Hey, loyal readers, I offered a free lunch at St. Anne’s to anyone who could come up with a way to balance the federal budget. So far, no winner.
Come on, people, I hear they got a new shipment of government canned salmon — good stuff!
The problem is getting critical. As Paul Krugman argues in today’s NYTimes, the guys who want to “starve the beast,” of government by reducing federal revenues so much that government will be forced to cut services have pretty much achieved their goal. Federal revenues are down, spending is up, the budget is so far out of whack it just boggles the mind.
His column asks for the same thing mine did: OK, you got what you wanted, now what do we cut? Absent cuts now, he warns, we will have a true crisis, a true meltdown, and then we’ll all be in deep do-do and have to face the mess. Ideally we wouldn’t wait for that to happen, but we seem to lack the sort of leaders it would take to take intelligent, proactive measures.
Just to balance this year’s federal budget we’d need about a trillion dollars either in cuts or new revenue. Since new taxes are off the table, that means cuts.
And since military spending is also off the table — for some reason the US Military is that magical entity, a government program in which there is no wasted money anywhere. Every single dollar of the $800 billion we spend there is critical, essential, and not waste or excess profit — everything else in the budget will have to be cut by closer to 25 percent, or more. Who knows?
My offer still stands. Show me how to cut $1 trillion THIS YEAR, as the Republicans are screaming for. None of this pie in the sky predictions that the Bush, Clinton, Reagan and Carter White Houses were so fond of, always saying their methods would balance the budget in five years or seven, or something – always a date conveniently in the next administration, notice?
And your proposal has to be doable. And remember, no fair raising taxes and the military is sacred.
It would be nice if you’d also come up with a way to deal with the consequences of your cuts. Unless you can show how all the money you are cutting is coming out of funds being hidden away in Cayman Islands accounts, that $1 trillion represents a lot of jobs. The resulting unemployment, both direct and indirect, will be rather substantial. Might want to keep that in mind.
I found one comment put up by someone on Krugman’s post to be so interesting I pass it on. This person, as I, really does question the need for all that military spending. He also questions the so-called conservative credentials of the so-called conservatives we have today, who are about as conservative as jack the ripper.
A true conservative – and by that I do not mean any of the rodeo clowns on TV and radio or politicians who label themselves as conservative – would recommend that the US drastically reduce the “defense” budget and stop entangling the nation in (or actually creating) messy foreign conflicts that actually decrease the security, physical and economic, of American citizens. Virtually no one in Congress, self-labeled conservatives, progressives, whatever, will touch this subject for the same reason they won’t touch reducing Medicare or altering Social Security, it is political suicide – or so they are told by people who make a living “advising” congressmen. If the US were to eliminate the various sexy high tech “defense” toys that generals, admirals and military contractors are so very fond of but are of no use to anyone (other than the shareholders of the affected corporations), the saving would be huge, especially over time as these systems are extraordinarily expensive to keep going. Instead, a military budget that focused on real “defense” needs would provide much more for actual soldiers and far less for whizbang gadgets that are so conveniently profitable to the relative handful of corporations that “compete” for the contracts.
The enormous cost of projecting power (or creating an illusion of the ability to do so) around the globe, maintaining military bases and kicking various sleeping dogs and hornets nests, makes America a poorer nation and Americans less safe. Nowhere in any founding document of the US is the country mandated to be the world police. Real conservatives, real patriots, understand this.
Of course a primary reason for doing all this is to ensure access to cheap oil, for the US and, ironically, for the military itself since it is probably the largest single user of petroleum on the planet. The opportunity costs of decades of this obscene misallocation of resources, capital and human, are staggering. Imagine how much better Americans and humanity in general would if the various administrations and congresses had the political courage to have this discussion.
Remember the so-called “Peace Dividend” the nation was supposedly going to enjoy after the demise of the Soviets? How’s that