When lean times hit families and businesses of ordinary Americans, they have to cut back on luxuries, waste, duplication and impulse spending. Rational decision-making must take place! This is now true for government, as much as, for families and businesses.
During times of financial stress and federal budget failure, I would normally NOT suggest adding another federal commission. However, to deal with the spending menace, I propose we bring back the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC). However, this time, let's apply it to the entire federal government and not just the Department of Defense (DOD), as was done in the five times it was previously implemented.
BRAC was first instituted in 1988 to address the Cold War military drawdown as no Congressman, Senator or President had the skill, integrity, or courage to tackle the needed spending cuts outright. Though Conservative War Hawks professed fiscal restraint, like kids at Christmas, they wanted taxpayers to buy them every new "military toy" the Defense Department offered. At the same time, fearing they would be voted out of office, Peacenik Liberals found themselves unable to vote against military spending in their states, even as they complained that defense spending had to be cut.
Because bases brought government jobs to constituents and campaign cash from defense and technology contractors Senators and Congressmen were hooked like addicts. Elected officials would repeatedly promise reform, pledge control and vow restraint. As with addicts, they lied and deceived while continuing to abuse the taxpayers' money.
However, as our military no longer faced a Soviet menace of hundreds of divisions, thousands of jets and scores of attack ships, we needed to curtail massive defense outlays - even though it would cost jobs back home. The solution was to form a Commission of former government officials no longer seeking reelection, or higher office to deal with the issue. This disaffected group could dispassionately evaluate budgets, programs, needed improvements and fundamental requirements.
BRAC was able to successfully reduce dozens of duplicative vote-buying military bases in Republican and Democrat districts alike. It gave us a means to accomplish what our Congress and President refused to tackle.
Since we initially began the BRAC process, the United States has engaged in four wars: the Persian Gulf War, the War on Terror, the Iraq War, and in Afghanistan. Without entering into the politics of whether we should fight these wars, in each instance, a DOD that had been streamlined by BRAC was still able to successfully execute its mission.
Now it's time to fight the financial war; time to get our house in order. On several occasions, John McCain has rightly accused Congress and presidents of, "spending like drunken sailors", adding, "except that's an insult to drunken sailors!" It's time to dry out our President, Congress and the Senate. It's past time to halt the drunken spree of spending excess!
Our strong economic circumstances of the Eisenhower-Kennedy and Reagan-Clinton eras are gone. Our economy is staggering with minimal growth in manufacturing, incomes and population. (Without immigration, legal and illegal, America's population would barely be beyond replacement levels.) The economic health of the nation cannot sustain an ever-expanding, hyper regulating and all-consuming government.
How BRAC worked was utter simplicity. The commission evaluated all programs then gave a sensible plan to reduce spending, bureaucracy, and duplicative programs. Congress was allowed a single up or down vote - no amendments, no modifications, no lobbyists' interference, and no protection of pet projects. All or nothing - that was the choice. It worked, and overall it worked well. Though America's defense budget was downsized, five times, we remain the world's lone superpower.
To BRAC the entire federal government would finally give us a means of eliminating the infamous "waste, fraud and abuse" we always hear about at election time. What's at stake are scores of programs supposedly dealing with real problems in America. But that begs the question, why do we need 20 to 40 programs to deal with a single problem:
If people are hungry, the answer is getting them food, not providing them some 40 separate bureaucracies that haven't "cured" hunger in America.
If ignorance and illiteracy are a plague, then the cure isn't wasting precious resources on more than 30 separate bureaus, agencies, offices and initiatives to remedially educate our children. No, these programs steal resources from the public schools that persistently complain about underfunding.
Whether housing or healthcare, immigration or transportation, innovation energy or any other area, government should or should not be involved in, BRAC will free up resources, also known as tax dollars, to deal with those issues.
The President's 2010 Simpson-Bowles Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform insisted on the usual formula of immediate tax increases along with protracted spending cuts. Let's have Republican Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles try something new. With their experience arguing for a balanced budget and limited spending, let them first begin with the job evaluating and cutting duplication.
Let these bipartisan leaders cull the heard. Let their recognized wisdom and team of experts execute a proven successful strategy. Begin the BRAC and show every tax payer, left and right, that America won't collapse when bureaucracy is cut, regulators curtailed, and government duplication eliminated.
Have Simpson-Bowles earn the tax increases they claim are necessary - make them do the heavy lifting first - BRAC the federal government. BRAC all of it! Let them name the waste, find the fraud and spotlight the abuse.
Rather than allowing the House, Senate, and President to continue haggling over budgets that are never presented or passed, let's call upon them to enact a simple solution - a federal government wide BRAC and send it to the President to sign or veto. It's about time we let the nation know who is serious and who is not; who is willing to follow courageous American families and businesses that actually make hard and necessary cuts. Only then should we again consider trusting the feds with more of our taxes.
Linwood Bragan serves as the Executive Director of CapStand. Mr Bragan has an extensive background in political activism having served on numerous political camnpaigns and, most recently serving on Capitol Hill as a Congressional Counsel and Legislative Assistant. He has lectured in 20 states on political activism, finance, organization and elections. He can be contacted at: email@example.com