Monday, November 15, 2010

You Fix the Federal Budget

It didn't take long for the deficit commission chairmen's proposals to be criticized from every section of the political spectrum. I personally think their ideas were too slanted against ordinary people--just the choice of Erskine Bowles, Clinton's chief of staff, as the "liberal" made it obvious this was going to be a joke from the progressive point of view.

But how hard is it to balance the federal budget? The Congressional battles make it seem like it is a Herculean task requiring unbearable sacrifice. The New York Times has a fun feature this week that allows you to play budget czar. Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget, published on November 13, is an interactive feature that lets you choose from an assortment of budget cuts and tax increases to balance the federal budget.

And it was easy to balance the budget! I selected all the military cuts available (relatively minor force adjustments), taxes return to Clinton-era levels, a carbon tax (because that makes good sense in terms of converting us to a sustainable energy policy) and NOTHING ELSE, and the budget for 2015 is almost balanced. Adding a few other tax increases can balance the budget in 2030--without cutting any other federal spending or cutting Social Security and Medicare.

The reason I picked so many military cuts is because the military is obscenely bloated. The military--incredibly--accounts for 54% of the federal budget. We spend more on our "defense" than the next 28 countries put together, and most of those 28 countries are our allies! See my article "Reduce the Federal Deficit by Cutting the Military Budget" (April 27).

Clearly if we had grown-ups in Washington who cared about the best interests of the nation, we could solve our country's problems relatively easily.

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