Liberal Group Joins Conservative Group in Calling for $600 Billion in Federal Spending Cuts

By Chris Johnson | November 10, 2010 | 5:00 AM EST

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( – With the federal deficit at $1.3 trillion and conservative members of Congress talking about ways to trim government spending, a newly released report by the National Taxpayer Union (NTU) and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) proposes $600 billion in federal budget cuts over the next 5 years. 

In a "strange bedfellows" confab, the right-leaning NTU and left-leaning US PIRG have highlighted 31 specific examples of wasteful government spending that they say can be eliminated.

In the report, Toward Common Ground: Bridging the Political Divide to Reduce Spending, the 31 examples fall into the categories of ending wasteful subsidies, improving contract and asset acquisition, improving program execution and government operations, ending wasteful or outdated military programs and systems, and aligning military spending with current needs.

One of the report’s authors, Nicole Tichon, the Federal Tax and Budget Reform Advocate at U.S. PIRG, explained that the main reason for the proposal is to get the conversation started on cutting spending.

“We know that this is just one step of the way,” Tichon said.  “We have no illusions that this is going to solve all the problems. But it was not just about the substance for us, it was also about the process. Just showing that if you sit down and think these things through and take it seriously, there are places where we could find some common ground and actually get to some fairly decent numbers.”

Andrew Moylan, director of Government Affairs at the NTU, co-wrote the report with Tichon. The document would have looked differently had it been solely up to the NTU, said Moylan, but the two organizations wanted to prove that even organizations that seem ideologically opposed could agree on cuts that made a substantial difference.

“There is certainly a lot of fruit that’s ripe for the picking there from our perspective,” he said.  “You know, if it were up to us the list would probably be a lot bigger, but we tried to do a kind of left/right combo with our friends at PIRG. That’s how we ended up with the suggestions that we have.”

Tichon also told CNS News that she expected the incoming Congress to take a serious look at their report.

“Well, I don’t think they have a choice but to look at the deficit problem seriously,” she said. “They’ve come in with a lot of rhetoric around it. We’ve seen a lot of calls for across the board cuts in spending and broad swipes at this -- very few that I’ve seen are willing to go on the record and say, “Here are the specific things we’re going to do,” and at the same time saying that they’re going to have bipartisan support.”

“Everyone seems to believe we need bipartisan support, then the other side is that we need to cut spending,” said Tichon.  “Well, from our perspective, if you’re charged with doing those things, we think this is the place to start.”

If Congress does pass these cuts, Moylan said they expect the president to take a serious look at them because there are several cuts that would appeal to him.

“I think a lot of these are sort of good government reforms, payment reforms, things like reforming the contracting process so that we don’t order as many as 50 percent too many spare parts for defense purposes,” said Moylan. “Those are things that I would think that the president would have an open mind to.”

President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

If the president vetoed such cuts, however, Moylan said he is not hopeful that Congress would be able to override the veto.

 “If he were to veto those – Congress has a hard enough time getting a majority to vote for serious reductions in spending,” he said. “I think that it’s relatively unlikely that they’re going to get a supermajority to override a veto that the president would make on something like that. There’s no doubt that it’s an uphill battle when you’re talking about reducing spending.”

The National Taxpayer’s Union’s goal from its outset has been “helping to protect every single American's right to keep what they've earned,” according to the group’s Web site.

U.S. PIRG, for its part, states that “tax and budgeting decisions are the most concrete way that government declares its public priorities and balances between competing values.”

Some of the cuts suggested in the report include:

Eliminate the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which subsidizes investment abroad.  Savings by 2015: $154 million.

Eliminate subsidies to big agribusiness. Savings by 2015:  $35.4 billion.

Eliminate refundable tax credits for ethanol. Savings by 2015: $22.6 billion.

Eliminate ultradeepwater natural gas and petroleum research program. Savings by 2015: $158 million.

Eliminate Department of Homeland Security contracts already identified as wasteful. Savings by 2015: $34.3 billion.

End orders for obsolete spare parts and supplies for the Defense Logistics Agency, Army, Navy, and Air Force. Savings by 2015: $35.5 billion.

Remove the ceiling on the collection of overpayments from the Supplemental Security Income program. Savings by 2015: $580 million.

Better align Medicare payments to teaching hospitals with actual costs. Savings by 2015: $20.5 billion.

Recalibrate Medicare reimbursement rates in high-cost regions. Savings by 2015: $11.7 billion.

Return unallocated funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Savings by 2015: $15 billion.

Cancel F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and replace with more advanced, cheap and reliable alternatives. Savings by 2015: $22.5 billion.

End spending for high risk satellites and replace them with lower-cost alternatives. Savings by 2015: $5 billion.

Align nuclear arsenal with current needs and threats. Savings by 2015: $56.7 billion.

Cancel the outdated, unreliable and unneeded Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. Savings by 2015: $16.3 billion.

U.S. Capitol (AP Photo)

“Every interest group has an interest in whatever program benefits them,” said Moylan.  “So it’s not to say that this is something without controversy, it’s just not something that’s primarily based in ideology, which is why there aren’t, for example, huge cuts to Social Security and Medicare as a part of this [report] except for some good government payment reforms. That’s something that we know that liberal interests are not going to be supportive of.”

“At the same time, they’re not coming to the table suggesting massive tax hikes on everybody top to bottom because they knew that was something that we wouldn’t be willing to go for,” he said.  “That’s kind of the idea behind it.”