Big Budget Bingo!

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By the time you read this, President Barack Obama will have delivered what may well have been his penultimate State of the Union address. While my deadline fell before this year’s Presidential Kennel Club Dog (and Pony) Show, I have no doubt that it was the usual running of the proverbial bull. (For Ben’s analysis of the SOTU, check out his Outside the Asylum column below).

Empty promises, veiled threats, and meaningless calls for civility from a Congress which is as likely to behave as I am to earn a spot in the Mets’ bullpen… let me amend that — I can reach the plate on the fly. Indubitably, the President will also tip his cap to the newly elected Republican House majority by sprinkling a few table scraps of budgetary sanity amongst his equally predictable calls for expansion of… every harebrained social program he and his liberal allies have unleashed upon us during his tenure.

Last week, the 165 members of the Republican Study Committee, led by Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, threw the gauntlet of fiscal responsibility at the President’s feet. Jordan introduced a bill in the House which would — if passed — lop $2.5 trillion from the Federal budget over 10 years. That’s a 13-digit bill for surgery. Even Obamacare won’t cover that.

To be sure, a review of the programs and spending targeted by Jordan’s bill reveals a Chinese phone book of wasteful spending. However, Jordan, along with his Senate counterpart Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), are going to find that the old-line GOP is about as excited about real budget trimming as Obama is about Hawaii Governor Abercrombie working “birth certificate” into every other sentence.

To the average taxpayer, most details regarding the Federal budget are as entertaining as listening to Paul Krugman explain Keynesian economics and the value of active public policy responses to macroeconomic systemic crises and blah, blah, blah…

(zzzz…”And this year’s Nobel Prize for reminding us why the Soviet Union is history goes to…”)

Nonetheless, some of this stuff is easy to figure. After all, how many of you really think $75,000 for the “Totally Teen Zone” in Albany, Ga. is a worthwhile expenditure of taxpayer dollars? No teen worth his baggy, ill-fitting pants would be caught dead in a place called “The Totally Teen Zone.” They’d rather compare nose rings with Paul Krugman.

Studying the entire Federal budget is a fool’s errand; like trying to figure out Al Franken’s appeal to Minnesota voters. You would think they learned their lesson from that whole Jesse Ventura disaster. But being the helpful sort of evil conservative, I thought I would demonstrate how trimming the budget can be at least as fun as meeting your daughter’s new boyfriend; the one with the nose ring and the baggy pants who quotes Krugman. It’s a project the whole family can enjoy!

Grab your scissors, kids! (Yep, they still print this monster out on old-fashioned paper.) Let the cutting begin:

Obviously, Obamacare deserves the ax. Although the House already saw to that; their repeal vote is going to fly like a stone balloon in the Senate. Democrat mouthpieces at The Associated Press claim the job-killer numbers are overstated, culminating in their fabulous “fact-check” piece which stated the GOP was taking a Congressional Budget Office study indicating a loss of nearly 700,000 jobs out of context.

The ultimate point of the piece was to advance the claim that there won’t be fewer jobs, just fewer people working. That’s like saying the victims of Obamacare’s death panels are not dead, just “less vital.” More unemployment means more people on the government dole — which would be good for the Democrats, except that the newly unemployed are professionals, not career parasites. They’ll remember who put them on the street.

Add to that the fact that the Secretary of Health and Human Services has issued a waiver to every union lout and heavyweight Democrat donor like mediaeval papal indulgences, and the price tag rises like the ratings of a Fox News program scheduled opposite Ed Schultz. The elimination of Obamacare represents a savings of up to $1 trillion over the next decade.

But taking Obamacare to the butcher’s block is easy. There are plenty of other areas of the Federal budget which deserve a spot in the blender.

The Department of Education gets a big, fat, red “F.” Flushing this Brobdingnagian budgetary behemoth means everyone keeps their money, and the kids learn math, instead of proper condom application. Of course, the kids will be more likely to know how much they need to steal from mom’s purse to buy more condoms, but now they won’t know how to put them on — meaning more kids. We’ll send them a check for $69 billion annually from the teachers’ unions; post-dated, of course.

Tune in to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I know, the liberals will raise an unholy hue and cry about “Sesame Street.” Bad luck, I don’t have kids. Besides, Disney has entertained legions of children for most of the past century without dining at the taxpayer trough. As for the less kiddie-centric programming, if Garrison Keillor was that interesting to people who don’t close their eyes when they talk, he’d be sorting through offers from the outlets which actually turn a profit. Sending NPR and its ilk into the private sector will save nearly $500 million.

Let’s also send a Dear John letter to the Post Office. Of course, we’ll have to send it FedEx if we want a guarantee that it will arrive as requested. I understand that we’ll all have to spend a little more to send a letter, provided the cost of a first-class stamp doesn’t continue to rise. But it will cost more than that to explain to everyone under the age of 18 what a “letter” is. And your chances of it arriving on time will triple. That will be right about the time the letter gets there. Or, in the case of the USPS, not get there. Wait a minute, Mr. Postman — the USPS is projecting a nearly $250 billion budget deficit for the next decade. Signed, sealed, delivered — you’re gone.

All aboard AMTRAK. Subsidizing the vastly under-traveled national passenger rail lines has brought the taxpayers the pride of knowing they’re paying for a system which is just as much of a joy as traveling aboard a moving fraternity house, only without the sanitation. After nearly $20 billion in taxpayer subsidies, AMTRAK represents less than 1 percent of intercity travel nationally. That’s a subsidy of more than $100 per passenger, per trip. If someone rides the rails across the country, that number jumps above $1,000. We’d be better off buying passengers round-trip airfare.

On that note, consider those multi-billion dollar airline subsidies which have eclipsed $20 billion in the last decade. That’s been a real treat for the taxpayers; and airlines have rewarded their largesse with outstanding performance — as long as you’re not particular about whether you and your luggage (for which you paid extra) vacation on the same continent.

The real joke is on us. By subsidizing both AMTRAK AND the airlines, the government is using our money to prop up two industrial black holes which are in competition with each other; and evidently battling to lose the game. Eliminating both will carve away a potential 11 figures from the taxpayers’ bill.

Many of you will take great issue with these suggestions. You’re welcome to do so — and will doubtless make your feelings known in the attendant comment section. Keep in mind, I managed to slice away nearly $150 billion per year, nearly equaling Jordan’s $2.5 trillion over a decade, and I did it in fewer than 1,500 words, while only looking at six outlays. I never even addressed the endless rogue’s gallery of politically idiotic subsidies (ACORN? REALLY?), duplicate programs and outright waste (true story: Katrina relief funds were used to pay for a SEX CHANGE OPERATION. This one’s for you, then… ma’am… sir… you there.)

The Federal budget is like a wedding, or better yet, those Sweet 16 parties you can watch on cable in which some uber-rich euro trash-type authorizes the budget of a small country for his whiny little princess to ring in her momentous 17th year (because the 16th was such a milestone for humanity).

To be fair, there are areas in which Federal expenditures are not only necessary, but laudable. We need the Federal prisons, the Interstate Highway system (whoops, might have spoken too soon on that one), and the U.S. Army; to cite a few examples. However, far too much of our money goes to programs and projects which deserve nothing more than to be dragged by the 10th Mountain Division down I-70 to Leavenworth.

I’ll tell you what: The next time you find yourself with nothing better to do — say, during the next episode of “My Super Sweet 16″ — think of a use of taxpayer money which is essentially useless. Then, grab the proverbial scissors. You’re welcome to borrow mine — and it won’t cost you thing.

Ben Crystal

is a 1993 graduate of Davidson College and has burned the better part of the last two decades getting over the damage done by modern-day higher education. He now lives in Savannah, Ga., where he has hosted an award-winning radio talk show and been featured as a political analyst for television. Currently a principal at Saltymoss Productions—a media company specializing in concept television and campaign production, speechwriting and media strategy—Ben has written numerous articles on the subjects of municipal authoritarianism, the economic fallacy of sin taxes and analyses of congressional abuses of power.