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An Open Letter to the Presidential Candidates: Want to Cut Waste? Here's How!

October 16, 2008

Dear Senators McCain and Obama:

In your series of Presidential debates, you have both expressed support for the idea of going through the budget "line by line" in order to root out waste and inefficiency. As watchdog organizations dedicated to the elimination of wasteful spending, the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) have spent years doing exactly that.

Both of our organizations maintain extensive lists of programs that could be cut or legislation that would reduce spending. We target programs that are either ineffective or duplicative, or activities best left to state and local governments or the private sector.

NTU's research arm, the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, through its BillTally program has compiled a list of pieces of legislation in the current Congress that would reduce spending, including examples like H.R. 5957, which would eliminate $35 billion worth of agricultural subsidies over five years. NTUF also holds a list of 2,150 spending cut bills introduced in the last nine Congresses that totaled over $9.5 trillion, only 69 of which were eventually signed into law for a savings of $89.6 billion. NTU also reviews data from the Administration's Program Assessment Rating Tool, which found that there were nearly 220 programs in 2007 that were ineffective or did not demonstrate results. This research is available from NTU staff or at

Another resource for spending cut information is "Prime Cuts," compiled by CCAGW's research arm, Citizens Against Government Waste, which contains 701 spending cut recommendations across the entire federal budget totaling $1.9 trillion over five years. It includes the elimination of duplicative and inefficient programs such as the Market Access Program, which funnels $231 million over five years to some of the largest and most profitable American companies for advertising abroad. It also makes tough calls, like canceling the NASA Mars Initiative, saving $11.5 billion over five years. It is available from CAGW staff or at

Whichever one of you emerges victorious from November's election will be faced with difficult choices when it comes to budgets and overall spending. By all accounts, our budget deficit will set a new record and could approach $1 trillion. Fortunately, there is a surplus of methods to achieve real savings for the taxpayer.

Through suggestions like ours and the important oversight provided by the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office, the Office of Management and Budget, and others, a McCain or Obama Administration could make real progress towards a leaner, more effective, and more accountable Federal government.


Duane Parde
National Taxpayers Union

Thomas A. Schatz
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste