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Solve the budget crisis? We must, but we have been going about this all wrong.

I was struck by something New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on “Meet the Press” last Sunday. Bloomberg, the businessman, was advocating a clean-sheet-of-paper approach. According to Mr. B., we need to ask ourselves, “What do we need to keep this country going?” Then, we need to do that efficiently.

What do we really need from Washington? Think about it. What can Big Brother do that the states, private enterprise, local charities and individuals can’t do for themselves?

We need the federal government to provide for our common defense.

We need NASA and NOAA. They are a matter of national defense. Eliminate the EPA. Task these agencies with establishing minimum standards for the nation’s rivers and air quality.

We need the federal government to handle terrorist threats, coordinate law enforcement efforts across state lines, punish counterfeiters and those who commit crimes in the air or on the high seas.

We need a federal court system.

The Republicans in Congress have the budgetary “nuclear” option at their disposal! Let them know you expect them to use it by sending a message to all 241 GOP House members via the “No More Red Ink” campaign

We need a State Department to interact with other countries, handle the orderly flow of immigration and secure our borders. The State Department also should be tasked with matters of international commerce.

Abolish the mostly useless Commerce Department and give Treasury control of the patents and copyrights. The Treasury also prints and coins money, keeps it in circulation, establishes uniform standards, pays our debts and collects taxes.

We need the Federal Aviation Administration to license pilots and regulate air traffic.

We need a Department of Health to prepare for disease outbreaks that threaten the nation, but we can give all “human services” to the states.

We need the federal government to run Washington, D.C., and conduct the census.

We need the federal government to operate the parks that are not contained within a single state.

A case could be made that we need the federal government to inspect our food and insure that our drugs are safe and do what they say they will do. I’m not convinced. The courts provide an adequate incentive for farmers, food and drug producers to keep their products uniform and safe.

The Constitution gave the federal government the power to establish a postal system. However, there is a case to be made that it has outlived its usefulness. The Internet and companies like UPS and FedEx would quickly fill the gap.

There is the matter of fulfilling our commitments to our citizens now in or approaching retirement. However, Social Security and Medicare must be restructured so that the younger generation can properly prepare for the future. To pretend that these programs will be there for them in their present state is blatantly dishonest.

Medicaid and other poverty programs are best left to the individual states. Block grants could be used in the near term and reduced with each passing year. When the federal government is properly streamlined, federal taxes can be lowered and state taxes raised to run these programs. A national poverty threshold is meaningless. States should design their own poverty programs. All able-bodied people who receive aid should be required to do public work. Welfare recipients can be used to maintain our parks and public buildings. This is the quickest way to eliminate freeloaders.

Education is not a matter for the federal government. The Department of Education was established as a Cabinet post in 1980. Its only function is to advise and gobble tax dollars. It does that last part very well. We should not be in the business of subsidizing higher education, which drives up the costs and lowers standards.

Roads and are best left to the states. That would go a long way toward eliminating bridges to nowhere and superhighways in remote areas.

No more state bailouts. Who is going to bail out the country and at what cost?

That is my list. It’s short and sweet. I’m sure I’ve left off a few things that are absolutely essential to running a safe and secure country … but not many.

No one said this clean-sheet-of-paper approach would be easy, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use it. No more discussion about whether or not to fund Planned Parenthood, public broadcasting and the “arts.” They are not on the list. These things are nonessential to running the country and keeping it solvent.

We need statesmen, not politicians, who are committed to doing what is right for the country, not what will get them past the next election. Our survival as a nation depends on it.

To quote Mayor Bloomberg once again, “No company would survive if you ran it the way Washington runs.”

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