House GOP Group Would Decimate Key Services

January 21, 2011 at 11:03 am

The new proposal of the House Republican Study Committee (RSC) to cut and then freeze non-defense discretionary spending at 2006 levels from 2012 through 2021 would mean cuts of more than 40 percent in education, environmental protection, law enforcement, medical research, food safety, and many other key services.

The RSC’s plan builds on an earlier proposal from House Speaker John Boehner to cut “non-security” discretionary spending by $100 billion in fiscal 2011, which would mean a 21 percent cut in discretionary programs other than defense, homeland security, military construction, and veterans’ benefits, compared to the 2010 level adjusted for inflation.

Boehner’s proposal would represent the deepest annual cut in funding for these programs in recent U.S. history.  It would remove substantial purchasing power from a weak economy, thereby costing hundreds of thousands of jobs and raising risks of a double-dip recession.

But, the RSC’s longer term plan, which the 165-member House GOP group unveiled yesterday, would go much, much further.  By 2021, it would reduce non-defense appropriations by 42 percent below what the Congressional Budget Office says is needed to maintain last year’s funding level, adjusted only for inflation.

If imposed across the board, such a cut would mean 42 percent less for health care for veterans; 42 percent less for K-12 education; 42 percent less for protecting the environment; 42 percent less for the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and border security; 42 percent less for the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 42 percent less for food safety and inspection; and so on.

The House majority, of course, could decide to meet its overall target for non-defense discretionary spending while protecting one or more of the programs and services listed above.  But, a cut of less than 42 percent in, say, education or environmental protection would necessitate even more draconian cuts in, say, food safety and border security.

In essence, the RSC proposal would eviscerate the vital services and benefits that the federal government provides and that improve the living standards and quality of life for millions of Americans from New York to California, Maine to Texas.

During the recent election, many voters supported calls for less government spending.  But they were told that policymakers could reach this goal largely by eliminating earmarks and obvious “waste, fraud, and abuse.”  I doubt many Americans thought lawmakers would interpret the election as a mandate to cut a vast array of crucial programs by nearly half.  I also doubt they would be happy with such an outcome.

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More About James Horney

James Horney

Jim Horney is the Vice President for Federal Fiscal Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, where he specializes in federal budget issues.

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5 Comments Add Yours ↓

Comments are listed in reverse chronological order.

  1. 1

    Thank you for your timely evaluation of what the House republicans plant to cut and how much, to 2006 levels! Its like asking for more unemployment to add to the unemployment we already have, with no plan to end the wars we are involved in and no plan to create jobs. They should be thinking of ways to invest in jobs that would bring the deficit down permanently.

  2. DaMav #

    Actually the RSC cuts are far too modest but they make a reasonable start. That’s exactly what voters voted for last November and this voter is delighted to see these cuts made. Having looked at the list in detail, I’d say they were all fraud, waste, or abuse.

    • Dee #

      Really? Education for grades K- 12 is a waste or a fraud in your world?

      • Matt #

        Yes. Especially when the $ gets taken into the leaky bucket from your hometown on one end of the lake, off to D.C., carried back to your hometown, and sloshed back into the school district to great fanfare about the federal funding that is doing so much good.

        You realize, don’t you, that this money comes from us (eventually, that is, after we pay back the Chinese).

  3. Terry Ott #

    Chainsaws are not the right tools, nor is dynamite. But that doesn’t mean extreme cutbacks aren’t warranted, either. The process needs to be dispassionately analytical, which is something the public sector doesn’t seem very good at.

    In the world I have worked in and owned a business in, leadership would say something like this to its profit/cost center executives: “Describe changes that would enable us to operate with 10%, 20%, 30% and 40% less expenditures in your area of responsibility. Include the nature of the changes and how that would produce the savings equal to 10%, 20%, 30% and 40% of current budget. Then describe the likely impact of such changes on quantity and quality of output, service levels, staffing, future development, and anything else that would materially affect scope or effectiveness of the mission. In other words, outline what the organization and its clients would lose by virtue of cuts of various benchmark amounts. Also specify any investments that would be required (such as in technology and materials, etc) to achieve the savings, estimating their cost in money and time.”

    Apart from this, leadership would consider what functional areas or departments or agencies could be eliminated altogether (with outsourcing or reallocation of essential responsibilities) and which ones could be merged together in order to create synergies and efficiencies.

    By the way, the Defense Department would NOT be excepted.


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