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Editorial: The road to fiscal sanity

Observers who argue the federal government should be starved into solvency can expect to hear the obvious question: Where could we possibly cut?

That query is red meat to the folks at Citizens Against Government Waste.

The organization, a federal budget watchdog since 1984, last week released its annual edition of “Prime Cuts,” updated for 2016. It features more than 600 examples of profligate spending that costs taxpayers some $644 billion annually, enough to balance the budget in a single year.

“The group finds wasteful spending in nearly every agency of the federal government,” writes Ali Meyer of The Washington Free Beacon, “including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Labor Department, the Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, the Justice Department and the Department of Commerce.”

The recommendations target spending programs across the board, including in Defense. They include:

— Reducing improper Medicare payments by 50 percent over five years would generate an immediate savings of $4.3 billion.

— Killing federal subsidies for Amtrak would put $1.4 billion back into federal coffers every year, saving $7 billion over five years.

— Eliminating a host of agricultural subsidies — including handouts to sugar, dairy and peanut producers — would save $12 billion over five years.

— Putting the kibosh on an EPA regulation intended to help consumers select energy-efficient products would reap $52 million in savings in the first year.

— Ending the “market access program,” which provides taxpayers subsidies so companies can promote their agricultural products, would reduce spending by $1 billion over five years.”

— Reclaiming unrequested funds directed to upgrade the M1 tank would generate $200 million over five years.

Tom Schatz, president of the organization, noted in a press release that by following the blueprint outlined in “Prime Cuts,” the United States “can achieve the first balanced budget since [fiscal year] 1998, and … can begin to lower the fiscally calamitous national debt.”

That might be true, although it doesn’t reflect the reality of that silly thing called “politics.”

For as those sympathetic to the agenda articulated by Citizens For Government Waste are painfully award, when you offer specific suggestions for reducing the federal behemoth, the first thing you’re likely to hear is, “But we can’t cut that.”

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