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The Budget Simulator

In dissing the GOP’s website on budget cutting, I wished for a tool that was far more thorough.  Here it is.  I got the deficit down to 60% of GDP by 2018, while not making any cuts I considered particularly tough.  Choices I made included:

Reducing Afghanistan/Iraq troops to 30,000 by 2015.

Allowing all Bush tax cuts, except the AMT, to expire.

Grow discretionary spending at the President’s projection (although I would grow non-security spending instead of security spending).

About $170 billion in defense spending cuts, canceling TARP and reduce food stamps to 2008 levels.

Raise the Social Security retirement age, change the COLA and include state workers.

Reduce insurance subsidies and enact Medicare vouchers (the tool actually increases the debt if you cancel healthcare reform completely, which is ... dubious).

Cut the federal work force by 5%, cut farm subsidies, earmarks and and some transportation programs.

Increase payroll tax, gas tax and carbon tax—balanced by a cut in the corporate tax.

Trim the mortgage interest deduction and kill biofuel subsidies.

The tools is not perfect, but I love it for giving people a taste of reality.  If you plugged either the Democrat or GOP platforms into it, the program would burst.  For example, is I take GOP boilerplate (maintain troops levels, cut all taxes, cut nothing on defense or Medicare, cut foreign aid and earmarks and TARP) we end up $4 trillion away from the objective with no possible way of balancing the budget.  You simply can’t make things work without cutting popular sending or increasing taxes.

Here’s the thing: as I went through this, I kept saying, “Well, I’d cut this, but there’s no way Congress would.” But none of these should be sacred cows, really.  Only in Washington are things like farm subsidies untouchable.  I’m reminded of a rant this week from Glenn Greenwald on the recent elections:

It makes perfect sense that the country loathes the political establishment.  Just look at its rancid fruits over the past decade:  a devastating war justified by weapons that did not exist; a financial crisis that our Nation’s Genuises failed to detect and which its elites caused with lawless and piggish greed; elections that seem increasingly irrelevant in terms of how the Government functions; grotesquely lavish rewards for the worst culprits juxtaposed with miserable unemployment and serious risks of having basic entitlements (Social Security) cut for ordinary Americans; and a Congress that continues to be owned, right out in the open, by the very interests that have caused so much damage.  The political establishment is rotten to its core, and the only thing that’s surprising is that the citizenry’s contempt isn’t even more intense than it is.  But precisely because that dynamic so clearly transcends Left/Right or Democratic/GOP dichotomies, little effort is expended to understand or explain it.

Glenn’s mad about different things than I am.  But across the country, incumbents—Republican and Democrats—are getting thrashed.  And it’s precisely because so much of Washington “wisdom” is anything but.  It’s because so many of our problems have obvious solutions, but those solutions are politically painful and will get politicians unelected.  The American people are getting sick of this attitude.  They seem to be saying, “You can stand for something and get unelected; or you can stand for nothing and get unelected.  Might as well do something.”

They could start by playing that budget game.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 05/21/10 at 04:17 AM in Politics Law, & Economics • Permalink

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