From 1975 to 1988 Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) awarded his "Golden Fleece Award" to companies, institutions, and government officials wasting taxpayer money on frivolous projects, aka "pork." The name, of course, was based on the slang expression for getting "fleeced" or "ripped-off" and the press loved reporting on spending indiscretions, particularly if it was closely tied to a politician they didn't like. Not surprising, politicians were not keen to win these awards as it cost them precious points towards being reelected. As Proxmire retired from public service, his cause was picked up in 1995 by "Taxpayers for Common Sense," whose mission statement is:
"Taxpayers for Common Sense is a 501(c)3 non-partisan budget watchdog serving as an independent voice for American taxpayers. Our mission is to achieve a government that spends taxpayer dollars responsibly and operates within its means. We work with individuals, policy makers, and the media to increase transparency, expose and eliminate wasteful and corrupt subsidies, earmarks, and corporate welfare, and hold decision makers accountable."
There have been a lot of people offering ideas how to curb spending in the federal budget, such as political parties, the Office of Management and Budget, various Inspector General offices, and, more recently, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Of these groups, "Taxpayers for Common Sense," offers a first step in the right direction by offering not just one, but two lists of solid budget cuts totaling over $350 billion; click HERE for details.
When you consider the national debt is in excess of $14.4 trillion, $350 billion sounds like a spit in the ocean. Nonetheless, "Taxpayers for Common Sense" may represent a logical first step towards major spending cuts. They propose serious cuts in Agriculture, Energy, Infrastructure, National Security, and Transportation. They also have suggestions for tax revenues. When you study their proposals carefully, they recommend the cutting of rotting programs that reflect a bygone era and are no longer in step with the times. They even point out the necessity of curbing spiraling costs in national defense, which has been a sacred cow up until now. Their point is, rightfully, nothing should be considered sacred anymore. If we are going to survive, we have to put everything on the table which scares the hell out of a lot of people, particularly politicians.
This brings up an important point, since politicians are unwilling to cut spending, perhaps it should be delegated to the American people as a national referendum, not just as one big "take it or leave it" package, but by subject area as defined by "Taxpayers for Common Sense", e.g., Agriculture, Energy, Infrastructure, National Security, Transportation, etc. Yes, I am aware we live in a Republic where our officials are supposed to do this for us, but, as any poll will attest, their credibility with the American people is very low. The American people have no confidence the politicians will do what is necessary, which is why I believe a national referendum is a more practical solution.
As mentioned, the cuts suggested by "Taxpayers for Common Sense" would only be a small first step towards balancing the budget and reducing the national debt. However, such a vote would establish a precedence and clearly define, once and for all, what kind of country we really want, big government with a lot of entitlements we cannot afford, or one where we live within our means. In other words, don't let the politicians decide, as we obviously do not trust them to do what is best. Let the people decide and maybe we won't have to present any more Golden Fleece Awards.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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