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5 Easy Ways to Reduce National Debt & Shrink Government

William L. Kovacs

April 2020

5 Easy Ways to Reduce National Debt & Shrink Government

The President and those running to replace him ignore the nation’s $23 trillion in national debt; $18 trillion of which was incurred by the last three presidents. Every person living in the U.S. owes $70,043, as their share of the debt.  This is a staggering amount for an ordinary worker.

Debt can be reduced in several ways, cut spending, raise taxes, inflate it away or default. Since paying it off is unlikely and the other options pose great risk, future generations face difficult options for dealing with it.

We must all keep in mind, complex societies collapse. Massively indebted societies collapse. Societies with their militaries deployed throughout the world collapse. Highly regulated societies collapse. We are all these combined, contentedly sitting on a bubble of debt, unable to address the serious risks it poses. We delude ourselves that collapse can’t happen here. It has happened to every major empire in the history of the world, and it will happen here unless the risks from debt are addressed.

And as with all collapses, societies can live with risk for decades. At some point however, if not addressed, risk turns into disaster; society slips into the abyss. Once in the abyss, it can take centuries to reemerge as chaos rules.

To address our national debt, everything must be considered: taxes, spending, sale of assets, elimination of overreaching laws and regulations, and transferring to states the programs they can implement better than the federal government. These dramatic options may exceed the courage of today’s politicians. But there are smaller steps that could start the process of reducing debt and government.

Action: A Few Small Steps to Make a Big Difference

  1. Congress should not fund unauthorized laws. Many laws are authorized for a few years at a time. At expiration, Congress is to review how the law works to determine if it needs to be reauthorized, modified or repealed. Congress fails to undertake this process when it wraps all funding into an Omnibus appropriation or Continuing Resolutions. If Congress does not have the concern to review the workability of these laws, it should let them lapse. In the FY 2019 appropriations, Congress funded 971 expired laws at a cost of $307 billion.
  2. Congress should enact a ban on government gifts to corporations. A prior article outlined tens of billions of dollars in government gifts to corporations. It proposed that elected officials serve as a fiduciary of public money and promise not to give, grant, or loan public funds or extend the credit of the public to any private corporation, association, or private undertakings.
  3. Re-constitute the Joint Committee on Reduction of Non-Essential Federal Expenditures, which existed from 1941 to 1974. This committee was established after World War II to recommend ways to reduce a massive federal budget. Its goal was to identify non-essential spending. While the committee was only a study committee, requiring its recommendations be submitted to authorizing and appropriation committees, it had a major impact on budgeting in government. With the inability of Congress to control spending or the states to force a Balanced Budget amendment to the Constitution, an alternative would be to create a similar committee to make recommendations to Congress but require its recommendations be voted on by Congress. This process creates accountability.
  4. Enact a Base Realignment and Closure Commission (“BRAC”) that applies to general appropriations. Due to political pressure to locate the military in numerous congressional districts, the U.S. constructed an excess of military bases but was unable to close unneeded bases. To address the situation, Congress established BRAC; giving the Commission power to identify unnecessary bases and to send the recommendations to Congress. The key to BRAC’s recommendations to Congress is that they became law unless Congress passed a Resolution of Disapproval and the President signed it. Using the BRAC structure, Congress could apply the same concept to all recommended reductions as a means of reducing political support for unneeded programs.
  5. Establish a Budget & Waste Reduction Director in every agency to identify unnecessary expenditures. Federal agencies have recycling and permit streamlining directors to help implementation of certain laws. Due to massive budget deficits, there should be a similar position to identify ways an agency can eliminate unneeded programs. The person should report directly to the head of the agency. All reports must be addressed by the head of the agency and reasons for “No Action” must be justified. Mandate each director to recommend a 10% reduction in expenditures. Give the director a big bonus for success.

The above are easy actions to get the debt reduction process started. After the initial phase, more stringent mechanisms can be debated, like firm spending caps, balanced budget amendments, and reducing appropriations through normal legislative processes. The larger reforms will require courage but the nation is not at that point. Until then, we need small reforms by our elected cowardly lions.

There is never a right time to start reducing the national debt; there is only now!

This article was first published in The Libertarian Republic,  February 12, 2020.





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  • Restructuring Must Include Everything the Kakistocrats Manage

Restructuring Must Include Everything the Kakistocrats Manage

William L. Kovacs

June 2019

Restructuring Must Include Everything the Kakistocrats Manage

Complex societies collapse. Massively indebted nations collapse.  Countries with their military deployed throughout the world collapse.  Highly regulated states collapse. Governments that are torn by distrust and hatred between various groups of its people collapse. The United States is all of these risks combined and the kakistocrats, contently sitting on the bubble, claim they are addressing these risks.

The kakistocrats delude themselves that it can’t happen here.  It has happened to every major empire in the history of the world. Sometimes the collapse happens by war. Other times, by nature. Sometimes it happens by political decisions made to harm an opponent. As long as these many risks continue to linger our country is exposed to significant harm that could last decades or centuries.

We need only to look at the history books to appreciate this lesson. The world power centers of the 16th century include the Aztec, Inca, Ottoman, Persian, Mogul, and Ming empires. In the 1750s the European Colonial empires included the Portuguese, French, Spanish, British, Danish and Russian empires. In the 19th century, the great empires were French, Spanish, Austrian, and Russian. All these countries were diminished by war, excessive centralization, debt, or a failure to adapt technology to changing times.

Like all empires before us, our society will live with the risk perhaps for decades but then some sudden event will force dramatic change, and the kakistocracy will be helpless to address it.  At that point, the entire society goes into the abyss.  Once in the abyss, it can take centuries to reemerge from the darkness as chaos rules.

To quote the introduction of my book, “There are times in the history of nations when the citizens of the nation need to act before those entrusted with the control and resources of the nation cause it harm.”  Now is the time for action!  We must immediately demand that the kakistocrats act as fiduciaries, not politicians, and address the structural risks to our nation. 

What would be sufficient structural reform of our government?  Everything must be analyzed as if they were putting a puzzle together: taxes, spending, the sale of assets, elimination of excessive laws and regulations and the devolution of programs to the states when the states are more capable of implementing them than the federal government.  Entities facing systemic risks do this all the time. It is now time for the kakistocracy to do it for the nation. The federal government has undertaken successful but very limited, restructurings many times, e.g. the reorganization of the Penn Central Railroad into Conrail to preserve commerce in the eastern parts of the nation; reorganizing New York City and Chrysler Corporation to prevent bankruptcy and in 2009 the bailout and restructuring of the nation’s banking industry to prevent financial collapse.

It is now time to restructure a government that has not restrained itself since World War II. Massive amounts of debt and hundreds of thousands of laws and regulations are on the books, regulating everything from national defense and the conduct of war to the treatment of animals. The federal government owns thirty percent of the nation’s land and does not have anywhere near the cash needed even to maintain the structures it built, let alone develop more technologically advanced ones to compete in the world. Paying to sustain this massive structure is a printing press that prints dollars as long as it has ink.  We have a tax system that has been captured by special interests since the first time it was amended by Congress in 1918. 

Starting the reorganization begins with a simple question – What do we want our nation to look like in 10, 20, or even 50 years? If we continue on our present path, the view of the future is burdened with debt, centralization of government and conflict within society. If these issues remain unaddressed, we will not be a functioning nation for long. I assume not even the kakistocracy wants to face that bleak outcome, which is what we will get if we do nothing.

The restructuring process must all start with the federal government recognizing it is not capable of managing, and cannot afford, the massive government it has created. It must immediately identify essential programs and fund those programs to the extent of available revenues. If borrowing must occur, then it must only be for the essential programs.

Concurrent with prioritizing spending, Congress must review every program in the federal government and repeal all non-essential federal programs or devolve programs essential to the states to the states.

Next, the kakistocracy must compile a list of real assets (e.g., buildings, land, and mineral rights). Again, the assets should be prioritized, and only the assets needed for running the nation should be kept. Low priority assets should be sold, and the proceeds used to pay off the nation’s debt.

Every federal program that gives, grants, loans or subsidizes private entities should be quickly eliminated.

Even after completing this right-sizing trauma, the restructuring will only be just beginning. The kakistocracy will still need to address social security, reducing health care costs by twenty – five percent, and developing a tax system that eliminates complexity, unfairness and tax-avoidance schemes while collecting sufficient revenues to run the government. For suggestions on how to accomplish these changes see Part IV of my book.

Follow Bill @WilliamLKovacs