You Fix The Budget

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A lot of the political rhetoric during the mid-term elections focused on reducing government spending and reducing the deficit (I found it a little hypocritical considering the average household credit card debt was in the thousands of dollars). That likely prompted the New York Times to put together a little “game” in which you get to fix the budget.

Today, you’re in charge of the nation’s finances. Some of your options have more short-term savings and some have more long-term savings. When you have closed the budget gaps for both 2015 and 2030, you are done. Make your own plan, then share it online.

You get a list of programs with estimated savings to the deficit (out to 2015 and 2030), and you’re charged with saving $418 billion by 2015 and $1,355 billion by 2030. The sources of those estimates come from a litany of organizations, many of which you’ve probably seen referred to in other articles, and I’m inclined to take their savings estimates at face value. By playing this game, you start to appreciate how difficult it is to cut the deficit (despite out easy it is to put “fiscal responsibility” on political “to do” list) especially after the reaction to the draft Bowles-Simpson Plan.

{ 18 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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18 Responses to “You Fix The Budget”

  1. freeby50 says:

    Seems pretty easy to me. I clicked a lot of those boxes. If I was the nations’ dictator then we’d have ourselves a $224B surplus by 2015.

  2. Matt K says:

    maybe I went a little overboard, but… it was kinda easy to cut it..
    some of the big ones that I went along with without hesitation:

    nuclear arsenal & space
    military to pre-iraq war size.
    reduce number of troops to 60k by 2015
    cap medicare growth starting 2013
    obama tax proposal for estate tax
    clinton era for capital gains.
    expire income for above 250k
    carbon tax.

    the biggest one I added, and obviously would be the most questionable is the b-s plan (but keep taxes higher). seems like this plan would include some of the things that were already selected in the list, ie, social secuirty, defense spending, etc….

    and a pet peeve with the whole govt workforce… I’d love it if govt jobs stopped being so… stable. Just making government workers more accountable, and fire-able if they don’t do their jobs seems like something that would save the government more money than the reducing workforce, or cutting pay, or both.

  3. Under the Weather says:

    Difficult? Whatcha smoking Jim. I got us out of debt in 5 minutes and hardly even raised taxes on anyone, including the wealthy.

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but those spending cuts didn’t affect my life one iota.

    I think the difficult part is getting people to agree to not get “free” handouts (i.e. our tax money redistributed) from the government.

  4. zapeta says:

    Yeah, that wasn’t too tough for me. I put taxes back at the Clinton levels, raised the Social Security age a couple years, stopped a couple useless wars and went for cap and trade. The problem with our government isn’t that the solutions aren’t available, its just that no legislators are willing to risk re-election to solve the problems.

  5. lostAnnfound says:

    This was so easy. but then it usually is on paper. As Zapeta notes, folks in government are not willing to risk reelection to fix the fixable.

  6. Texas Wahoo says:

    I was easily able to solve the problem as well. I do wonder whether they take into consideration the collateral costs of all of these plans… Do they add some of the 10% of federal workers to the unemployment rolls when you check that box, or do they just count all of the savings? Do they consider the effects that tax rates have on economic growth?

  7. Courtney says:

    What I took away from the exercise is that it’s hard to ‘win’ the game without a mix of spending cuts and higher taxes, and that neither the Dems or the Repubs alone have a corner on solving the problem. They’re both going to have to come to the table and work together (gasp!) on the problem.

    • Shirley says:

      …come to the table and work together…

      And if that ever actually happens, we are on our way back to a financially stable country. I certainly hope it will happen in my lifetime!

  8. I believe any cuts in government jobs would send the workers back to the private sector where the amount of jobs would rise because of budget cutting, resulting in lower taxes. More money in the private sector = more jobs.
    I don’t want to raise the taxes on the rich because I am trying to be up there with them someday.

  9. KP says:

    Great exercise Jim! Cut government spending may seem like an easy answer, however many people are not willing to do what it takes to really do that. The reality of tax cuts is that it adds to the deficit as we’ve already seen. Sure you can cut programs, but are people willing to accept the programs that are cut? Tough decisions are needed, but we need to understand the ramifications of each decision that is made to get us there.

    It’s my hope that our elected officials work together towards a viable solution to reduce the spending.

    ““Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” – Winston Churchill

  10. TomM says:

    First, loved this exercise. Maybe this should be brought up for a vote by the American public.

    I thought this was a fairly easy exercise. Cut spending, cut taxes, remove loopholes and implement tort reform…..period. And you certainly don’t need to remove the mortgage interest tax deducting. What you do think this would do to an already incredibly bad housing market? Yes, there is pain involved. But guess what, we’re in pain now and what the government is doing isn’t working. Printing money and spending more than you take in obviously doesn’t work….no matter what party is doing it.

    The other issue that I have with this exercise is that everyone looks at it as “static”. Meaning that you make these changes and the amount of money taken in by the government doesn’t go up or down, it’s static. No one ever considers the fact that cutting taxes = more money in the private sector which = more jobs which = more tax revenue. Raising taxes has never solved anything as the government simply spends more. Government needs to live within their means, like most of us do, or they should go bankrupt…..kicked out of office. How about term limits for these career politicians too while we’re at it? Being in Washington for multiple terms = a corrupt politician that cares little about the people he’s supposed to serve.

    I’m stepping off my soapbox now….lol.

  11. daenyll says:

    It’s basics you have to raise funds and cut spending in some form, but no matter what either option is disliked. If officials were more interested in actually doing the job than staying popular to keep the job we’d have less problems.

    And I am aware of the impatience and of the voting public. We want it done and we want it now, even when these kind of corrections take years to get started and see any form of results (which can result in the good being attributed to entirely different administrations than those that actually started the programs)

  12. freeby50 says:

    Balancing the budget as an individual is simple. I agree with myself so theres no politics, no compromise, no negotiation and no diplomacy required.

    I bet you we’d have a much harder time getting just the dozen people here to agree on a budget.

  13. Mike says:

    About that average debt per household you quoted. I’ve also heard reports that total credit card debt in the US is dropping fast in the last 2 years. Do you know if such reports are including “forgiven” debt as part of bankruptcy or restructuring?

    I’m willing to bet actual amounts of debt haven’t dropped that much (or went up) when you remove bankruptcy and “forgiveness” from the equation.

  14. Roommate says:

    SSA and medi-car/caid should be privatized. If people actually did the math then they would realize that investing your money @ 6 percent is better than giving it to the government. ssa is like giving the gov $1000 and getting back $100 when you get old.

    I should be president. i would get rid of all taxes so that americans can keep their hard earned money in their pockets.

  15. jsbrendog says:

    id bet that if they see one they like they steal it. a you do my job as a politician for me approach

  16. Kirk says:

    Fun exercise Jim. Congress has only been attacking the small numbers, which do add up, but they’re afraid to approach the big numbers.

    Cutting government spending on what people are willing to cut government spending on will never dig us out of the hole. Why does Congress continue to hand Defense a blank cheque? Some of the biggest savings come from cutting weapons programmes and reducing troop levels, and capping Medicare and allowing some tax cuts to expire.

    Don’t people like to pay down debt? I mean if a family is in debt, doesn’t everyone want to pitch in and do their part to eliminate wasteful spending and pitch a little extra in every month to pay down the bills?

    Of course will all that bootstrap talk from the right and all the entitlement talk from the left. No wonder we’re a nation where we don’t feel responsible for each other, and see our futures linked.

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