I took care of that deficit thing. Ya got anything else needs doin’?

Thanks to Phillip for bringing our attention to this NYT page, where you, too, can try to eliminate the national deficit.

I managed to do it. And it wasn’t especially hard. It was a little hard, just not especially. I’ll be happy to let the Congress use my plan, for a consideration of a mere half a percent of the amount by which I reduced it.

The only thing I did that I had real qualms about (and yeah, I know that credible arguments can be mounted against everything I did, but the rules of the game, in real life and here, are that you’ve got to do something) was when I decided to cap Medicare growth starting in 2013. That sounds to me suspiciously like the kind of arbitrary limit that Tom Davis et al. want to enact in South Carolina. But I excused myself in the hope that it would exert downward pressure on costs. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t, though. The only way the federal gummint would really be able to lower costs is if we are ALL in the program — then there wouldn’t be anyone left to raise prices on. Note that I did NOT raise the age of Medicare eligibility. That’s because I think it should be extended to everybody — except that those of us under 65 would pay for it, just the way we do for employer-provided insurance.

I really went back and forth on that one. But if I didn’t do it, I fell short of the goal, and there wasn’t anything else I would consider doing. If I did do it, I exceeded the goal. (As you can see if you check my plan, I have surpluses. Am I good or what?)

And of course, of COURSE, we should raise the age for full Social Security eligibility. Average life expectancy today is 77.9 years. Those born in 1900 only expected to live 50 years. So 70 is like the new, I don’t know, 45.

And yeah, I know states are hurting, but aid to states is just not a core function — and maybe not even a legitimate function at all — of the federal government.

I didn’t touch military spending, particularly not ongoing operations — except for cutting some new weapons programs.

Overall, 33 percent of my deficit reduction came from tax increases, and 67 percent from spending cuts. So take THAT, all of you think I love all tax increases.

Seriously, I charted a middle road on the whole Bush tax cuts issue, because I find both sides of the debate sort of persuasive and sort of not. Democrats’ ranting about Republicans’ “tax cuts for the rich” leave me cold. So does Republicans’ love for tax cuts for the rich. Heh. The issue is what makes sense for both our economy and the proper functions of government. Hence my middle road.

16 thoughts on “I took care of that deficit thing. Ya got anything else needs doin’?

  1. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    For office workers, raising the retirement age may be reasonable, but for those who have more physically demanding jobs, who may well be relying on SS because they barely make ends meet and have little left for a 401(k), not so much….

  2. Doug Ross

    Piece of cake…


    69% from spending cuts and 31% from tax increases. Easiest place to cut is all the military spending. If you want to fight useless “wars”, make the citizens pay for it.

    There are plenty of easier solutions. A flat income tax with no deductions or exemptions and a national sales tax would be the best start. Reduce the IRS to where all they do is collect money – no audits, no tax filings for individuals, no loopholes. The tax code is the weapon of choice of political kickbacks.

  3. Doug Ross

    Here’s an idea – give every American one “vote” to try and balance the budget and any item that gets 2/3 of the votes is automatically implemented.

    That would be a government of the people.

  4. bud

    Most people balanced the budget with mostly budget cuts. I’m an exception. As an old school Keynsian I believe we do the least harm to economic growth by taxing, especially the wealthy, vs spending cuts. I did slash military spending as much as the model allowed. I would have cut more if given that as an option.

  5. bud

    Just curious Brad, why didn’t you reduce the nuclear arsenal and space spending? That seemed like a freebee to me. It doesn’t save much but in the post cold war era there is absolutely not one teeny tiny bit of need for nearly 2000 nuclear weapons. We can easily deter any prospective threat with half that. If given the option I would have cut that to about 300.

  6. Brad

    Thanks for asking, Bud.

    That one really bugged me, because it lumped together the nuclear arsenal and NASA, two entirely unrelated things. I could see getting some savings from measured reductions in the arsenal (in light of changed strategic needs), but I’m a space geek. I think exploring space has, since Eisenhower’s and Kennedy’s time, been an enterprise that brings out some of the best things in the American character. I would not abandon the exploration of space. I believe it’s something we need to continue to do in good times and bad, in peace and in war.

    I know many, many people disagree with me strongly on that, but there it is. If you want to really trash my position, you could say McConnell has his Hunley; I have my space program. But at least I’m bowing down to a brighter future than to the worst days of our past…

  7. Brad

    Oh, wait! I’m sorry! I’m so stupid!

    All I did on that one was read the headline and then pass it by. I assumed “space spending” meant NASA exploration — because that’s often a favorite target of budget cutters — and just moved on.

    I THOUGHT that was a stupid move to link those two things, but it turns out that I was the one being stupid…

    Actually, in a microcosmic way, I suppose this helps illustrate how silly it is to set up exercises such as this one, which encourage us to think that deficit-cutting is relatively easy. Of course, in a republic, we should never do what Doug suggests and cut the deficit by plebiscite. I don’t believe in government by plebiscite under most circumstances, but especially not where it comes to something so central to the legislature’s role as writing a budget. Spending priorities must be assessed holistically, in the aggregate, in a deliberative process. It is wrong to set the budget by a mathematical function based on a large number of independent decisions. That might cut the deficit, but it will scramble priorities.

    Not that priorities aren’t already scrambled — but that’s because our political system is undermined by a lot problems (which we discuss a lot here). One might posit that this justifies abandoning our republican system for pure democracy or other such mechanisms, but I would not agree. I believe in engaging the system to try to make it better, not abandoning it.

  8. Ralph Hightower

    Actually, NASA’s budget is directed by the Congress critters that say you must spend this amount of money in this category (which helps their district or state), X% here.

    Utah’s Senators and Representatives are designing the next Heavy Lift Launcher for NASA by mandating that they use solid rocket boosters, which by the way, are manufactured in their state.

    Since when were Lindsey Graham, Jim Demint, James Clyburn, and the rest, rocket scientist?

    Give NASA the money to do their job. Just don’t tell them how to do it. After all, they’re the rocket scientist; not Congress!

    Yes, I am a space geek also. I grew up watching Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and I watched Columbia’s first maiden voyage on TV; also saw US half of Apollo/Soyuz launch.

    I don’t know when the US will fly again in space on their own. I think I’ll need Prozac after the final Space Shuttle launch.

  9. Brad

    Yes, I know this is a gross oversimplification, but I’m going to say it anyway:

    We were a better country when we were in a hurry to explore space: More hopeful, more can-do, more innocent, more open, more interesting, more exciting. Now, we’re all about what we CAN’T do, and blaming each other for it.

  10. Doug Ross

    Why does it have to be space? Why couldn’t those same engineering minds be assigned the task of making us an oil-independent nation? or figuring out a way to produce food and clean water efficiently?

    There are so many problems here on Earth worth solving, it’s difficult to look at NASA these days as worthwhile.

  11. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    Since we are no longer in a contest with the other Superpower–cause there isn’t one–to see who’d rocket’s bigger, we need to focus our resources on things that really matter–like pure science research that might result in a cure for something or a fix for global warming or whatever–except we don’t know what it is yet. Not funding a known applicability, but the kind of lab time that results in serendipitous wonders..

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