Monday, November 29, 2010

Interesting little federal budget tool.

You've heard the newer complaints directed toward the Tea Party, since the racism charges didn't stick, right?  "Give us specifics as to what cuts you'd make to the federal budget."

Help comes from an unlikely source: NYT Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget Deficit.

Being that this is, as my hubby would say, Pravda on the Hudson, I somehow doubt they want anyone to notice that the budget deficit can be erased completely by 2030 (and cut to $360B by 2015) without touching any of the Bush tax cuts (including leaving the estate tax expired and capital gains taxes at current levels).  My "solution" involved a mix of 92% spending cuts & 8% tax increases--and it would be remarkably simple to do it with 100% spending cuts, by the way.

These are the options I chose & why:

Cut foreign aid in half.  I imagine this could be done--and then some--by simply ceasing to provide foreign aid to nations with atrocious human rights records.  In my happy place, I choose to assume that UN funding is included in this.

Eliminate earmarks.  Want pretty rest stops?  Pay for it your own damn self. 

Eliminate farm subsidies.  This is one sacred cow which will never be slain, but the bulk of "farm aid" goes to big agribusinesses.  I've been all for cutting farm subsidies since I discovered as a teenager that local farmers were planting corn and allowing it to die because they could get more money for doing that, from the federal government, than they could by growing & selling the corn.

Reduce the federal workforce by 10%.  The federal government is bloated.  This ties in to the next category, though:

Other cuts to federal government.  According to the article/tool, this includes eliminating some agencies, reducing funding for the Smithsonian & the National Park Service & eliminating the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools.  In my happy place, it also includes eliminating the Department of Education.

Cut aid to states by 5%.  Again, you want it, you pay for it yourself.

Reduce nuclear arsenal and state spending.  This is not a huge reduction in the nuclear arsenal, and frankly we can always build new nukes if needed, nor do I see space-based missiles as a hugely needed weapons category.

Cancel or delay some weapons programs.  These things have notoriously bloated budgets and such long lead times that by the time the weapons are put into place, they're no longer state of the art.

Reduce the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to 60,000 by 2015.  Look, I'd like to stay until we're sure the job is done.  Realistically, though, if we can't get it done in the next five years, we can't get it done, period.

Enact medical malpractice reform.  Tort reform is one of the biggest reasons doctors are actually willing to practice in Texas.  Theoretical cost savings aside, I think this would lead to reduced costs for individuals and a better standard of care overall.  (VBACs for all, dammit!  Fuck you, John Edwards!)

Increase Medicare & Social Security eligibility to age 70.  Harsh, I know, but necessary until we find a better solution than those two programs.

Cap Medicare growth starting in 2013.  The description says of this: "Among other things, this would crack down on many hospitals and doctors with the highest costs."  This is significant because costly tests are often performed unnecessarily.  (See: CT scans, which actually deliver a high dose of radiation and, to boot, aren't as clear as MRI scans.)

Tighten eligibility for disability.  I've got relatives who chase SSI like it's the fucking Holy Grail.  Some of them actually are disabled, but more of them are lazy.  Thankfully, the lazy ones have thus far been denied, but I'm sure that doesn't apply to everyone's relatives.

Use an alternate measure for inflation.  One which, preferably, reflects reality.

Payroll tax: subject some incomes above $106,000 to tax.  In a perfect world, we'd scrap the current tax system and go with the FairTax.  In the meantime, this portion of withholding is minute.  We can afford it.  This is my only tax increase.

Now, here's what I didn't cut: Air Force and Navy fleets.  "Noncombat military compensation and overhead."  This is code for: fuck over retirees and vets for their health care again.  I'm not a fan of that, nor of the idea of taking housing allowance into consideration when computing pay increases.  Benefits like the housing allowance, bonuses, etc make the military appealing.  To, you know, the 1% of the population which has served.


Charlene said...

SS is deducted from occupational income up to $8000. It should be deducted from all occupational income. That fixes the SS problem immediately.

Albatross said...

Many good ideas. I especially like the one about cutting foreign aid. And, yes, in my book that would include the UN.

peter said...

As far as the UN, boot it from the USA and I'm sure we'd save a nice chunk of dough.
Good job. When you hit 35 I'll vote for you.