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Budget tit for tat could save billions

September 07, 2009|By TIM ROWLAND

o If you like reading Tim Rowland, you'll love watching him. See what else Tim has to say

In a way, you can't blame governments for overspending. Never has this been more apparent than in these troubled times, when everyone is seeking to cut budgets, but no one can agree where these cuts should come from.

Even the most hard-line, anti-government, libertarian, anarchist (by whom I mean me) has his own pet areas of government spending that he would stand up for, while advocating slash-and-burn tactics elsewhere.

For example, I love the federal Ad Council more than I can say. Don't know what I'd do without it. And don't ask me to choose between their "Lupus Awareness" campaign and the one on "Hispanic Preventive Health."

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But I don't understand why there are government agencies whose job is to set up rules, regulations, taxes and fees for business, and then other government agencies whose job is to help businesses get around the rules, regulations, taxes and fees that the first government agencies set up.

Yet I know for a fact, there are people out there who would cut the Ad Council in a heartbeat, while others would defend contradictory bureaucracy to the death.

So what can we do?

After thinking it through, there is an easy solution to the problem. And don't kick yourself for not thinking up this product of genius on your own. Keep in mind, I'm a paid professional.

I call this the 5 percent solution, for reasons that will become clear.

First, you get yourself one liberal and one conservative. Extremists, preferably. Wild-eyed, totally ungrounded cuckooheads, one from each party. James Carville and Mary Matalin would serve.

They would sit across from each other at a table, and what would ensue would be much like fantasy baseball.

The two would take turns cutting 5 percent from the budgets of agencies they respectively despise.

For example, the conservative might start out by cutting 5 percent from the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency. The liberal would counter by cutting 5 percent from the Department of Homeland Security.

Conservative cuts Social Services, liberal cuts Defense. Conservative cuts Public Education, liberal cuts the Bureau of Prisons. Conservative cuts the Labor Department, liberal cuts the CIA. Conservative cuts the Consumer Product Safety Commission, liberal cuts the state of Alabama.

They go on like that until the budget is balanced. At any time, they can make trades. For example, the conservative might really want defense, while the liberal might really want education so they would agree to restore both. But then they have to keep cutting until the goal is reached.

But what of the small agencies, the ones that are operating on a shoestring, for which a 5 percent cut would be fatal, you ask.

Not an issue. Since we're working by percent, neither side would bother with them. For example, were the conservative to cut AMTRAK, the Commission on Fine Arts and NPR while the liberal cut Defense, Immigration and Prisons, there would be billions of "conservative" dollars cut, while only a few hundred thousand "liberal" dollars would bite the dust.

So cutting, for example, the Denali Commission (there is one, look it up) would be the equivalent of a wasted draft pick.

Is this a perfect system? In a word, yes. Or at the very least, it beats the heck out of the current way of doing things.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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