Toward Common Ground

As the Congressional “Super Committee” begins its search for $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, a new study released by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) and the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) provides the panel with a great place to start: more than $1 trillion of spending cuts with appeal from across the political spectrum. While the two groups have widely divergent views on many tax and fiscal issues, they have joined forces to identify federal programs that both Republican and Democratic lawmakers should recognize as wasteful and inefficient uses of taxpayer dollars.


WISPIRG Foundation

Executive Summary

To break through the ideological divide that has dominated Washington this past year and offer a pathway to address the nation’s fiscal problems, the National Taxpayers Union and WISPIRG joined together to identify mutually acceptable deficit reduction measures. This report documents our findings.

What follows is a general summary of recommendations that fall into four rough categories:
1. $214.9 billion in savings from ending wasteful subsidies,
2. $444.8 billion from addressing outdated or ineffective military programs,
3. $221.6 billion from improving program execution and government operations, and
4. $132.1 billion from reforms to entitlement programs.

Each specific recommendation includes an estimate of its savings over the next ten years, and a reference to the source from which the estimate was drawn.

As 2011 enters its final stretch, our nation faces enormous fiscal challenges. As part of the deal that was recently struck to raise America’s debt ceiling, Congress established a new Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to narrow the total budget gap by $1.5 trillion over the next decade. This so-called “Supercommittee” must report its findings by November 23, 2011 and if a majority of its 12 members support its conclusions, both houses of Congress will consider the resulting legislation under expedited procedures by December 23, 2011.

As a result, the next 100 days will mark a major turning point in America’s unsustainable fiscal trajectory. That’s why the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) and U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) have joined together to propose to the Supercommittee and to Congress as a whole a list of more than 50 recommendations to reform our future spending commitments. If enacted in their entirety these changes would save taxpayers more than $1 trillion over the coming decade.

While our organizations have often differed about the proper regulatory scope of
government and a host of tax policies, we are united in the belief that we spend far too much money on ineffective programs that do not serve the best interests of the American people. This joint project is an attempt at identifying the “low hanging fruit” of waste and inefficiency in the federal budget, in hopes of transcending the ideological and partisan bickering that has helped to create the fiscal mess we see today. In a similar report submitted last year to the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, we outlined over $600 billion in spending reductions by that entity’s target date of 2015. Though many of our specific recommendations were incorporated into the “illustrative cuts” section of the Commission’s final report, Congress has largely failed to act on them and significant reforms remain as necessary as ever.

The recommendations in “Toward Common Ground 2011” touch every portion of federal expenditures, including entitlements, defense spending, wasteful subsidies, and a broad range of improvements to the efficiency and effectiveness of discretionary programs. They include large items, such as a $160 billion overhaul of federal information technology management, and small ones, like $10 million in spending on biodiesel fuel education grants. Each recommendation includes a ten-year savings estimate backed up by authoritative sources such as the Congressional Budget Office, Government Accountability Office, Office of Management and Budget, or bipartisan working groups. They are specific, detailed, and actionable items that Congress could pursue right now to reduce spending and help meet its goal of $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction.