So What Would Democrats Eliminate?

Rep. Dick Gephardt (D.-Mo.) has no shame — which makes him the ideal Democratic presidential candidate.

On the trail, the former House minority leader is slashing President Bush for increasing government. Really. “President Bush said he was for limited government,” Gephardt said in a February 19 speech announcing his presidential candidacy. “Yet he brought back the era of big and bloated government.”

But in his speech Gephardt did not propose eliminating any government program, while he did propose several new ones. He also contradicted himself by attacking Bush for his “latest budget cuts.”

HUMAN EVENTS Assistant Editor David Freddoso went to the House last week to see if any of Gephardt’s Democratic colleagues had identified programs they think should be abolished. The results were a pretty thin gruel.

Except, of course, for the proposal of Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.). He said he would abolish the CIA.

If you could abolish any government program or agency, which one would you choose?

Rep. Robert Andrews (D.-N.J.): Price supports for agriculture. I think the idea of paying people not to grow food is really counterproductive. Second one I’d abolish would be OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which has the idea of subsidizing exports. I mean, if the market’s there for exports, people are going to do it. Those would be my two.

If you could abolish any government program or agency, which one would you choose?

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D.-Md.): Well, I haven’t really thought too much about that. If you come back tomorrow and ask, I’d probably have an answer for you.

Congresswoman Cheeks-Kilpatrick? I’m David Freddoso from HUMAN EVENTS.

Rep. Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick (D.-Mich.): HUMAN EVENTS? What’s that?

We’re a national conservative weekly.

Cheeks-Kilpatrick: Ah, a conservative weekly.

Right. This week I’m asking a question of mostly Democrats-

Cheeks-Kilpatrick: That’s right, you should always ask both sides.

Exactly. What I’m asking is, if you could abolish any government program or agency, which one would you choose?

Cheeks-Kilpatrick: You know, I haven’t thought about that one. . .

If there was one government program or agency that you could just eliminate, just like that, what would it be for you?

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D.-Ariz.): Oh, wow, that’s a great question. (Pauses.) It’s a good question, I hadn’t ever thought about it that way. Well, being a freshman here, and having that perspective, I would probably. . .Give me a second. There’s a couple, but you asked me for one.

Well, if you want to talk about a couple of them, that would be great.

Grijalva: (Long pause.) I would think that possibly-I can’t come up with one off the top of my head. I’m kind of conflicted with about three or four.

Oh, really? Well, if you just want to shoot out a couple-

Grijalva: Some of them need real reform. I don’t know if elimination of those programs is necessary, but one that, given the present structure needs some real reform in terms of how they function would be the Bureau of Indian Affairs. . . . And I think that right now, some of the more antiquated kinds of functions that government has been used to performing here, having to do with how we uh-another agency I would look at is the whole trade agency, and what we’re doing with NAFTA, and the Central American free trade issue that’s coming up, and Singapore and Chile. I think that needs more congressional oversight, and needs to be reformed. . .

But you wouldn’t get rid of any of the-

Grijalva: No.

OK. You’d say you haven’t really thought about it, then, like you said.

Grijalva: Yeah.

If you could abolish any government program or agency-just get rid of it overnight-which one would you pick?

Rep. Denise Majette (D.-Ga.): Oh. Well, I don’t know that I would say there should be any that I would just get rid of. I think there may be a lot of reorganization and re-vamping that needs to take place.

So there wouldn’t be any of them that you would say actually does something bad or counterproductive, you might just say there are some that might do what they do better, or something like that.

Majette: That would be something that I would have to think about a bit more, but just as an initial reaction, I can’t say there is any agency that should be totally done away with-

Rep. Adam Putnam (R.-Fla.): (exiting the elevator, quietly remarks) Oh, I can give you a list.

Majette: I think that there could be a little more tweaking and refining.

Thank you, Congresswoman.

If you could eliminate any one federal agency or program, just get rid of it, what would it be?

Rep. Jim McDermott (D.-Wash.): You’re asking me to talk while I’m running down the Hill here? (He and the reporter descend the Capitol steps. The Congressman pauses for several seconds.) The CIA would be my choice.

Really? (Laughs.)

McDermott: (Chuckling.) Yeah. Why not?

Sure. Thank you.

McDermott: Okay.

If there were one government agency or program that you could just get rid of-it would be gone-what would you pick?

Rep. Donald Payne (D.-N.J.): Well, I really haven’t given much thought to it. I’ve been trying to deal with how can we make the agencies we have more effective, but I haven’t really spent time figuring out which ones we could eliminate. I think one thing we could certainly do better is the question of the excessive amount of money that we’re spending on some wasteful military exercises and weaponry. It’s been noted in the past omnibus bill that the missile defense system no longer has to prove that it can go past stage two, and I think we could continue to develop something with the basic premise being unsound. And so-

So you’d want to cut off funding for the missile defense program, then?

Payne: Well, I think that unless it’s going to work, there’s some question as to whether it will work. It has failed up to now. . .It would be great if it works. I mean, no one would be against having some ultimate protection. However, if, after a hundred billion dollars is spent. . .it doesn’t add up, we should know that before we expend unnecessary money.

So Congressman, there isn’t any agency or program you’d look at and say, "Hey that’s actually doing harm." You’d say that in general, you’d look at all the programs and say, "They all seem to be doing something good, but maybe they’re not doing it right or they’re not doing enough of it."

Payne: Right, I-

You don’t think there’s any program that actually-

Payne: Well, I haven’t looked at it that carefully, but I think there could be some combining of programs, there’s always efficiencies, and we’re all in favor of that. Just to say there’s a program that should be eliminated, I would have to look at all of the programs that are around then, to find out which is performing the least efficiently. Our goal is to review, and I’m sure there may be programs that are obsolete. . . .

If there were one federal agency or program that you could just eliminate-it would just be gone-what would you choose?

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D.-Miss.): INS.

The INS?

Thompson: Yeah. Is that all right?

Oh, yeah, it’s a fine answer. If you want to elaborate at all-

Thompson: It’s proven that it’s absolutely incompetent, and there’s no redeeming value in trying to save it in its present form. And I think its duties can be passed on to other agencies. We can get rid of it. We should get rid of it.