The super committee tasked with cutting 1.2-1.5 trillion dollars from the federal budget has been a hot topic in many political circles nationally and in Oregon. That is not surprising, as the national tax discussions impact Oregon taxpayers greatly.

What is disappointing, however, is that much of the debate has focused in on the disagreements that Republicans and Democrats have on issues such as revenue and entitlements. Would it not make more sense to begin with our similarities, and then move on to the differences? 

OSPIRG did just that in teaming up with The National Taxpayers Union to develop $1 trillion in spending reductions, detailed in a new report, Toward Common Ground. Recommendations include:

· Cut subsidies that provide incentives that do more harm than good. An example is the tax credit for ethanol for which there is very little if any true benefits and substantial environmental harms. $60 billion would be saved with the subsidy’s elimination

· Eliminate subsidies to mature, profitable industries that don’t need the incentive. For example, the Market Access Program pays for overseas television advertising and other marketing for large companies and their trade organizations. The Cotton Council used the program to the create and promote an Indian reality TV show amongst other marketing schemes. Eliminating this program could save the taxpayer $2 billion over the next decade.

· Support common sense reforms to make government more efficient. For example, if the government were to take advantage of cloud computing and close hundreds of data centers as proposed by the Obama Administration it would save a shocking $160 billion over ten years.

· End funding for programs where there is authoritative consensus to do so. For example, the military has in many cases 50% to many spare parts that they continue to reorder. If the agencies were to work through existing spare parts while reforming their ordering and tracking systems they would save taxpayers $37 billion in future spare part purchases.

Now, of course both OSPIRG and National Taxpayers Union individually support cutting (far more) than what is in this report.

But the point is this: if OSPIRG and National Taxpayers’ Union can agree on $1 trillion in cuts, why can’t Congress do the same? The answer: they might. But let’s be clear: if they don’t, it will have less to do with “partisanship” and more to do with the immense power of special interests to keep their sweetheart deals regulated to the backrooms of Washington.

Many of the items on our list challenge long-standing subsidies to narrow special interests. While these expenditures serve little or no continuing public purpose, there will no doubt be intense lobbying efforts to preserve the handouts. However the general public is in favor of cutting these wasteful programs, it’s a matter of standing up taking action and changing the conversation we are having.

As we approach the upcoming legislative session and on a national scene let’s look towards our similarities’ first, then duke it out over the differences.