Conservative House members on the Republican Study Committee, chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), have outlined a program they claim can cut $2.5 trillion in spending over the course of a decade. Like most major spending cut proposals, this one’s not entirely rigorous. It relies principally on an aspirational spending cap — specifically, limiting non-defense appropriations totals to their 2006 levels without adjusting for inflation. In other words, it punts the question of what to cut to future Congresses, which could just as easily bust the cap.
That accounts for nearly $2.3 trillion of the projected cuts. But the plan also calls for a host of specific cuts to make up the remaining few hundred billion dollars.
These include standard conservative red meat — eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the federal subsidy for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. But it also calls for repealing the Davis-Bacon act, which requires the federal government to pay prevailing wages on public works projects, and ending federal aid to states, which would require state goverments to slash more jobs. And, of course, it cuts all the money slated for the administrative costs to implement health care reform — $900 million, by their estimation.
Also on the RSC’s chopping block: the Legal Services Corporation, which is the federal organization that provides civil legal assistance to people who make up to 125 percent of the federal poverty line. The RSC says that eliminating the LSC would save $420 million — and the predominately low-income women currently served by the program would have to look elsewhere for assistance filing for help in domestic abuse cases and resolving custody issues (about 35 percent of its cases), in foreclosure or eviction disputes (25 percent of their cases) or even filing for bankruptcy.
They also want to eliminate Amtrak operating subsidies ($1.565 billion), which amounted to $32 per passenger in 2009. In 2009, 41 of Amtrak’s 44 routes — which service 500 destinations in 46 states — lost money, indicating that, without the subsidies, Amtrak would have to significantly reduce or eliminate its service outside the heavily trafficked urban coastal routes. The plans also call for the elimination of Intercity and High Speed Rail Grants to the tune of $2.5 billion a year.
Still other programs on the RSC’s chopping block include: the U.S. Trade Development Agency ($55 million), which provides assistance to U.S. business seeking to export their products; the U.S. Agency for International Development ($1.39 billion), which handles most foreign aid; the Energy Star program ($52 million), best known for certifying the environmental and energy efficiency of home appliances; Title X Family Planning funds ($318 million), which help provide contraceptives and family planning information to low income Americans; the subsidy provided to the D.C. Metro system ($150 million); Mohair subsidies ($1 million); the USDA’s Sugar Program $14 million; the “Ready To Learn” television program for children ($27 million); and Congress’ own death benefits (no savings cited).
These are just the suggestions of one block of the Republican Party. But they provide some insight into the sorts of items the GOP might scrap if they had their druthers. Read the entire list here.
[Additional reporting by Megan Carpentier]
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.