I am sick of the uninspired campaigns of 2010. The candidates all say the same things: “I am for lower taxes, I am against illegal immigration, I will stand up for the middle class and blah blah blah … “
I wonder how a candidate would answer the question, “If you had to cut one federal program, which one would it be, and why?”
I also would ask candidates some specific questions, including:
Would you support privatizing the U.S. Postal Service? Last week, we learned the USPS is, once again, close to being broke and is digging a deeper hole by the week. Part of the issue is that the Postal Service competes against free enterprise but is saddled with regulation about pricing, services, employee contracts and Congressmen who fight closing useless facilities. The options include propping up the USPS with tax dollars, propping it up but loosening regulations to let it compete, or getting out of the postal business and letting the USPS sell stock to employees and the public.
The Cato Institute says Congress should repeal statutes that preserve a “postal monopoly” for the USPS and allow free enterprise to deliver postage. Nonprofits have a huge interest in the issue because a private postal service may not give nonprofits favored rates. Businesses banded together last week to oppose a postal rate hike.
If candidates oppose private ownership, then would they favor raising rates and cutting costs (like employment, benefits, delivery days, post offices) or would they loosen regulations that would allow the post office to operate like a business and expand services? The status quo likely will require an infusion of tax dollars.
Would you support relaxing the embargo on trade and travel to Cuba? Canadians can go there. The Pork Producers Council, to cite an example of one business interest, wants to be able to trade more freely with Cubans. The Cuban government announced recently that it is laying off a half-million government workers. There may be signals that Cuba is opening, ever so slightly, to business. Has the U.S. embargo outlived its use? The Pork Producers Council says:
Congress was to consider legislation last week that would have allowed direct payment to U.S. banks and would have loosened travel from the U.S. to Cuba.
Would you support cutting federal farm subsidies? More than 70 percent of the government’s $30 billion in farm subsidies goes to the largest 10 percent of farm businesses. Last week, the World Trade Organization called on the United States to cut farm subsidies, fearing they could drive up prices. Go here [PDF] to learn more about how price supports work. You also can search here to see who gets a subsidy. The Environmental Working Group found:
Would you promise not to use earmarks to spend federal dollars? Would you vote for legislation to ban earmarks? Taxpayers for Common Sense says this year, 9,499 federal budget earmarks spent almost $16 billion of your dollars [PDF]. The Council on Citizens Against Government Waste produces a “pig book” that says 9,129 projects qualify. Whether it is waste or not, if the programs deserve funding, shouldn’t they go through the normal process of evaluation, review and disclosure that other federal spending goes through?
“The Pig Book Summary profiles the most egregious examples, breaks down pork per capita by state, and presents the annual Oinker Awards. All 9,129 projects are listed in a searchable database on CAGW’s website www.cagw.org. Examples of pork in the 2010 Pig Book include:
- “$465,000,000 for the alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter
- “$5,000,000 for the Presidio Heritage Center in California
- “$1,000,000 for Portsmouth Music Hall in New Hampshire
- “$400,000 for the USA Swimming Foundation in New Jersey
- “$300,000 for Carnegie Hall in New York City
- “$250,000 for the Monroe County Farmer’s Market in Kentucky
- “$200,000 for the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia
- “$206,000 for wool research in Montana, Texas, and Wyoming”
Should the federal government lift the ban on deepwater oil drilling? If not, how do you propose to make up the oil that will not come from those wells? Federal studies said the ban cost 23,000 jobs. Bloomberg reported last week:
“U.S. Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar may lift the federal ban on deep-water oil drilling ‘soon,’ now that the measure has met some of its goals, the government said in court papers.
Do you believe that global warming is real? The majority of Americans polled say this is a serious issue. In California, voters are deeply split about whether to repeal the state’s global warming law that requires power plants, factories and vehicles to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
A Rasmussen poll this summer showed that “Most voters (62%) continue to regard global warming as a serious issue.” The poll found, “Thirty-four percent (34%) do not share the concern about global warming. Forty-five percent (45%) say global warming is primarily caused by long-term planetary trends. Forty percent (40%) feel human activity is the main contributor.”
But ABC News says poll results on this question are all over the map and that it depends on how the question is asked.
The Environmental Protection Agency has a page on its website dedicated to its report about Climate Change Indicators. The federal government says that “average sea level worldwide is projected to rise up to two feet by the end of this century. This rise would eliminate approximately 10,000 square miles of land in the United States.” By comparison, one square mile is 640 acres.