Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Solve the Federal Budget Deficit Yourself

The NYTimes has given us an interactive template to at least start thinking about the decisions our elected officials in Washington have to face. Here's a screen shot of the chart where your cuts or tax increases will be tallied.

You have options like:
Cut foreign aid in half
At a time when the United States is facing large deficits, some budget analysts argue that the country should significantly reduce the money it spends helping other countries. Others say that foreign aid already represents a smaller share of the budget here than in other rich countries and that it expands American influence. $17 billion (2115) $17 billion (2030)

Eliminate earmarks
Earmarks are lawmaker-directed spending items, often to finance local projects favored by a member of Congress. $14 billion (2115) $14 billion (2030)

Reduce the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to 60,000 by 2015
Reduce the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to 60,000 by 2015 Today, the United States military has 100,000 troops in Afghanistan and 50,000 in Iraq. The Obama Administration plans to reduce these numbers in coming years but has not specified troop levels. Defense and budget experts say this 60,000 option would be faster than what is now planned. The savings is the difference between the administration's projected spending and the spending under this option.   $51 billion (2115) $149 billion (2030)

Reduce the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to 30,000 by 2013
Reducing troops by to 30,000 from 60,000 could save an additional $20 billion by 2030. $86 billion (2115) $169 billion (2030)

Obviously (it is obvious isn't it) this is a simplification.  This is a generalized approach that doesn't take into account distinctions, say, between federal employees and contractors (if you eliminate federal employees, will it require the hiring of contractors to get the work done, and often at greatly inflated costs including profits for the contracting companies?)  It doesn't distinguish efficient agencies from inefficient agencies.  It doesn't look at the interlocking relationships of agencies and the impacts on one agency of cuts in another agency (to what extent does good education lower long term costs in other areas?)

But, this does give people a start.  It helps people understand how small or big different programs are in the greater scheme of things.  And perhaps it will get people to ask more questions and find more answers.  And address their senators and congress members with more sophisticated questions.  (I realize that is easier for Alaskans - with just 700,000 people - to do than for Californians - with 34 million.)

Here's the link so you can save the economy yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I checked this "game" and I managed to save $538 billion by 2015 but only $981 billion by 2030 (55% from tax increases, 45% from spending cuts) and I think I was quite strict so I don't know how you could save $1345 billion. For example I enacted bank tax which exsists in Hungary but when we enacted the IMF, EU, etc... were outraged.

    However this program is not calculating with many factors (macroeconomy, maybe an other crisis, etc...).


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