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Reduce the deficit with pixie dust

Reduce the deficit with pixie dust
By Eric Black

The CBO now projects the federal deficit for the current fiscal year will hit an all-time high of $1.5 trillion.

That’s an all-time high, of course. And although it’s not much higher than last year’s all-time high, it’s more than the triple the all-time high reached as recently as fiscal 2004.

This is scary stuff and it can’t go on.

I like Tim Pawlenty’s phrase that you can’t repeal “the laws of fiscal gravity.” I like John Boehner’s suggestion that it’s time for our leaders to lead “an adult conversation” with the American people about what it will take to get the debt/deficit under control. (When, precisely, will he be leading that conversation?) Pres. Obama said on Tuesday that “we have to stop pretending” that we can make serious progress by focusing on domestic discretionary spending. Then he proposed to freeze that category but he offered the vaguest imaginable generalities about what else needs to be done. As in:

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“To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations.  And we must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.”

Neither Obama, Pawlenty, Boehner nor Michele (socialst-Obama’s-insane-debt-threatens-the-entire-American-experiment) Bachmann are willing to commit to a program that would seriously address the debt/deficit issue.

On this issue at least, they are all frauds and hypocrites and deniers and procrastinators and cowards and We, The People, are their enablers. Worse than enablers, I suppose, because, to the degree that we are their bosses, we tell them to fix this problem by cutting someone else’s programs and raising someone else’s taxes. (Except for those who favor cutting taxes still more.)

Heading into the SOTU address, CNN dusted off a series of poll questions relating to reducing the size of government in order to reduce the deficit.

In general, when asked whether they favor a general program to reduce the size of government. 71 percent of us said yes. (CNN last asked the question in 1994. That time 72 percent said yes.)

Then the series: For each of the following federal spending categories, is it more important to make progress on reducing the deficit, or is it more important to prevent significant cuts to each of the following programs:

Program Reduce it for
deficit reduction
Avoid significant
reductions in this one
Medicare 18% 81%
Medicaid 29 70
Social Security 21 78
Unemployment ben’s 31 68
Defense/military 50 49
Welfare spending 56 44
Veterans benefits 14 85
Education 25 75
Govt pensions 61 39
Roads/mass transit 39 61
Foreign aid 81 18

Foreign aid, by the way, represents less than one half of one percent of federal spending. Depending on how you group programs, the other ten categories that CNN tested are the ten costliest categories.

Of the really big categories, we seem most open to military budget cuts. The only solid majorities were for cutting “welfare” and government pensions. CNN didn’t ask about whether higher taxes in general, or taxes on the rich in particular, or ending various very costly tax preferences are acceptable ways to reduce the deficit, although Republicans generally try to rule those out as well.