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Nicole Tichon is the Tax and Budget Reform Advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group; Andrew Moylan is Director of Government Affairs for the National Taxpayers Union.

Our nation faces unprecedented fiscal challenges, as the commitments we've made now and into the future far outpace our fiscal capacity. Congress, the President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and citizens across the country must grapple with very difficult decisions about how we can put our fiscal house in order. It will be critical to reach out across party lines and across ideological persuasions to achieve common-sense reforms that can bring us closer to balance.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and National Taxpayers Union (NTU) have joined together to propose a list of 30 specific recommendations to reform our future spending commitments. If enacted in their entirety, these changes would save taxpayers over $600 billion in total by 2015, the target date for the Fiscal Commission to reduce our publicly-held debt-to-GDP ratio to a more sustainable level of 60 percent. While our organizations have often differed about the proper regulatory scope of government and a host of tax policies, we are united in the belief that we spend far too much money on ineffective programs that do not serve the best interests of the American people.

The cuts deal with specific reforms to entitlement programs, defense spending, wasteful subsidies and a broad range of discretionary items of a smaller scale. While these proposals won't get us all the way there, it is a start that could establish some common ground and make government more accountable in the process.

Some of the suggestions are aimed at procedural improvements, like collecting errant payments for Supplemental Security Income or housing subsidies. Others seek to eliminate programs that are wasteful or unnecessary, like the Market Access Program, which helps some of the most profitable companies in the world advertise their products abroad.

Every item on the list includes a five-year savings estimate for the Commission's 2015 target. Those estimates are backed up by authoritative official sources such as the Congressional Budget Office, Government Accountability Office, Joint Committee on Taxation, or the Office of Management and Budget, as well as bipartisan panels and audit agencies. The recommendations are specific, detailed, and actionable items that Congress could pursue right now to reduce spending.

Most importantly, we strongly believe this list represents a consensus that can be reached between political factions that spend a great deal of their time fighting one another. In our estimation, these recommendations reduce spending without significantly degrading the level of services provided to the American taxpayer and without neglecting the federal government's commitments.

As a nation, we can no longer afford to delay difficult decisions. It is our hope that this list of spending reductions can serve as a starting point for long overdue reforms and lay the groundwork for a bipartisan approach to those decisions.

What follows is a general summary of spending reductions that fall into four rough categories: ending wasteful subsidies, improving contracting and asset acquisition, improving program execution and government operations, and addressing outdated or ineffective military programs to align spending with current needs. Download the full report for a list of each specific recommendation,with an estimate of its savings by 2015, totaling over $600 billion, and a reference to the source from which the estimate is based.

 

Follow Nicole Tichon on Twitter: www.twitter.com/uspirg