LA Daily News:
Conservative House Republicans plan to recommend today more than $500 billion in savings over 10 years to compensate for the costs of Hurricane Katrina as lawmakers continue to struggle to develop a consensus on the fiscal approach to the disaster.
At the top of a partial list of the potential cuts being circulated Tuesday were previously suggested ideas like delaying the start of the new Medicare prescription drug coverage for one year to save $31 billion and eliminating $25 billion in home-state projects from the newly enacted transportation measure.
The list also proposed eliminating the moon-Mars initiative that NASA announced Monday, for $44 billion in savings; ending support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, $4 billion; cutting taxpayer payments for the national political conventions and the presidential election campaign fund, $600 million; and charging federal employees for parking, $1.54 billion.
'What House conservatives will demonstrate through Operation Offset is that there is more than enough room in the federal budget to provide for the needs of the families affected by Katrina without raising taxes,' said a House Republican aide who is working with lawmakers on the proposals and who insisted on anonymity because the package would not be made public until today.
I applaud the idea. I have some questions about the specifics though.
First off, the Medicare prescription drug coverage. Either the program is worthy or it is not. If it is a proper use of public monies and addresses a real need, then it should not be delayed a year. If it is not, then it should be cancelled altogether. I have my doubts that is is worthy, although I supported it in general because it seemed clear to me that prescription drug coverage was coming, and this was a better deal than many we could get. I suppose from that perspective, a year delay is a good thing, but I think it is bad politics to put it on this list.
Next is the Moon-Mars initiative. I do think that a really good case can be made for space exploration to be private, rather than publically funded. However, current laws and treaties limit commercial uses of space. The moon and Mars cannot be privately developed. Since Governments have a monopoly on this development, and since I hold it to be extremely important that we expand into space, Government has to fulfil this need. Offer Mars up for private ownership to the first person to successfully stay there for a year, and I'll be happy to cut NASA entirely out of the budget.
I can't agree with charging Federal Employees for parking either. That is pretty much the same as simply reducing their salary. While you could probably make an arguement that this should be done, it wouldn't be politically feasible. Further, I am pretty sure that if you start charging them for parking, they will see a counter-balancing increase in their paychecks pretty quickly. It seems to me to be window dressing, not actual cost cutting.
(via Of the Mind