We Need a Graveyard for Sacred Cows

Bill Neinast


There was a mistake here two weeks ago.  Some important words were omitted.

One of the grains of sand Republicans would like to remove from the federal budget was listed as “Historical Trading Partners in Massachusetts” costing $9 million.  That is bad enough, but the real line item is “Exchange Programs for Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Their Historical Trading Partners in Massachusetts.” 

Whatever that is cost American taxpayers $9 million. Nonetheless, class warriors scoff at efforts to eliminate such foolishness from the budget.  They prefer, instead, to raise a pittance more in taxes by increasing the tax rate on the one percent of taxpayers who already pay the bulk of taxes.

As difficult as it is to reduce the budget one grain at a time, making real head way by scooping our shovels full is even more difficult.  That requires attacking the most permanent things built by humans.  Entire government programs must be taken down and there is nothing more permanent than those sacred cows.

Take, for instance, the youngest federal agency, the Department of Homeland Security.  This monster with 200,000 employees is the third largest federal agency, trailing the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs in size.  The current budget is $99 billion.

Most of the personnel and functions now under Secretary Napolitano are definitely needed. The sub departments or agencies are Citizenship and Immigration Services, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Transportation Security Administration, Coast Guard, Secret Service, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

With the possible exception of the TSA, all of these functions were performed in some existing agency before creation of the DHS.  So the only thing DHS provides is a whole new layer of high priced bureaucrats.

The home for those bureaucrats was erected in the panicked aftermath of 9/11.  The organizing theory was that a huge bureaucracy was required to protect the country from internal attacks.

By one report, however, that theory has not been proved.  Of the 53 terrorist attacks attempted in the U.S. since 9/11, none was thwarted by DHS.  The terrorists were identified and caught by the FBI and local police authorities, with some under the table support probably coming from the CIA and Defense Intelligence Service. 

So far as currently known, the only successful domestic terrorism since 9/11 has been the massacre at Fort Hood and the murder of Private William Long at the military recruiting office in Little Rock, Arkansas, on June 1, 2009.

So DHS cannot claim responsibility for this stellar record of protecting the country.

Why, then, are taxpayers asked to support an agency that exists only to “supervise” other agencies that were performing their functions in other capacities a few years ago? 

The organization chart of DHS includes at least 25 offices under the Secretary’s office.  Those 25 offices are probably headed by political appointees, each of whom is supported by a bevy of administrative bureaucrats.  This nest of pencil pushers will house several thousand of the 200,000 total.

Doing the unthinkable of killing this new federal program would not swell the already heavy ranks of unemployed.  The bulk of the 200,000 work force would merely revert to their old agencies and continue doing what they have always done.  They would be working, however, under several fewer levels of supervision and that might make them more efficient.

The civil servants, but not the political appointees, who become jobless because their DHS jobs were abolished would go on “stopper” lists. While on a stopper list, if a job like the one that was abolished becomes vacant anywhere in the federal system, the “stopper” gets the job, if he or she wants it, without competition from others.

If the politicians in Washington are persuaded to correct this mistake made in panic and abolish just this unneeded bureaucracy, maybe they can be persuaded to consider another of their mistakes.  The Department of Education may be found to be as useless as the DHS.

So here’s the perspective.

Regardless of who controls the government in the next few years, drastic action will have to be taken to eliminate both the annual budget deficits and the national debt garrote around the necks of future generations.

Republicans have already demonstrated a bushel basket of tiny wasteful projects that can and should be eliminated.  If, however, those bushels are not transformed into dragline buckets of cuts and savings by the new government in January, our status as the leader of the free world is doomed.

The baskets can become earth moving buckets only if the buckets are used  to bury a number of sacred cows. 

Unfortunately, there is not yet a graveyard for sacred cows.  Can we build one?


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