Political Kettles vs. Reality

ON his Blog recently, Jimmy Zuma had this to say:

So yes, Mr. Romney is right to say that we need to work on reducing the national debt. And he is right to say that we can do it. But none of the ways we *can* do it are ones that he – or any other Republican – will consider.

I would offer the following counterpoint:

So yes, Mr. Obama is right to say that we need to work on reducing the national debt. And he is right to say that we can do it. But none of the ways we *can* do it are ones that he – or any other Democrat – will consider.

The reality is neither candidate is willing to consider the reality of what needs to be done. As I talked about in a recent post of my own, the problems we have economically are not going to be addressed by either party. Voting for either of them will not help. As I’ve long held, one side wants to tie your left hand behind your back, the other wants to tie your right hand behind your back.

Neither candidate, nor their party, nor their supporters seem to understand that tying our economic hands behind our back will hamper recovery and growth. They are too busy trying to convince you they are the lesser of two evils. A vote for either is a waste.

Both these candidates are paying lip-service to the notion of budget realities. Neither is speaking in rational terms. Terms such as: using on-year budgets, or at most budget theories over four years. This notion of using ten year predictions is worse than silly or ludicrous; it is stupid and dangerous.

How many of us really think that every year a new budget goes into place that covers the next decade? Exactly. Even putting the question like that will make those who don’t know how it works wary. Why are we talking ten year budgets every single year? A ten year budget only serves to muddle things and to make it sound dramatic. As if an annual budget in the trillions just isn’t enough to make your eyes glaze over, we have to talk in terms of ten years. Why?

Simple: the alleged cuts are small, and pundits as well as politicians love to compare apples to carrots to convince you of their opinion.  consider these facts:

  1. In FY 2011, the U.S. Government spent 3.6 trillion dollars. That is \$3,600,000,000,000 USD.
  2. In FY 2011 the U.S. Government had an income of  2.29 trillion. That is \$2,290,000,000,000 USD.
  3. In FY 2011, the U.S. Government had to borrow 1.4 trillion dollars. That is \$1,300,000,000,000 USD.

Now, regardless of whether you are liberal, neo-liberal, conservative, neo-conservative, libertarian, socialist, fascist, or even communist, the fact is we are spending more than we earn. On the American Left will be the people such as Jimmy Zuma who say we need to cut the pentagon. On the American Right will be people who say we need to cut social programs.

So is either side right? In a word, no.

Defense and “International Security Assistance” spending for FY 2011 accounted for 20% of the spending. Social Security clocked in at another 20%. Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP: 21%. Safety Net programs: 13%, and finally 6% is interest on existing debt.

None of those individually will account for the debt we incurred in FY 2011 alone.  So, for those who think it is all the warmonger’s fault for spending on military: 20% of the budget is less than 36% of the budget. Even if we somehow eliminated 100% of the defense and “ISA” spending, we can’t eliminate the debt by cutting defense spending. About 75% of our federal budget is on what can be deemed social spending.

Yes, that means mathematically we could eliminate the debt by eliminating social spending. But that isn’t the answer either. The hard reality is that we need to cut the spending by over a third. And even if we were to apply a strict 36% cut across every category, yes that means social spending dollars will go down in greater amounts than defense dollars - but only because they outnumber them nearly 3-1, not because it would somehow be mean or biased to cut 36% across the board.

Note the terms. I say that based on 2011 numbers we should have cut 36% of the spending. I don’t care what side of the tarnished coin you are on or if you don’t buy into the tarnished coin, there will need to be massive cuts in many places we don’t need the federal government to be doing. If we keep going those cuts will only get deeper and more painful. The mentality exposed behind Jimmy’s “just cut the F35 program”, much as some may choose to remain ignorant about, is not the way to do it.

TANSTAAFL, and the check is coming due.


Bill Anderson avatar
About Bill Anderson
Just your frendly neighborhood curmudgeon!