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Find some sensible ways to lower deficit

Feb. 01, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Spending and the "out of control" federal deficit are major topics of conversation. I did some research to see if I could help Congress with these problems.

The latest figures available to me were from 2010, but they'll suffice. In 2010, the House of Representatives could have saved almost $46 million by not funding projects of questionable value. Some examples: It wasted $22 million studying why people don't ride bikes to work, constructing an ancient Hawaiian canoe, examining gas emissions from cow flatulence and studying woodchuck breeding habits.

More? Congress spent almost $7 million for in-house projects. $6 million was used to "upgrade the two-block-long Senate subway." The remaining money renovated the House Beauty Salon, studied TV lighting in the Senate meeting rooms and funded a video-conferencing project.

Another area of dubious spending is perks for former presidents -- Jimmy Carter's postage ($15,000), Bill Clinton's office rental ($579,000) and George W. Bush's phone bills ($80,000)! Not included are salaries for security guards and assistants, and postage, office rental and phone bills for the others.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who constantly grouses about the deficit, ranked second in pork-barrel delivery. McConnell got over $51 million in earmarks for Kentucky, which included special projects for his big-time regional supporters -- Lexington and Bowling Green.

Most of us understand little about military spending. But I uncovered the fact that our current defense budget of $700 billion is "six times larger than our nearest competitor." I learned that in excess of $130 million of lobbyist money annually is spent promoting unnecessary military hardware. Examples? According to the Government Accountability Office, the Pentagon could save $184.5 billion by 2015 if it stopped buying military parts and equipment that are never used or are obsolete by simply reworking their purchasing processes.

Costs for the V-22 Osprey aircraft are exorbitant. It is way over budget, way behind schedule and falling dismally short of benefits it was supposed to deliver. Cancelling it would save over $6 billion by 2015.

Cancelling the Space Tracking Surveillance satellite program which has "failed to deliver on its promises, is behind schedule, and suffers from significant cost overruns" would save about $5 billion by 2015, according to the GAO.

The 14-year-old Expeditionary Force Fighting Vehicle, years behind schedule, is now considered "highly unreliable." Ditching production of this useless piece of equipment would net better than $16 billion by 2015.

McConnell said recently that "the revenue discussion is over." "Not for me," says Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. According to Sanders, one of every four profitable U. S. corporations is paying "zero in federal taxes."

Notice, I have not mentioned oil subsidies, farm subsidies and spending on unnecessary wars. "Final taxpayer bills for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," according to a Brown University study, "will come out to between $3.7 and $4.4 trillion dollars."

So, if we wish, we can ignore the facts and figures and keep heading down the road to federal government bankruptcy, while erroneously claiming that President Obama is the biggest spender in recent history!

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.

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