two-year existence, the Department of Energy has awarded subsidies to horrible companies, such as the now-bankrupt Solyndra, and multiple abandoned projects, such as the Clinch River Breeder Reactor. It would be best if its duties were given to more competent departments.
Activities involving energy security and uranium activity could be handed over to the Department of Defense as that would be the only logical department to bear this task. Likewise, the Environmental Protection Agency could take over environmental cleanup activities. This consolidation would lead to the dissolution of the Department of Energy, thus saving American taxpayers about $7 billion per year after the additional funds are appropriated to the Department of Defense and Environmental Protection Agency.
Additionally, many massive spending programs could be reduced or eliminated to save hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars every year. In May 2019, the Heritage Foundation came up with a plan to balance the budget within eight years. In this plan, Heritage came up with approximately 200 different proposals that would reduce federal spending by $10.8 trillion over ten years by targeting many different areas of the federal government, which range from the Department of Defense to the Environmental Protection Agency.
One of the main ways to reach this number is to reform medical liabilities for federal health programs by placing a cap on noneconomic damage awards of $250,000. This cap would save $1.159 trillion over ten years, thus making up approximately one-tenth of the aforementioned $10.8 trillion in spending cuts.
Other large proposals include, but are not limited to, creating a work requirement for able-bodied adult food stamp recipients, eliminating the failing Job Corps program, adjusting federal retiree benefits, and selling some government assets via auction.
Overall, these few proposals alone would save a combined $148.4 billion per year, or $1.484 trillion over a decade.
The national debt has become an immense beast that nobody inside the Beltway wants to tackle. Nonetheless, it is possible at this point, but may not be so in the future. So, if politicians care about the future of the country, sweeping reform must be taken.
Will Congress attempt it or will the United States fall further down this abyss? Time will tell.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.