Thursday, July 7, 2011

Waste, Fraud and Abuse...

Generally when a politician indicates that he'll obtain more revenue and / or pay for a program or tax cut by identifying and eliminating "waste, fraud and abuse," there are few further details as to what that constitutes and how he'll actually get rid of them.

In the Wall Street Journal, though, NYU Professor Paul Light outlines how he'd save $1 trillion through eliminating waste, fraud and abuse:

* Eliminate about one third presidential appointees, senior and midlevel federal employees: $100b.  Light estimates that this would, in essence, put the government at about the same structure as it was in 1960 (although much larger).  Since 1960, there has been a significant growth in the number of levels of federal employees in cabinet departments from about 7 to 18 in his estimation.  This represents needless bureacracy in his view.

* Only hire for these positions upon a certification of need to meet a national priority as determined under the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act.  $250b

* Curb improper payments: $500m

* Elimination of duplicative systems: $100b

* Restore the use of federal productivity measures to eliminate activities whose costs outweigh their benefits (one good example can be found here - NPR's Planet Money team talks about the USG's spending $300m on dollar coins unwanted by the public). 

* Reform federal payroll practices to reward performance rather than seniority: $100b.

* Cut the number of federal contractors by 500,000, end automatic pay hikes and demand productivty gains from the remainer.  $300b

As a tool of implementation, Light calls for the creation of a Government Reorganization Committee, modeled after the Resolution Trust Corporation.  Such a committee would have broad authority to make decisions liquidating government assets, collecting moneys owed, and proposing legislative proposals to Congress that it would receive up or down votes (i.e. no burying or amending the proposals).

Of course, such proposals would meet strong resistance from many quaters, particularly government employee unions.  It's also to be seen whether Congress would hand over such sweeping authority to unelected policy makers.  Finally, there will be many who doubtless take issue with Light's proposals and potential savings numbers. 

Still, for $1 trillion it's a debate worth having.

No comments: