House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) says that Uncle Sam needs to go on a diet.
Cantor (seen at left) launched a new project today that he hopes will "force Congress to begin to confront the difficult, but unavoidable realities of our fiscal situation."
It's called YouCut. It allows anyone to vote on a project that they think Congress should cut. Republicans will suggest possible cuts each week and will try to bring the winning cut to the House floor each week for an up or down vote.
Democrats are calling it a gimmick. Staffers in Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's office said that it comes as no surprise that Republicans would need to ask Americans for ideas since they "clearly have none of their own when dealing with fiscal responsibility."
The Democratic National Committee's Press Secretary Hari Sevugan said "it's not surprising that they are resorting to another gimmick for a round of press rather than a substantive idea for lasting solutions. But if they actually listened to the American people, Republicans would know that knee-jerk opposition, obstruction, delay and gimmicks are not a substitute for leadership."
Here's Cantor's selection for the first week, taken directly from a statement he released earlier today:
- Eliminate the Presidential Election Fund, a federal program that provides matching funds to political candidates during Presidential primaries, certain third-party candidates, and funds for political conventions. In the 2008 Presidential election the candidates raised over $1.3 billion from individuals and PACs; do they really need to supplement that with taxpayer money?
- Prohibiting taxpayer-subsidized union activities by prohibiting federal employees from being paid by the government for performing union functions. Currently some federal employees spend up to 100% of their workweek, paid by taxpayers, doing work for their union. Federal employees unions collect millions in revenue each year and spend significant amounts on political activities and lobbying; should they also be subsidized by the taxpayer for their official functions?
- Terminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development program that provides individuals with $25,000 stipends for completing their doctoral dissertations. Recently taxpayers have financed research on media strategies for housing policy and the use of eminent domain for urban redevelopment. Why should families who are struggling to pay for their children's college also be asked to fund stipends from the government for those who want to write their dissertation on certain government-preferred policies?
- Terminate the new alternative welfare program, recently created to incentivize states to increase their welfare caseloads without requiring able-bodied adults to work, get job training, or otherwise prepare to move off of taxpayer assistance. Reforming the welfare program was one of the great achievements of the Republican Congress in the mid 1990s, saving taxpayers billions of dollars and ending the cycle of dependency on welfare. This new program ushered in by Democrats is merely a backdoor way to undo those reforms.
- Focus federal economic development assistance on areas of need. The Community Development Block Grant program currently funds a wide range of local economic development activities. While it is advertised as a way to help low-income communities, funds are also dispersed to communities with income well-above the national average. A recent study found that the community of Newton, Massachusetts, with a per capita income over twice the national average, was receiving $28 per person in CDBG funds. At the same time, other communities with income 25% below the national average were receiving $10 per person.
If you look at the YouCut website, eliminating one of these projects would save taxpayers an estimated $2.6 billion at the most. But to Cantor, it's clear that it's about more than saving money. It's also an opportunity to woo American voters by trying to prove that Republicans care about real people's opinions outside the beltway.
It's a message voters can expect to hear more of from both parties as the anti-Washington sentiment only becomes more clear with veterans of both parties already losing their seats in the primaries so far.