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Left Turn: Mr. President, why not try responsible spending cuts?

To get the nation’s fiscal house in order, the American people shouldn’t have to choose between higher taxes and indiscriminate budget cuts. Yet that is precisely the false choice President Obama wants the country to make. House Republicans have twice advanced a responsible alternative, one that addresses Washington’s addiction to reckless spending. Instead of across-the-board cuts that will hurt the economy, the president should work with Congress on ways to eliminate waste and inefficiencies taxpayers cannot afford. Below are just a few ideas to help the president get started:

  • Too much overhead at the Department of Education. The department spends millions of dollars on administrative expenses that deliver little benefit to America’s classrooms. For example, the department has allocated $21.3 million on awards and travel for staff, as well as printing documents that could be delivered electronically in today’s digital age. If the department eliminated this wasteful spending and cut its printing expenses by just 25 percent, it would yield a taxpayer savings of $18 million this year alone. Rather than scare teachers with inflated rhetoric, the administration should root out waste that takes money away from our nation’s schools.
  • A maze of confusing training programs. Taxpayers invest roughly $18 billion in more than 50 workforce development programs spread across nine federal agencies. A majority of the programs overlap, and only a few have been evaluated to determine whether they actually help workers. The president described the current system as a “maze of confusing training programs,” yet has failed to offer a plan that will help cut through the costly bureaucracy. House Republicans are advancing comprehensive reforms that will streamline federal programs, reduce administrative costs, and deliver more effective training to America’s job seekers. 
  • Duplicative ‘teacher quality’ programs. Ten federal agencies spend a total of $4 billion each year administering 82 distinct programs related to teacher quality. These programs duplicate efforts supported by the Department of Education’s Improving Teacher Quality State Grant program, which last year received $1.7 billion in funding. Simply streamlining these redundant activities through the state grant program would save taxpayers more than $2 billion.
  • Low performing Job Corps centers. The federal Job Corps program provides disadvantaged youth with skills needed to pursue a career, join the military, or prepare for higher education. However, budget challenges plague the program, leading the Department of Labor to suspend new enrollments nationwide. Instead of cutting waste to ensure youths could participate, the department spent $495,000 airing ads on MSNBC to promote the program’s ‘green’ initiative. Meanwhile, Job Corps centers that produce poor results remain open, draining resources from across the country. Ending financial support for the lowest performing centers could save an estimated $340 million.

When faced with hard times, families and small businesses know it’s time to trim the fat – and the federal government has a responsibility to do the same. President Obama must stop campaigning and start working with Congress on reforms that will lead to a leaner, more accountable and fiscally responsible federal government.

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