Let’s be honest, if you’re engaged enough to have looked at the deficit commission’s report a few months back, it made you a little uncomfortable. You saw stuff on the chopping block that directly affects you in one way or another. But that’s how we win the future… By ensuring our kids and grandkids actually have some hope and not a mountain of government-induced debt.
If you listened to the state of the union address, you no doubt heard an uplifting speech by the President with many references to investing in people and programs. Of course the Republicans quickly countered by labeling this as dem-speak for more spending. Who has the right of it? Well, you could look at recent history as an indicator… And then folks like newly-elected Senator Rand Paul chime in, suggesting major cuts to a lot of programs that don’t meet with his particular social viewpoint (the NEA, Public Broadcasting, etc.). Not all that helpful either, Senator.
The President talked about simplifying the tax code and eliminating certain redundant federal bureaucracies. We’re with you Barack – and you almost sound Reagan-ish. But in the end it comes back to cutting. Big cuts. Deep cuts. Conan the Barbarian with a two-handed broadsword to the torso type cuts.
- Department of Defense ($663.7 billion)
- Social Security ($695 billion)
- Medicare ($453 billion)
Republicans won’t like cutting that first one; Democrats won’t have much stomach for the latter two. And frankly neither party wants to deal with cutting any of these, the Big 3, which constitute just over half the entire budget.
So here’s some gross math for you. Using last year’s budget, we brought in $2.217 trillion and spent $3.552 trillion. This means we need to cut approximately 40% to start breaking even. Yes, that’s not taking into account the interest on the current debt, obligated spending programs which are designed to kick-in at future points (like the Health Care stuff). But still… %40 . And a big chunk of this has to come from the Big 3. So how come no one’s talking about it?
How would the Pentagon feel about %40 less? Not when we’re engaged in a pair of cross-continental conflicts, they’d yell… And how would this affect our strategic goals and overall approach to diplomacy. Are we willing to just bomb the crap out of someone nasty, send in small, quick strike forces, then pull out and let the survivors deal with the chaos. Want to let Japan and Korea deal with Asian security? Scale back NATO? Let Israel take care of itself?
On the other hand, how do you personally feel about 40% less from you monthly Social Security check (if you get one)? How does your mother or grandpa feel about that, along with %40 less Medicare coverage? No? Well, how about a %20 cut? That means our retired elders might have to move back in with us more often, or settle for a crappier apartment or nursing home. It means smaller checks and less incentives for the non-working poor. What politician – especially from the Democratic side – has any hope of getting re-elected on that platform?
And yet this what we need to do. We need to look at the hard realities here. And yes, you can invest in education, in research, in other more aspirational programs if that’s the goal, and many of us believe it’s a worthy one. And no, we don’t need to cut the NEA, which barely registers on the monitor (if you don’t believe a great nation deserves great art, get yourself a clue) or the Department of Education, flawed though it may be. We need to cut right into the Big 3. Sorry, U.S. Military… Sorry, about-to-retire Baby Boomers (you were never all that responsible anyway, now were you…)
Win the future? Sure. But first, let’s get real about cutting.