Let the budget wars begin! Reacting to the administration's proposed budget, the opposition seems solely focused on how much the government can cut spending. In their eyes, all spending is bad, all taxes are bad, and the deficit is bad. They have made no proposals to reduce spending sufficiently to cut the deficit much, however. They can't put forward sufficient spending reductions to do that, because you would have to cut Medicare if you really want to cut the deficit, and you would also have to raise taxes. Republicans have pretty much boxed themselves into a corner on taxes, and they can't reduce Medicare spending significantly without losing an important electoral constituency. So they have no real solution, and we will never see a politically saleable proposal from the Republicans that cuts spending sufficiently to eliminate the deficit without raising taxes. (To my conservative friends who doubt that, I challenge you to specify a trillion dollars in budget cuts you could make this year, and still think you could get elected to any national office.)
The president's proposed budget doesn't do much about the deficit either, but makes some serious spending cut proposals,and proposes some new spending initiatives in the areas of infrastructure and education. That should at least open up the possibility of having a more interesting debate about whether some government spending might actually be good, if it represents an investment in our future. What both sides should now openly acknowledge is that they don't really care about the deficit (if they did they would never have agreed to massive tax cuts in December). Let's just admit that nobody really wants to reduce government spending enough to make a serious dent in the national debt because people actually support the programs that require all that spending. For anyone who reacts with horror to the idea that we should admit we don't care about the increase in the national debt, let me remind you how both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush would react if anyone reminded them that their policies were leading to massive increases in the national debt. Whenever that happened, they would just shrug their shoulders and change the subject. We could stand to be a little more nonchalant about the deficit right now, talk about what investments might actually be good for the future of our country, and try to stop repeating the stale debate we are used to having, in which all spending is lumped together as bad, and raising taxes is always unmentionable.
We'll deal with the deficit later, when the economy improves enough so that reducing the deficit will not be as difficult as it seems now.
Here is the president taking questions about the budget and other matters:
And as an aid to anyone who wants to accept my challenge to fix the budget, this might be a helpful chart. Remember the object of the challenge is to wipe out the approximately $1 trillion projected deficit without raising taxes, and then explain how you could still get elected to national office: