America First, Duplicative Programs Last

By Rachel Cole

WasteWatcher, March 2017

On March 16, 2017, the White House released its budget, “America First – A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.”  This “skinny budget” increases spending for defense by $54 billion and cuts an equal amount of money for duplicative and wasteful programs.  The budget calls also cuts burdensome regulations and calls for better management of federal programs. 

While most agencies have a proposed decrease in funding, the Environment Protection Agency, Department of State, and Department of Agriculture have the largest cuts (31 percent, 29 percent, and 21 percent, respectively).  Three agencies have proposed increases in funding:  the departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security (10 percent, 6 percent, and 6.8 percent, respectively).

The budget proposes the elimination of several independent agencies, including:  the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Delta Regional Authority, the Denali Commission, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Legal Services Corporation, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars.  These programs are among those that have been included in Citizens Against Government Waste’s Prime Cuts.  With the elimination of these programs and others, the budget would shrink the size and scope of the federal government.

The Denali Commission, for instance, was created in 1998 to build infrastructure in rural Alaska.  The Obama administration’s budget targeted the commission for elimination in its fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget, arguing that its projects were not funded through a competitive or merit-based system.   Since FY 2000, 27 projects worth $335.1 million have been earmarked for the Denali Commission, according to CAGW’s Congressional Pig Book database.  Prime Cuts estimates that the elimination of the Denali Commission would save $10 million in one year and $50 million over five years.  The elimination of the Appalachian Regional Commission, which was created in 1965 and a duplicates several state and federal programs, would save $76 million in one year and $380 million over five years, according to Prime Cuts.

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) operates as a non-profit organization, but its board is appointed by the President, and it receives the bulk of its funding from the federal government.  A 2007 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report noted that the LSC has “not kept up with evolving reforms aimed at strengthening internal control over an organization’s financial reporting process and systems.”  Eliminating the LSC would save $420 million in one year and $2.1 billion over five years.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, both established in 1965, have earned themselves a reputation for using taxpayer dollars on bizarre projects, including puppet shows that cost $150,000 and a play about zombies that cost $60,000.  The elimination of these two programs would save $335 million in the first year and $1.7 billion over five years.

The President’s budget is only a suggestion for spending increases and decreases; Congress is not required to include any of the provisions in its own budget.  However, Congress would be wise to adopt the waste-cutting proposals in the America First budget.

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