Which government functions can we do without? (Tim R. Mortiss)

So let’s play a fun little game, shall we? :slight_smile:

The attached poll contains the 9 departments that have been shut down completely due to the government shutdown. It’s on you to decide which should be shut down permanently. But here’s the catch - you can’t vote for a department if you cannot describe what that department does. I’d rather avoid a Rick Perry moment where he argues that we need to shut down the Department of Energy, then does a complete 180 when he realizes what the Department of Energy actually does.

Department of the Treasury
Department of Agriculture
Homeland Security Department
Department of the Interior
Department of State
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Department of Transportation
Department of Commerce
Department of Justice

Take your pick! But be ready to explain what it does! :slight_smile:

Not to say that all of these departments are functioning as they should, but they do serve important, even vital, purposes if they operate according to their charters under competent leadership. I’m not a fan of “Big Government” but I don’t believe things will take care of themselves in the long run.

We should shut down DHS by dismantling it and going back to the pre-Patriot Act structure with its components. Except for TSA. TSA can go away completely and we’ll go back to private security.

I voted ‘none of the above’ but will amend or qualify that by suggesting perhaps some consolidation of functions or responsibilities are possible.

The only one I would shut down permanently is the DHS. All the others should have their budgets cut by $100B apiece.

The deficit for 2018 was $779B, and is projected for 2019 to be $985B. Do the math.


How detailed / precise do I need to be in describing a department’s function to be permitted to vote for it’s elimination?

Same here. I would also consider ending HUD. Some of their base mission is covered by other departments and a fair bit has more of the feel for something working best at the state level. Of course most of my personal contact with HUD hasn’t been very good and unquestionably shades my opinion but -------------

  1. A “government function” and a Cabinet department are two very different things. Each department has numerous functions.

  2. Should we click that a Cabinet department should be shuttered, if we want most or all of its component agencies and functions to be transferred to other Cabinet departments? (Commerce is the classic example: it’s just a grab-bag of largely unrelated agencies from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to the Census Bureau. And most of Homeland Security’s agencies and functions existed before DHS was created; they could be sent back to where they came from.)

Hopefully better than Rick Perry.

Rather than all or nothing, I’d go for a 25% haircut in the budget.

Okay, I’ll bite. The least disruptive of the options given would be to shut down Agriculture, moving its farming components to Commerce and its food/nutrition sections over the HHS.

Homeland Security serves no real function. It just added an extra layer of bureaucracy to a bunch of intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

It’s not an option, but I could see massive savings in the military budget, particularly for weapons systems, aircraft and ships. Like do we really need this many aircraft carrier groups?

Sure. And given that what Tim proposed was just leaving those departments shuttered, we can assume that those functions will all have to go.

Nope. Again, what we’re talking about specifically is that these departments be starved of funding indefinitely, without any effort taken to transfer duties to another department. I agree - let’s do away with DHS - but in the context of this thread, we’re doing that by just completely starving it of funding indefinitely, rather than taking the pieces of it that are necessary and redistributing them to other departments in a rational way. As Tim put it:

On the other hand, if the government stays shut down for a long time, eventually those people will find other work, and the positions may even be eliminated. That could save all taxpayers some money in the long run, and a lot of people could stop living paycheck to paycheck.

(Bolding mine)

So no, we’re not talking about reconsolidation. We’re talking about wholesale demolition.

I feel like this misses the point of the question pretty damn hard. Okay, so 25% haircut to the budget - great. What does that come out of? Where are we trimming fat? (Or, given that we’re looking at 25%, which limb are we cutting off?) The whole point of this is to dodge the lazy libertarian arguments that say, “Look at this big government. Let’s cut down on it! No, I have no idea what or how much we’re cutting, why should I have to consider tradeoffs and consequences?” To actually get people to think, “Okay, what does what I’m saying actually mean?”

Shodan, 100 Billion is about 10% more than the entire budget of the State Department. It is five times the budget of the Department of the Interior. It is three times the budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Developments, four times the budget of the DoJ, and more than 10 times the budget of the department of commerce. Again, I feel like you’re kind of missing the point, which is to reckon with the tradeoffs involved with this kind of budget-cutting. What are we giving up? There’s not really that much fat to trim - at some point we have to start giving up muscle, sinew, and bone. It’s going to hurt. And it can hurt! Sometimes necessary things hurt. Politics is a realm almost entirely made up of tradeoffs. But the way most libertarians put it, there’s no pain involved. And I want to cut through that notion a bit.

It isn’t the question posed, sure. If a department performs 1000 tasks, with 700 being unnecessary and 300 being critical, I think it’s more lazy to say it must be all or nothing. But once the discussion gets into line item details, then every interest group can get involved and it’s a war on all fronts. Easier to do an overall haircut and let the departments figure how to best accomplish their goals with new constraints.

The first department that came to mind that wasn’t on the list was the Department of Education. That one can be scuttled whole cloth.

So, which buildings are you willing to lose? Not that TSA is perfect, but the pre-9/11 problem was that private contractors cut corners to increase profits. Capitalism at work. And nothing could possibly go wrong.

Why yes, if you go out of your way to not think about the consequences of your actions, it gets a lot easier. I don’t know that this qualifies as an argument in your favor. The reason you get all those interest groups is because politics is hard. You may think a task is unimportant, but the existence of interest groups that disagree indicates that it necessarily is not as trivial as you think. Even if it’s bad policy (like the handouts we give to American cheesemakers), you still need to reckon with the consequences and seriously think about whether or not they outweigh the benefits. Sometimes the answer is “yes”. Maybe even often! But skipping that step is a great way to say, “We should shut down the DoE, what has it ever done for us?” and end up looking like a real Rick Perry when the answer turns out to be “a whole lot of incredibly important shit”.

In fact, it gets worse than that. If we just give the department blanket cuts, the things that are the first to go will often be those that have the smallest lobbies supporting them. And there really isn’t a good correlation between “lobby size” and “benefit for the general population”; if you disagree, I’ve got some repurchased cheese to sell you, and will have to revoke your libertarian card.

OK, I didn’t bother to look up how much each of the specified departments spends. Mea culpa.

OTOH, the general public is not suffering very much from the shut down of the listed departments. Therefore, it is indicated that their functions are nowhere near as vital as the others, at least in the short term. There wasn’t an option in the poll for a complete plan on how to deal with the budget deficit, which is the issue I care about. I do not give a flying f*ck at a rolling doughnut about border security, at least compared to Trump, and I also do not care about the posturing of the Democrats who want merely to deny Trump a victory. And therefore both sides are shutting down some of the government over something petty, meaning border security and/or “up yours Trump”.

So, if you want a better plan, then shut down DHS permanently, and offload a subset of their functions to the FBI and federal marshalls and whatever. Also shut down the Department of Education, permanently, and replace their budget with a smaller total, to be distributed to the several states as block grants. Then figure out whatever the deficit is as a percentage of the total budget, and cut everything by that percentage, overall. And departments like the ones listed in the OP should be cut disproportionately more than everything else.

I for one have no illusions about how it won’t hurt. Yes, it will hurt. And most of that hurt will fall on federal employees who are going to be let go and not replaced. That sucks. Also, tough shit. We cannot sustain a deficit at this level. And we cannot address it entirely or even mostly with tax increases.

You complain that libertarians think that cuts won’t hurt. Tax increases will also hurt just as much. Yeah yeah, I know - rescind the Trump tax cuts. Knock yourself out - the idea that it was mostly for the rich is bullshit, and it will not address the deficit in any significant way unless it is coupled with spending cuts, and the cuts have to be two or three times bigger than the tax increases. And the spending cuts have to happen at the same time as the tax increase - none of this “we get the victory over the Republican President now and worry about our side later” like they did with Bush 41.

Obviously none of this is going to happen. Democrats won’t cut spending and Republicans won’t raise taxes.


@BPC - Ok. I’m not following your point. You recognize making cuts is difficult, but insist on an all or nothing approach? I must be missing something because it seems in decrying oversimplification you are engaging in oversimplification. Yes cuts will hurt. So be it.

Interesting that the President who beat Bush 41 ended his Presidency with a budget surplus. Thankfully Bush 43 did away with THAT nonsense.