By Jeff Zeleny, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps | Power Players – Mon, May 6, 2013
Government buildings sitting empty and unused, many flights to rural airports that carry practically no passengers, and minimum milk prices are based on the gallon’s distance from Eau Claire, Wis.
These are just a few of the 557 government programs and subsidies that the non-profit Citizens Against Government Waste says could be eliminated to save taxpayers close to $2 trillion over the next five years. Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, tells Power Players about some highlights from the organization’s annual suggested cuts, which are outlined in the book, “Prime Cuts 2013.”
He points to agriculture subsidies, such as the sugar subsidy--that Citizens Against Government Waste says inflates the U.S. price of sugar to nearly twice the world average sugar price--as one of the areas where outdated programs are draining taxpayers’ wallets unnecessarily.
“It's an old style Soviet command and control program,” Schatz says. “By eliminating the sugar program, tax payers could save $1.2 billion in one year and $6 billion over five years.”
After sugar, Schatz says the next program that is in need of reform is dairy.
“Also an old-fashioned program,” he says. “The price of milk is based on the distance from which it’s produced from Eau Claire, Wis.—very old-fashioned way to produce milk. Savings there: $1.1 billion in one year, and $5.7 billion over five years.”
But the agriculture industry is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wasteful government spending, according to Schatz.
Citizens Against Government Waste estimates that there are between 55,000 and 77,000 government buildings sitting empty and unused across the country—but, Schatz qualifies, that’s just an estimate.
“The fact is the government isn't even sure how many empty buildings they have,” he says.
Another program Schatz says should be cut is the Essential Air Service program that benefits small airports generating little revenue.
“One in particular that comes to mind as very wasteful is the airport in Johnstown, Pennsylvania,” Schatz says, referring to John Murtha airport, named after the late congressman, which he says has “very few flights during the day or at night, and therefore little used and heavily subsidized.”
To hear about the politics of government spending--and programs Schatz says taxpayers could do without, including his question to members of Congress who don’t like “Prime Cuts,” check out this episode of Power Players.
ABC's Avery Miller, Robin Gradison, Betsy Klein, Alexandra Dukakis, Gary Westphalen, Jim Martin and Bob Bramson contributed to this episode.