Rand Paul blocked the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund bill but there are better things to cut

                Today, GOP senator Rand Paul blocked a bill that would extend the timeline of the 9/11 victims compensation fund. Though he is technically a Republican, Paul is a stalwart libertarian that is tough on the national debt. It should then come as no surprise that the reason he objected to it was on economic grounds saying that, “It has long been my feeling that we need to address our massive debt in the country and therefore any new spending … should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable. We need to at the very least have this debate.” Admirable that he stood up for his principles as it is, the debt hawks like Paul should look elsewhere for things to cut.

                Enter Citizens Against Government Waste. Its roots go back to the administration of the great Ronald Reagan and his crusade against waste. In 1982 the Grace Commission was created to find any and all examples of government waste and provide recommendations to eliminate them. The real beauty of it was that it was privately funded and cost the taxpayers exactly nothing. Reagan instructed them to “work like tireless blood hounds to root out government inefficiency and wastes of tax dollars” and for two years that is what they did. Their report made thousands of recommendations that would have saved upwards of $400 billion dollars over the course of three years. Over the next two decades, their recommendations would save over one trillion dollars. Today they boast over a million members and they are one of the most influential sources on the topic of blatant waste.

Every year, Citizens Against Government Waste publishes a report entitled “prime cuts” where they list the worst sources of waste and provide recommendations on how to eliminate them. They boast of big savings that could be had if congress followed their advice going as far as writing “The 2018 version contains 636 recommendations that would save taxpayers $429.8 billion in the first year and $3.1 trillion over five years.” Waste is abhorrent in scale and needs to be slashed. It is this that should be cut not the 9/11 victims compensation fund. For the purposes of illustration, a few of the prime cuts will be examined from the most recent (2018) report linked to in this paragraph. All statistics come from the report unless otherwise noted.

  1. Repeal the Davis-Bacon Act

Created in 1931, this piece of legislation has the innocent sounding objective of ensuring that laborers on federal projects receive the prevailing wage. What could possibly be wrong with that one may inquire? The fault lies in the idea of a “prevailing wage” which is a term that refers specifically to the union wage. Quoting from Prime Cuts 2018, “Davis-Bacon was passed as part of an effort by high-skilled, high-wage, mostly white workers to keep out lower-paid, non-union, minority competition. In 1931, Rep. Miles Allgood (D-Ala.), arguing for the act’s passage, complained of ‘that contractor [who] has cheap colored labor which he transports … and it is labor of that sort that is in competition with white labor throughout the country.’” The theory is that minority, non-union workers would work for less than the white union workers and thereby the former would be more attractive to hire than the latter. To stop this, the government set a something of a minimum wage on the federal projects in the form of Davis-Bacon. The act has been suspended before such as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and shockingly, the world did not end. In 2017, the Heritage Foundation found that the federal government could add 160,000 construction jobs without increasing the deficit if it were not for this law. In 2016, the Congressional Budget Office found that eliminating it would save $15.7 billion between 2017 and 2026. Citizens Against Government Waste projected its elimination would save over $6 billion dollars in five years. Axing it would save taxpayer dollars, possibly add jobs and end a legacy of union-sponsored racism.

2. Reduce US funding of the United Nations by 25%

                America pulls her own weight in funding the UN. Perhaps more than her own weight. Perhaps way more than her own weight. The US funds 22% of the UN’s general budget and 28% of the peacekeeping budget. In 2016 this amounted to a whopping $10 billion dollars. In the past two decades, the UN has doubled its budget and tripled the peacekeeping budget. One must keep these numbers in mind when one is reminded that “former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali once estimated that ‘perhaps half of the UN work force does nothing useful.’” As depressing as that quotation is, it does not touch the fact that the UN undermines America all too often. One must remember the vote to recognize condemn the United States for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in which nine nations voted against –with the US and Israel included! It only makes sense to scale back our monetary support of an organization that does act in our interests and it would save $12.5 billion over the next five years.

3. Eliminate the Rural Utilities Service

What began life as the Rural Electrification Administration is another one of those old New Deal programs that needs to be put out to pasture but instead keeps growing. It was founded all the way back in 1935 to electrify the countryside. By the dawn of the Reagan years, 98.7% of the country was electrified and 95% had telephone wires. Any sane government would go drink champagne and celebrate a victory but our government didn’t do that. In 1994, it was transformed into the RUC and began giving out loans and grants to “underserved” areas. In 2002, it was then expanded again this time to include broadband services to the same areas. Citizens Against Government Waste recounts a tragic RUC story as follows: “Some of the BAP’s (the broadband delivering wing of the RUC) wasteful projects include the $667,120 given to Buford Communications of LaGrange, Arkansas, (population 122) in 2009 to build a hybrid fiber coaxial network and a new community center.  This equates to $5,468 per resident of LaGrange.” Pork spending like that is absolutely insane and needs to be cut. If congress did wise up and cut it, the savings would amount to $41 billion dollars in the next five years.

The moral of the story is that waste is everywhere. Government is like a pig, it has vital organs that must function and it has fat –lots of fat. The state does important work like provide the courts, the police, the military and basic infrastructure but it also ventures far beyond this. When government wanders into the weeds as it has a proclivity to do, the result is the RUC, the Davis-Bacon Act and sending billions to the UN. These are the cream of the crop of examples of fat that needs to be trimmed. Rand Paul today blocked a bill that would indeed cut some material off the government pig. It would save money that is true and there is merit to that too but one must look at what was cut in relationship to what still needs to be cut. Senator Paul was correct, cuts must be made but, one should look to blatant examples of fat to cut instead of the 9/11 victims compensation fund.

Photo credit: “Rand Paul Wants To Block Nation’s Top Doctor Over Gun Views” via The Physician’s News Digest

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