Barack Obama

Citizens Against Government Waste has issued its annual “Prime Cuts” report for 2015 with 601 recommendations that could amount to as much as $639 billion in savings annually and $2.6 trillion over the next five years.

The non-profit and non-partisan organization was founded in 1984 in response to a study requested by President Ronald Reagan to “root out waste and inefficiency in government.” The release of its annual “Prime Cuts” report is timed to coincide with Congressional consideration of the federal budget.

Many of the cuts are a matter of common sense, such as terminating federal programs that duplicate other federal, state and local benefits, or involve expenditures that impact only a very small number of people.

The federal government awarded more than $600,000 to build a high-speed Internet network in LaGrange, Arkansas, which works out to $5,468 spent for each of the 122 residents in the town.

Eliminating the Denali Commission created in 1998 to build infrastructure in rural Alaska would save $10 million in a single year with minimal impact on a very small population.

Some cuts, such as privatizing the U.S. Postal Service, eliminating federal subsidies, and cutting waste have been debated for years.

For instance, Amtrak has been running at a $32 loss per customer, more than $40 billion since its creation in 1971, and its long-distance routes are no longer competitive with air travel.

Similarly, encouraging private or corporate sponsorship of the arts, rather than federally funding artistic works or academic articles would result in a savings of $335 in the first year; as much as $1.7 over five years.

The Government Accounting Office has perennially recommended replacing the $1 bill with a $1 coin estimating savings of $730 million over five years. Although a coin is slightly more expensive to manufacture, it has a lifespan of 30 years versus 21 months for a printed bill.

Medicare has long had the highest reported number of wrongful payments of any federally administered program, with almost 12 percent of its annual expenditures made in error. The Prime Cuts Report would recommend reinstating the federal audit system to reduce overpayments by 50 percent over the next five years for a savings of $24 billion.

By incrementally raising the eligibility age for Social Security to reflect increases in life expectancy could save approximately $119 billion.

The non-profit also recommends action by which the government would both save money and realize a profit by a single action, such as opening the coastal plain of the 19-million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to leasing. The area has significant potential for oil production of any unexplored onshore area in the U.S. according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Leasing the land would save $2.5 billion even before drilling royalties were realized. Drilling on ANWR would have the added benefit of lowering gas and oil prices to the end consumer while reducing oil dependence on the Middle East.

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