The Dumbest Budget ‘Plan’ Yet

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Are you aware of the budget plan that promises to cut federal spending by 25 percent per year and has been endorsed by seven Republicans running for president? I just found out about it this week in Steve Chapman’s latest column. Having checked it out, I think I know why I hadn’t heard of it: it’s the dumbest “plan” out there.

The so-called plan comes from an organization called Strong America Now, which bills itself as a “nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and mobilizing a bipartisan, grassroots effort focused on eliminating the national debt and deficit using a proven waste-elimination process called Lean Six Sigma.”

I say “so-called” because I don’t see any actual plan on the organization’s website other than this:

Strong America Now is proposing that every department, agency and program in the federal government go through the waste elimination process, Lean Six Sigma. This process is a proven method of eliminating waste with a focus on speed and quality. Mike George, the founder of Strong America Now, is the pioneer of Lean Six Sigma. He estimates that at least 25 percent all government spending is waste that can be eliminated. With the skyrocketing national deficit, Strong America Now believes the president has a duty to look at eliminating waste. The group’s plans to influence the next president to do just that.

Come again?

I don’t take issue with George’s guesstimate that 25 percent of all government spending is waste. But the notion that federal spending can be cut by 25 percent every year by implementing particular quality control procedures in government is crackpot.

As I recently stated in my testimony before a Senate committee hearing on the Small Business Administration, “waste, fraud, and abuse always comes with government programs — the same way a Happy Meal always comes with a toy and a drink.” It’s unavoidable, yet many policymakers would have the American people believe that our budgetary problems can be solved with a little house cleaning. Sadly, a lot of Americans do believe it.

From my testimony:

Most Americans agree that waste, fraud, and abuse in government programs is a problem. A recent poll of likely voters found that those surveyed believe an average of 42 percent of every dollar spent by the federal government is wasted. The same poll also found that 60 percent of those surveyed believe that problems with the federal budget can be solved by simply eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse. In fact, 40 percent strongly agreed with this position…

However, most people know very little about the breakdown of the federal government’s $3.8 trillion budget, and many don’t accept that huge deficits are caused by programs that benefit them. For example, the same poll found that 49 percent disagreed that Social Security and Medicare are a major source of problems for the federal budget. Attempting to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse is fine, but it won’t solve our deficit-spending problem.

Try as the “good government” gurus may, they’ll never get the government to operate like a business for the simple – and what should be obvious – reason that the government isn’t a business:

For decades, there have been efforts to end such abuses, but federal programs are extremely complex and they deliver benefits to thousands or millions of recipients. When it comes to waste, fraud and abuse, government programs are always chasing their tail. In the private sector, businesses have a financial incentive to stop abuses before they happen. No such incentive exists with government programs. Instead, government administrators usually only uncover abuses after the fact, and often only after outside auditors or the media have investigated.

I’m guessing that the Republican candidates who signed onto Strong America Now’s quixotic foolery probably did so because they considered it to be a harmless way to curry favor with some government reform crusaders. However, assigning their names to this “plan” is a disservice to voters. Instead, GOP candidates for the presidency should be explaining to voters exactly what federal agencies and programs they would cut in order to get spending under control.

They can go here for lots of ideas.