Liberals like to label fiscal conservatives as the "party of no," individuals who talk spending cuts but offer little in the way of specific, realistic solutions to downsize government.
In their new book, Debacle: Obama's War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future, President of Americans for Tax Reform Grover Norquist and economist John Lott, Jr. offer Republicans and conservatives a buffet of "low-hanging fiscal fruit" that can help jump start limited government by slamming the breaks on President Obama and congressional Democrats' runaway spending spree. Here are just five of the many solutions they offer:
1. Block-grant all means tested welfare programs.
As even the New York Times now concedes, "Perhaps no law in the past generation has drawn more praise than the drive to 'end welfare as we know it,' which joined the late-’90s economic boom to send caseloads plunging, employment rates rising and officials of both parties hailing the virtues of tough love." Part of the Welfare Reform Act's secret of success, explain Norquist and Lott, lay in its block-grant provision which freed up states to experiment and tailor solutions to meet their states' needs while encouraging cost-savings. Now, say the authors, we should extend the same formula to all means-tested welfare programs. Doing so, they say, would save taxpayers $750 billion over 10 years and remove the suffocating regulations currently imposed on states.
2. Keep the ban on earmarks.
A week ago, Big Government reported that GOP lawmakers are considering reversing the ban on earmarks. Norquist and Lott think that would be a big mistake. Even though earmarks make up a relatively small portion of overall government spending, the practice encourages lawmakers to go lax on big-spending bills.
Earmarks are the broken windows of the overspending problem. If congressmen see everyone fighting to gain earmarks, no one believes that anyone is actually fighting for taxpayers in general. And they would be right.
3. Increase transparency by posting all government accounts and contracts online.
It's the year 2012. You can find anything and everything on the Internet--except how much of your money the government is spending (and wasting) and to whom those checks are being cut. Norquist and Lott envision a simple, searchable database that taxpayers can use to keep an eye on how lawmakers are allocating taxpayer dollars.
In the age of the Internet, there is no reason that every single check written by federal, state, and local governments should not be available for every taxpayer to read in real time. Every contract entered into, be it your school district, town, city, county, state, or federal agency should be online in a searchable database.
4. Reduce the number of government workers without hurting the present workforce by phasing in attrition.
Liberals like to scare up votes from government workers by claiming that Republicans want to slash government jobs. Fine. So why not simply institute an attrition policy that reduces the government workforce as individuals retire? For every three government workers that retire, replace them with one. That, say Norquist and Lott, would help streamline government while protecting the current workforce.
The Postal Service had 900,000 employees in 2000. By 2009, that had declined to 700,000, and by 2011, it had fallen to 600,000. The Postal Service itself admits it needs only 400,000 employees. Another 200,000 can be reduced through attrition or voluntary buyouts.
5. Institute term-limits on the Appropriations Committee and bring back the Joint Committee on Nonessential Federal Expenditures.
The Budget Committee limits membership to six years, so why not the Appropriations Committee? And while they're at it, why doesn't Congress bring back the Joint Committee on Nonessential Federal Expenditures created in 1941 to identify and zap wasteful, unnecessary spending? Doing so, say Norquist and Lott, would be a step in the right direction.
Debacle offers citizens a host of smart, straightforward solutions to put America's bloated government on a diet. Here's hoping voters read it--and send a copy to their congressman.