What a Tea Party budget looks like

bachmann_paul.gi.top.jpgTea Party favorites Rep. Michele Bachmann and Sen. Rand Paul are proposing their own budget plans. By Charles Riley, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The Tea Party campaigned on scaling back the size of government, and now we know how they want to do it.

With Washington buzzing with proposals to cut the budget, Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Michele Bachmann -- two high-profile Tea Party members -- have each released laundry lists of spending cuts.

The numbers in their proposals are staggering. Paul wants to slash $500 billion in fiscal year 2011, which only has eight remaining months. Bachmann lists more than $400 billion in cuts.

The proposals are not likely to go very far as legislation. But at a time when lawmakers on both sides of the aisle acknowledge the need for fiscal restraint, the Paul and Bachman proposals clearly stake out one extreme.

Their cuts would force fundamental change in the way Washington conducts business.

Among Paul's proposals: gut the Department of Energy and the Department of Education and sharply curtail discretionary spending.

The cuts:

  • legislative branch -- 23%
  • federal courts -- 32%
  • Agriculture Department -- 30%
  • Commerce Department -- 54%
  • Health and Human Services -- 26%
  • Homeland Security -- 43%
  • Interior Department -- 78%

The legislation also lists programs for elimination. How about ... the Affordable Housing Program, the Commission on Fine Arts, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State Justice Institute.

"Oh my god. That's just crazy," said Isabel Sawhill, an economist who studies fiscal issues at the Brookings Institution. "Really that is wacko."

While the numbers are eye-popping, Paul's proposal is limited mostly to non-defense "discretionary" spending, which is less than 20% of the total budget.

Paul does not propose significant changes to the other 80% -- the funding for defense, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security -- where much of the growing debt problem is rooted.

Paul does want to cut military spending by $48 billion, but that's a small slice of the Pentagon budget.

Meanwhile, Bachmann's budget proposal, released on Tuesday, lists more than $400 billion in potential cuts.

Bachmann would replace farm subsidies with farmer savings accounts, eliminate or dramatically scale back the Department of Education (save $29 billion or $31 billion) and slash programs at the Department of Justice ($7.8 billion).

She would also cap Veterans Affairs health care spending, privatize the Transportation Safety Administration, Federal Aviation Administration and Amtrak, repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, and open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to leasing.

Billed as a list of "potential" cuts, it remains unclear whether Bachmann plans to introduce legislation based on the list.

The Tea Party proposals come at a time when Washington has budget on the brain. President Obama is calling for a five-year spending freeze in non-security discretionary spending during the State of the Union address.

And on Tuesday, the new House Republican majority approved a resolution pledging to cut non security federal spending to "2008 levels or less." GOP aides say that could mean about $60 billion in savings.

Last week, the conservative House Republican Study Committee proposed a bill that would shave $2.5 trillion off of spending over the next decade.

"Conservatives have a free ride right now because they can propose these things and know they are not going to go anywhere," Sawhill said, adding that Obama wields the veto pen. To top of page

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