Suddenly we're all about the federal deficit and how to get our national budget under control.
Yeah - right.
Obviously, folks have not been paying attention to how we got here and even more to what it will take to get back to even mild deficits. It feels too good to be angry and believe in funny arithmetic. In fact, getting mad is now seen as more "real" than offering solutions other than nonsense quick fixes.
Consider Gov. Tim Pawlenty, stealth candidate for President.
The centerpiece of Pawlenty’s “plan” is this:
Balancing the budget will require some tough decisions. Congress must reduce discretionary spending in real terms, with exceptions for key programs such as military, veterans, and public safety. The Congress must also reject costly new spending initiatives, like new health care entitlements.Collender writes that “Someone needs to tell Pawlenty that discretionary spending except for ‘military, veterans, and public safety’ is less than $400 billion a year.” On January 4, the Wall Street Journal reported that “The federal government’s budget deficit reached $389 billion through the first three months of fiscal 2010, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said Thursday [...] The deficit reached a record high of $1.4 trillion in fiscal 2009, more than triple the previous high set just the previous year.”
Try running the math on that. [More]
In a feeble attempt at fairness, this delusion is widely held. All of us have things we hate in the federal budget and want to see cut to balance the budget. It's just that this list is too short and too tiny.
Recalling what really is driving our deficits is more uncomfortable.
Deficit concern will vanish like a bad dream if your slice of the budget is up for the axe. Will farmers support cuts in ag spending?
No, seriously. Won't they be more likely to point our what a drop in the bucket our ~$20B is? So if we assume anybody with say, a budget claim of less than $20B can use the same excuse, what can we cut? [Late link to ag budget post]
This is what sooner or later will have to be recognized by even the loudest critic. And as conservative Bruce Bartlett pointed out, thinking we're going to cut much from the federal budget is wishful thinking - regardless of how much political power either party has.
Every time I try to explain why our fiscal problems are so deep that higher revenues must be considered, some nitwit always says to me, “Why don’t we just cut spending?” It’s as if the choice between raising taxes and cutting spending is no more difficult than the choice to buy melon or cantaloupe for breakfast. What these nitwits implicitly assume is that we live in some kind of dictatorship where Ron Paul has Stalin-like power and spending can be cut with the wave of a hand, where no one has to worry about getting the votes in Congress for politically painful legislation, where the budget largely consists entirely of foreign aid, where there are no entitlement programs or interest on the debt to pay, and where the primary beneficiaries of spending (the elderly) aren’t the largest and fastest growing voting bloc in America. [More]I don't know what economic conditions will exist when Americans get serious about cutting their own entitlements and raising their own taxes, but that is who will have to make the decision. More frustrating to me, I'm not really clear at all on how I can even create modest defenses for my welfare and wealth during such conditions.
We simply have devised too many ways for too few people to bring legislative efforts to a halt, allowing the status quo to continue into those dangerous places.