COMMENTARY | The United States narrowly avoided federal default in the beginning of August, as Barack Obama announced that both the House and Senate had agreed on a bill that would reduce the deficit, raise the debt ceiling and avoid default. The Budget Control Act of 2011 would cut spending by $917 billion over the next 10 years for a $900 billion raise in the debt ceiling. The act also established a congressional joint select committee tasked with cutting $1.5 trillion in expenditures over the next 10 years.
The only way to reclaim any integrity is to make substantial cuts to the federal budget, though some federal spending is necessary. Congress should avoid at all costs cutting these three expenditures from the budget.
The most important job of the federal government historically is to provide a collective service to the states they could not provide for themselves. One of those services is the mutual defense of our country. $75.72 billion is spent on research, development, testing and evaluation of new technologies and military programs. This testing is essential to make sure that we stay ahead of other nations as far as defense technology goes.
Our advanced stealth fighter jets have made casualties in warfare a fraction of what they once were, and we have programs supported by this fund to thank for it. This money comes from a discretionary fund that is taken from the general fund, and we are not able to see the results of a lot of the programs. Several years later, when we get the first glimpse of unmanned aircraft and smarter missiles, it is apparent that military research really does use its money efficiently.
At a cost of $666 per household, it is relatively cheap for one of the main objectives of federal government; it was envisioned when this country was founded.
Federal Highway Administration
Another government program that has paid off exponentially is the development of our interstate highway system. The infrastructure benefits almost every industry, and it is the bloodline that carries commerce from state to state. Every year we spend $70.55 billion for additional roadways and maintenance on older ones. This is something that the federal government does because it’s beneficial to everyone; when we pool our resources, we can benefit from the economy of scale.
The $70 billion we pay every year for upkeep will keep our roads in working order, and it’s also an investment to prevent catastrophic damage that would cost several times more to repair than maintain. We are already falling behind in roadway and bridge maintenance, and besides the prohibitive cost of rebuilding as opposed to maintaining, there is also the danger associated with poorly maintained bridges and roadways.
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
While I may disagree with the $31.43 billion that is paid out in federal student aid every year, the $20.16 billion earmarked for elementary and secondary education is a small price to pay for this valuable public service. I believe all kids should be entitled to a public education that extends all the way until they graduate high school. If anything, we should increase the amount invested in our younger students and become more prohibitive with the money we are basically giving to college students who are overcharged and chronically underachieve.
The welfare programs, along with food aid, could be better administered by public school officials who have a keener insight into which children really live in poor conditions. There are just too many bloated government programs that need to be cut to take away the small slice of the pie we are investing in the country’s future. Not to mention the fact that public schools are more accountable and efficient than other government offices.