So You Think You Can Balance The Budget

Posted: November 18, 2010 in Current Events, Politics
Tags: , , , , , ,

The New York Times has created an interactive tool that you can play with to “balance the budget”:

Budget Puzzle: You Fix The Budget

The tool has pre-packaged options of both cutting spending and increasing revenue, and as you make your choices it shows how much of the deficit you have eliminated until you eliminate it all (assuming a static environment).  I think it does an excellent job of demonstrating the difficulty* of the problem (and how much more difficult the problem is to solve if you choose to focus only on spending or only on revenues).  While it would be really nice if we could just eliminate earmarks or pass medical malpractice reform or, if conservative bloggers are to be believed, eliminate trips by Obama that somehow exceed the daily cost of fighting a war (hint: conservative bloggers are not to be believed, see also: Fox News) that the deficit would just completely go away, that’s just not the reality of the situation.  It’s going to take a whole heck of a lot of spending cuts AND a heck of lot of revenue increases to realistically have any chance of balancing the budget.

The chairs of Obama’s debt commission, Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson, recently released their own plan for balancing the budget and ultimately eliminating the debt.  While I don’t care for all of their ideas (For example, I don’t care much for the idea of raising the retirement age for social security on the sole rationale of longer life expectancy.  Just because you may live longer does not automatically mean that you have the ability to work at an older age.  Also, even if you can work at an advanced age, it doesn’t necessarily mean employers will want to hire you.), I do think some of their ideas to merit consideration.  The ideas of eliminating a good many tax deductions while also reducing the tax rate, and taxing capital gains and dividends as ordinary income are very interesting.

Let’s remember that the results from this commission are simply recommendations.  It’s a starting point.  It’s not binding, so there is no need to freak out over it.  If nothing else, at least the subject of balancing the budget is being broached.  And hopefully these discussions will demonstrate once and for all that this ain’t going to easy folks.

*I think it does a good job of demonstrating how difficult the problem is because you can’t simply select one or two things and be done.  But yes, critics are right, it’s a simplification of the issue at hand.  No, you can’t just give this tool to Congress and have the problem be solved.  I also don’t think the New York Times was trying to say that eliminating the deficit is as easy as clicking a few boxes in what is effectively a puzzle game.  Some people in the media are really anal.  Sheesh!

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