Thursday, December 22, 2016
The crazy war on salt again
The FDA is a very risk averse agency, which can cause more deaths than it prevents. And the received wisdom about salt is that the amount people currently consume is bad for you. That has come under very powerful scientific challenge recently but the FDA are sticking by the old theory: Whether current average levels of salt consumption are dangerous is assumed rather than proven. So they are at present proposinging guidelines on salt consumption that are unrealistically low. So the article below challenges them. The article has been followed by a rejoinder but the rejoinder is mainly bureacratic -- talking about what people say -- and not convincing. The article below is "Reducing Sodium Intake in the Population" by David A. McCarron and Michael H. Alderman.
Trump Admin Has Opportunity to Rebuild Military, Shrink Bloated Government
Washington D.C. is all about politics, policy and procedure. The Department of Defense receives plenty of political and policy attention, but few care to look at the procedures. It’s not sexy. It doesn’t raise campaign funds. But that is precisely what needs fixing. The incoming Trump administration needs to begin shifting the defense budget away from baseline budgeting to a zero-based budgeting model.
Defense advisors recently voiced plans to rebuild the military with reallocated funds earned by cutting bureaucracy and wasteful spending within the DoD. But American Enterprise Institute defense analyst Mackenzie Eaglen rightly calls this plan a fantasy. There is simply not enough fraud, waste and abuse to yield the $55 to $60 billion per year in new money needed for Trump’s ambitious reinvestment plans, she argues. This historically inadequate snark-hunt approach to the budget process too often defines how elected officials try to balance a budget.
Zero-based budgeting is an alternative system proven to decrease expenditures and improve efficiency within private sector companies and public institutions. This budget method identifies wasteful spending and helps purge unnecessary expenses by obligating each department to justify its proposed spending each and every year. This method automatically eliminates the practice of carrying over the budget from the previous year. And that’s important since the current baseline budgeting system requires the government to set the previous year’s spending as the starting point for the next year’s budget.
Under the current system, preparers assume all of the same programs and operating procedures, and only adjust the following year’s expenditures to account for actual spending in the current year, inflation and population growth. Since inflation and population growth are almost always positive, the budget almost always rises.
This automatic carryover of expenses under baseline budgeting actually encourages spending. Defense officials regularly exhaust their funds in a period known as “use it or lose it” so as to ensure they do not lose money in future budgets. Researchers found that federal procurement spending was five times higher in the last week of the fiscal year than the weekly average for the rest of the year, and the quality of the projects was scored well below average.
Zero-based budgeting, while initially time-consuming, has saved large corporations 10 percent to 25 percent, according to independent studies. And those savings are more sustainable over a longer period than traditional cost reduction methods, such as lower level workforce reduction and outsourcing. If the DoD achieved just a 10 percent savings over the entire organization, those savings would amount to $53 billion.
The zero-based budgeting model could be tested within the DoD by applying it first to the bloated bureaucracy. The growth in civilian and staff numbers continues to exceed what is necessary, while the number of general and flag officers positions has increased disproportionately to the personnel they oversee:
Roughly 2,000 GFOs oversaw 12 million military personnel in 1945.
Now, nearly 900 GFOs oversee 1.3 million active duty personnel.
In fact, over the past 30 years, the military’s end-strength deployable/fieldable forces has decreased 38 percent, but the ratio of four-star officers to the overall force has increased by 65 percent.
A 10 percent cut among general and flag officers and their staffs alone could save nearly $11.5 billion over 5 years.
Now critics will say that other sectors of government should be forced to adopt such a procedure. And we agree. But a successful annual or even biannual implementation in the DoD first would provide the bipartisan incentive necessary for officials to adopt the process elsewhere. After all, imagine the impact of a stringent budget process that required all government agencies to justify everything they spend. The annual requirement to defend each and every expenditure as necessary and worthwhile would cause an agency like the EPA to collapse under the weight of its own uselessness.
The traditional government budgeting system is simply not working. Zero-based budgeting could specifically help refocus defense priorities by ensuring money is spent in areas that promote readiness. A biannual application may also improve the outcome. Successful implementation in the DoD would encourage Congress to target other departments of government that would have a difficult time justifying their existence.
The Road to Better Infrastructure
Donald Trump’s promise to increase federal spending on infrastructure—an extra $1 trillion over ten years—may quickly set the tone for the incoming president’s relationship with Congress. Will it come to blows? Who will prevail: big spending “National Greatness” advocates or fiscal conservatives? Independent Institute Research Fellow Gabriel Roth argues there needn’t be a showdown, because infrastructure improvements don’t require tapping the federal till. Road improvements, for instance, could be funded via electronically collected tolls. In addition, the federal and state governments could rely on private financing, as Canada has done successfully for air traffic control.
Regarding surface roads, the case for greater reliance on the private sector is stronger than skeptics are willing to admit. If full privatization isn’t viable, then public roads could be operated by private firms that maintain government-set standards, “with compensation proportional to the volume of traffic, at rates to be determined by open bidding,” Roth writes. At rates of 2 or 3 cents per vehicle mile, this policy be an easier sell than policymakers had imagined. Roth also makes a case for adopting the “user pays” principle for funding transportation infrastructure.
“Those who feel that transportation users merit special treatment could campaign for ‘transportation stamps’—analogous to food stamps—so that service providers are not forced to pay,” he writes. In conclusion: “Trump could help deliver more effective, efficient infrastructure by enabling private and public providers to supply facilities for which beneficiaries choose to pay. It’s time for federal subsidies to reach the end of the road.”
Trump Orders Up a Fast-Food CEO for Labor Secretary
One of Donald Trump’s controversial picks for a cabinet post (but which one isn’t controversial?) is restaurant executive Andrew Puzder for Secretary of Labor. One virtue he can bring to the table—one sorely absent from most Labor secretaries—is a first-hand understanding of how federal regulations affect employment in fast food and other highly competitive industries.
“Puzder has the unconventional idea that government intervention in the labor market usually prevents labor and management from doing things that would be good for both,” writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman.
Head of the company that owns Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s (whose combined workforce is about 75,000 employees), Puzder is a vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act. In three op-eds written for the Wall Street Journal, he has taken aim at Obamacare, including related statutes enforced by the Labor Department. “As a CEO, Mr. Puzder knows how harmful these rules are,” writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow John R. Graham. “As Labor Secretary, he can relieve many of them, even without full repeal of Obamacare.”
Trump Picks Fiscal Hawk to Lead Budget Office
America's debt is an issue Trump has not forgotten about and intends to tackle head on.
Now that the Electoral College has cast its votes securing the election victory of Donald Trump to become the next president of the United States, perhaps the media will turn its attention to the issues that propelled Trump to victory. Well, one can dream anyway.
One of several issues that has been off the radar for quite some time is our nation’s nearly $20 trillion debt, half of which is thanks to the spending policies of the federal government under Barack Obama. To be fair, the federal government has had a spending problem for several decades now, and the mountain of debt is so enormous that some people have quit paying attention. Life does continue, after all, and the sky hasn’t fallen.
Fortunately, Trump’s selection of Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) indicates that America’s debt is an issue that he has not forgotten about and one that he intends to tackle head on.
Speaking highly of Mulvaney, Trump stated, “We are going to do great things for the American people with Mick Mulvaney leading the Office of Management and Budget. Right now we are nearly $20 trillion in debt, but Mick is a very high-energy leader with deep convictions for how to responsibly manage our nation’s finances and save our country from drowning in red ink.”
Trump added, “With Mick at the head of OMB, my administration is going to make smart choices about America’s budget, bring new accountability to our federal government, and renew the American taxpayers' trust in how their money is spent.”
Trump has made a smart choice, and Mulvaney is yet another individual that conservatives, especially fiscal conservatives, can be happy to support.
Mulvaney’s responsibility as director of the OMB will be to guide Trump’s budget proposal negotiations. His performance in Congress is that of a solid fiscal conservative. Having been elected to Congress in 2010 as part of the first wave of Tea Party conservatives, he has a reputation for pushing for budget cuts and is an advocate for smaller limited government.
Mulvaney advocates shrinking the federal workforce and privatizing certain functions of the federal government. He’s also a proponent of shutting down the government instead of approving more spending for programs that the government has no business funding, such as Planned Parenthood’s gruesome abortion machine.
Josh Siegel of The Heritage Foundation notes that as the founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, the most conservative group in Congress, Mulvaney was a leading voice to push for cuts in both domestic and defense spending. The Freedom Caucus has a list of 232 regulations dealing with climate change, nutrition, immigration, labor and energy that it wants Trump to repeal, and with Mulvaney as the budget director, that should happen in short order.
Fighting the establishment is another thing Mulvaney is known for, which ought to please Trump supporters. He voted against raising the debt ceiling in 2011 despite the U.S. being on the brink of default and insisted that its passage be paired with “Cut, Cap and Balance,” a measure to slash federal spending and impose a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. In 2013, Mulvaney also led an effort to defund ObamaCare and later that same year declined to support the re-election of John Boehner.
On some issues, Mulvaney has been known to work with Republicans and Democrats, particularly on defense spending. Siegel notes, “He has opposed the use of a separate war funding account known as overseas contingency operations, which is a budgetary maneuver used to avoid spending caps to fund military and anti-terror operations abroad, such as the military campaign against ISIS.” The military is in serious need of any upgrade, but the Pentagon is also rife with waste, and Mulvaney knows it.
It will ultimately be Mulvaney’s task to figure out how that defense spending can occur without raising the debt even more. His reputation as a conservative “fiscal hawk” will be put to the test as he figures out what federal spending on wasteful programs will need to be cut in order to increase defense spending while simultaneously reducing the debt.
Fortunately, his track record shows that he is a solid pick to help the incoming Trump administration make America great again.
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Posted by JR at 1:27 AM