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YC Magazine, Libertarian Commentary, March 2011

by Brian Smith

Republican freshmen in the US Congress are finding it is easier to make campaign promises than deliver on them. Most embraced the “Pledge to America”, and were set to cut the federal budget by $100 billion. Then facts, politics, and pressure from home forced them to lower this number to a still impressive $61 billion.

The Libertarian Party stands for smaller government as mandated in the U.S. Constitution, and the lower taxes that should accompany it.

Although this initial proposal is far from the final product, Republicans seem intent on focusing on cutting primarily domestic programs. Part of their reason from backing away from the $100 billion plan, is that much of the extra $39 billion would have been cuts in defense/security. One notable exception to this was the de-funding of the alternative engine for the F-35. John Boehner fought to keep this $450 million on budget despite Robert Gates calling it “an unnecessary and extravagant expense.” It seems that much of the money spent on this program would have been spent in Ohio, Boehner’s home state.

Republicans are seeking to cut funding or eliminate programs without a corresponding reduction in federal revenue (taxes). Federal budget cuts in education, police, and fire protection will place the burden of funding these programs on the states. This could, and probably will, result in tax increases at the state and local level. These increases will occur without a significant drop in federal taxation.

Libertarians believe there are many functions of federal government which should be turned over to state and local governments. Also, there are services provided by the government which are rightfully the responsibility of individuals, private business, and charities. The key to the Libertarian plan is to put money back in the hands of citizens, with less going to various forms of taxation at all levels. Unfortunately, Republicans only address half the equation, cutting domestic spending without the corresponding tax relief.

It is possible to avoid the financial impact these domestic spending cuts will have on the states by freezing the domestic budget at current levels. There are other cuts which could be made that would be more than triple the GOP’s $61 billion, however, it would require cuts to the “sacred calf” of US politicians, Defense.

The US military budget (with war allotments) is higher than the next 25 countries combined, and 24 of them are our allies. We have thousands of troops deployed to guard against a threats that no longer exist, and we support hundreds of bases around the world while our country in is an economic crisis.

A cut of 25% to the Department of Defense budget (including allotments for Iraq and Afghanistan) would save over $180 billion. The military and congress could then determine the best use of the remaining $541 billion. Because this is base spending it would not effect veterans affairs, pensions, etc…

Cutting 25% from Homeland Security would result in another $13.675 billion. This could be the first step in abolishing the agency that brought us “groping” at airports, and dozens of other civil liberty violations. Various components of HSA (Coast Guard, FEMA, etc…) would be converted back to independent agencies.

Another area that needs to see budget cuts is International Affairs (providing arms and funding to foreign countries). At a time when every citizen and business is being asked to “sacrifice”, it is appalling that we send billions of dollars to other nations. These programs should be cut by $23 billion, with further cuts possible in the future.

Budget cuts in these three areas would save our country a total of $217 Billion. Without a decrease in our ability to protect ourselves from any threat.

Libertarians would call for even more cuts, including those in domestic spending, but this will require a transition period. For nearly a hundred years the federal government has collected income taxes, and re-allocated the funds back to the states. State and local governments have become largely dependent on this system, and if the federal government wants to transfer responsibility for domestic programs back to the states and the people, it must drastically cut the amount of money collected in the form of taxes.

Government leadership must come to know that “fiscal responsibility” is not cutting one program or expenditure so you can increase spending on another program which may benefit your district.

Libertarians don’t want to go to Washington for the power, they want to go to return power to the citizens.

Brian Smith is the Chair of the York County Libertarian Party

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