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About one-quarter of that amount is for highway repair and maintenance, necessary for safety. But the other three-quarters ($30 billion a year) are for new highways. The Republicans should zero-fund new construction and say that America needs a three-year moratorium on new highway construction. Repair and maintain what we have, but we will have to do without new federal roads for the next year to save $30 billion. It’s a tradeoff, they should say, but we need deficit reduction more than we need the new roads.
Other prominent candidates for zero funding are Obama’s National Infrastructure Innovation and Finance Fund, a pork-barrel construction project ($4 billion a year), and his Build America Bonds, which provide for a federal subsidy to states and localities to pay the interest and principal on their bonds for infrastructure ($11.5 billion a year).
Together, these three programs cost us $45.5 billion a year, close to the GOP spending reduction goals. Nobody is going to bleed if they are cut, and most voters will accept the necessity of zero-funding them for at least a year and possibly for three years.
For additional political advantage, Republicans should zero-fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting ($500 million a year) and the National Endowments for the Arts and for the Humanities ($500 million a year).
And, for political cover, the House should propose rolling back the congressional budget to 2008 levels (saving $500 million a year).
Add in $4 billion cuts already agreed to and $6.5 just proposed by the White House, and you come to $57.5 billion — very close to the $61 billion the GOP proposed.
Then the Republicans should leave all other federal agencies intact with no cuts. They should present the Democrats with bills for continuing funding for the other agencies that are identical to those that would have passed the Senate. Then, if the Democrats choose to vote against the funding for these other agencies, it is they who will have held the country hostage and closed down the government. Republicans would be perfectly willing to keep all the other agencies open.
And, by unilaterally zero-funding the targeted agencies, Republicans will, de facto, have accomplished their budget reduction goals and be able easily to explain them to America. And who will care that these agencies are zero-funded?
The result will inevitably be a total victory for the Republican Party and for those who want to cut the budget.
Then, Republicans should take the next step and roll back Medicaid funding to 2008 levels and block-grant it to the states.
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