Progressives Can Do Better: An Alternative to “Operation Offset”

With great fanfare, and recalling the “Gingrich Revolution” of the 1990s, House conservatives yesterday proposed a broad set of spending cuts they said would help offset the costs of the Katrina reconstruction effort. Their plan, “Operation Offset,” reduces the budget by $500 billion over 10 years, and does so in large part by dismantling programs that invest in middle- and working-class Americans.

Progressives can do better. As we show below, it’s possible to cut far more unnecessary federal spending ($688 billion), accomplish it in half the time (just five years), and do it while upholding the principles of fiscal responsibility and concern for the common good.


$327 billion: Roll back the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans [without sunsets, 2005-09; CBPP]
$65 billion: Clarify the definition of offshore tax shelters [Joint Committee on Taxation]


$12 billion: Eliminate roughly half of the 6,371 special earmarked projects of the 2005 transportation bill [MSNBC]


$43 billion: Permit mail order prescription drug purchases, which offer lower overheard costs, bulk purchasing and fewer dispensing errors [Lewin Group]


$8.5 billion: Roll back the tax breaks, loan guarantees, and other subsidies for the electricity, coal, nuclear, natural gas and oil industries in the 2005 energy bill [San Francisco Chronicle]


$200 billion: Eliminate several Defense Department weapons programs that are either unnecessary (such as the F/A 22 Raptor and the DD(X)) or counter to our national security interests (like space weapons and “bunker buster” nuclear bombs) [L. Korb, “A Realistic Defense for America”]

Agricultural Subsidies

$30 billion: Eliminate export subsidies [Oxfam]
$2.5 billion: Reduce cotton subsidies [Environmental Working Group]
$845 million: Reduce maximum payment limits on what producers can receive from $360,000 to $250,000, and related subsidy reductions [CRS, “Agriculture: Prospective Issues for Congress”]