I live deep within “enemy territory”, one of the bluest of blue states. And every year I see the posturing when budget cuts are proposed – we’ll have to lay off police and firemen, teachers will be living on hardtack and swill, and other over the top claims. But in the end the governments propose to cut the only even partially effective programs and save the mountains of pork and other entitlements.
Why don’t we turn this around? Start with a simple, easy to understand baseline – current deficit is $1.5 trillion, proposed 2011 budget is 3.69 trillion. If we want to drop the deficit by half this year, that’s about $750 billion, about 20% of Obama’s proposed budget. So now we need to find $750 billion worth of savings, no?
No. Given the political posturing, simple and straightforward is the only way. Start with an across the board 20% cut – defense, SS, medicare, everything. Be clear and forthright to the people as to what this implies – benefits will be cut, lines will be longer, etc. Hold this as a baseline, and make it clear that there are three choices – a government shutdown, the across the board cuts, or a budget achieving the same savings by substituting greater cuts in some areas for lesser cuts in others. Rather than die the slow death of a thousand cuts for each and every project being reduced, take the hit up front and force the Democrats to offer up sacrificial lambs to preserve their important projects.
Yes, there will be an initial hit. But one can then make the case that if we keep delaying by fighting every $5 million dollar project closure then the current system is going to collapse, hard. If we want to keep these programs we need to cut back, now and in the future, and by significant amounts. Yes it may hurt some, but people should be clear to their legislators what their preferences are and let them figure out which programs best support that. No company would fight at the corporate board level over every project and sub-project. The board sets the major spending levels and lets subgroups figure out how to best meet corporate goals with the funding in question. Similarly, Congress can’t continue to fight every small program closure – we need to specify a savings amount and make it stick.