Monday, March 20, 2006

Money for Nothing

The reason we have such a huge federal deficient isn’t just because the government spends “too much”. It’s because it spends more than it takes in. And here’s where conservatives talk the talk but can’t even begin to cut the cuts.

They are all for the federal government doing two things: cutting taxes and increasing (or at least not reducing) defense spending. Kevin Drum does the rest of the math:
Discretionary spending in 2005 was roughly $1 trillion. About half of that was for defense and national security... That leaves $500 billion, which funds the entire rest of the federal government.

The federal deficit for 2005 was over $400 billion.

So: if you support the tax cuts, and you don't want to cut defense spending, and you want a balanced budget, you need to slice about $400 billion out of the $500 billion that's left.

These are round numbers, but you get the idea. Cutting a few agricultural subsidies and eliminating Amtrak isn't going to do the trick. Even taking an axe to social welfare programs wouldn't do it. You'd need to eliminate about 80% of the federal government. So…tell us just which 80% he wants to get rid of. The FBI? Prisons? EPA? The federal courts? Housing assistance? Highways? The National Institutes of Health?
This is a peeve I’ve had with conservatives for some time. They say they want to cut spending but aside from extremely minor cuts (PBS, the arts), they really have no idea what to cut. Most of the time they will just tell you that money can be saved by cutting “waste”, whatever that is. Most “welfare” (another generic cutting place) is actually Social Security or Medicare and those programs are funded separately and are currently running surpluses.

The truth of the matter is conservatives don’t have the courage to cut 80% of the non-defense discretionary federal budget. And understandably so. They would be done, politically, overnight. But its a great talking point and helps them win elections. Problem is, they own the federal govenment now and as we can see the cuts still aren't coming, only an ever-ircreasing pile of debt.

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