5 practical ways to reduce government spending

By Tom Quiner

1. Match Medicare’s retirement age to that of Social Security’s. SS’s is increasing to 67 years. Let Medicare follow suit.

2. Go a step further. Eventually raise it to 70 years. This should be phased in over a period of time, perhaps ten to fifteen years. People live longer now than when these programs were initiated. It makes practical sense. Even more, it is a practical necessity.

3. Modify the SS cost-of-living indexing system. The current system overstates inflation by indexing it to wages, not prices. An index based on price inflation is a more honest and affordable way to go.

4. Block grant Medicare to the states. Let’s reduce the federal bureaucracy and let dedicated public servants at the state level administer the programs. Doesn’t it make sense that we can serve people best the closer we are to them?

5. Limit food stamp eligibility. Numbers have exploded. Is the safety net getting too high?

Will this solve our long term structural problems? Conservatives would quickly answer a resounding no. This is but a small down payment. But liberals deny we even have a spending problem.

I encourage House Republicans to pass a law with these elements in it and send it over to the Senate.

Let’s get something practical done and let the debate begin. The ideas above are not unreasonable. Some have even had bipartisan support in years past. There may be enough Senate Democrats facing reelection in two years who could get behind these ideas to send the bill to Obama.

Would he sign it? Who knows? Nonetheless, Republicans have to start somewhere. These five ideas seem a good starting point.


  1. illero on January 9, 2013 at 6:33 am

    Here’s my problem — the do-nothings in Washington already know about all these options. They just won’t do anything about them. Actually, my favorite approach is to “simply” freeze spending at 2012 levels for three years while they work out all the reforms they need to. A spending freeze should not cripple any single department of government, but would indicate real intent to get our house in order. Of course, you didn’t mention another roadblock — the fact that the House has forwarded over 30 bills to the Senate that would affect finance and the economy, and Reid won’t let any of them be considered by the Senate.

    • quinersdiner on January 9, 2013 at 12:43 pm

      I am a fan of the budget freeze. Three years would be a political impossibility, however, even a single year would provide meaningful relief in the era of Obama.

  2. juwannadoright on January 9, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Although I disagree, Tom with a few points in this post, the biggest problem with attempting to address our financial problems is an underlying assumption that those who are involved actually want to correct those issues. Frankly, I am not sure that is the case.

    If there are some rational people left in Congress, one of the best and least painless measures that could be undertaken is that all new Federal hires receive no pension benefit other than that provided by Social Security. Implementing that at a state and local level as well would go a long way to insuring a more robust economic future.

    It would be one of the most effective advertising campaigns ever developed – immediately bringing people to the realization that each of us needs to take personal responsibility for our own welfare.

    • quinersdiner on January 9, 2013 at 12:47 pm

      Because I respect your thinking, I’d like to know our points of disagreement. If I’m missing something, I’d like to know.

      Regarding the pension provisions for federal employees, have you blogged on this? I’d like to see some data on how much financial impact your plan would have on longterm debt problem.

      Always great to hear from you.

      • juwannadoright on January 10, 2013 at 6:39 am

        My point of minor contention was with item 3. Whatever indexing system we use, in no way reflects the realities for seniors. This year, SS recipients got a 1.7% increase – the same as Federal working employees. They also saw a minimum increase of 5% in Medicare Part B premiums. (I would be curious to find out how much additional Federal employees are being charged for healthcare coverage in 2013).
        I monitor food prices very vigilantly at a retail level. I am seeing 10-30% increases being posted overnight on various items that I check. Those sorts of increases far overcome the COLA that SS recipients are getting.

        There is a lot of information available on government pensions on a Federal, state, county and municipal level. They all point in the same direction. Whether for politicians, teachers, bureaucrats, these pensions are at least 30% greater than what a person working and receiving only SS would get on retiring. Sometimes the numbers approach a 100% differential.

        The problem, even if they were exactly equal, is that these pensions are awarded based on the number of years of service and not age at retirement. So a person who held a Federal job and started working at 18 would be eligible to retire at 48, while his private sector counterpart has to wait to age 62 to receive a reduced benefit under the current structure. That’s an additional 14 years of payments – multiplied by how many employees receiving that award?

        While a real solution to the government pension problem would be establishing a minimum age qualification before retiring, combined with years of service, we both know that will never happen. In some ways, I have accepted that, just as I have accepted the fact that we have adopted social programs like welfare in all its incarnations which has enslaved several generations of recipients in poverty and indolence. We will pay the price for that and will support them throughout their lives.

        But my proposal to change the rules for new participants in both the pension arrangement as well as welfare could hardly be deemed as unfair by those who are currently beneficiaries of either. And we would read far fewer stories about how states and municipalities are nearing bankruptcy because of their pension obligations.

        • quinersdiner on January 10, 2013 at 11:46 am

          Great insights, very much appreciated.

          • juwannadoright on January 10, 2013 at 11:47 am

            Always my pleasure to further confound and already confounded subject.

            Forgot to mention, I hope you’re doing well with your recovery. All the best.