Balancing the Budget

BALANCING THE BUDGET….This slipped off my radar screen for a couple of days, but Andrew Sullivan has responded to my post suggesting that he hadn’t done a very good job of identifying spending cuts that would balance the federal budget:

In my original post, I wrote about balancing budgets. What I meant was addressing our underlying fiscal imbalance; not balancing the budget for the next fiscal year now….I’m certainly not trying to be dishonest. Au contraire. I’m trying to keep conservatives honest about what keeping the tax cuts would realistically require.

In a followup post he says he plans to gather up suggestions and return to this topic in a couple of weeks. That’s fine with me, and I’m looking forward to it. However, a few suggestions:

  • I’m not actually a huge deficit hawk, so I’m all in favor of focusing on long-term fiscal imbalances. That said, however, the long-term deficit is built on top of the current deficit, which means you need to address that too. Your entire program can’t be built on speculative savings a decade down the road.

  • If Andrew is open to some tax increases, that’s great too. I only ask that they be scored reasonably. If the proposal is vague (“eliminate corporate welfare”), don’t pretend it’s worth more than it really is.

  • The plan really needs to focus on hard program reductions. The line item veto might well reduce the deficit, but putting a number on it is simply impossible.

My goal is the same as Andrew’s: to keep conservatives honest about what keeping Bush’s tax cuts would realistically require. The difference lies in what we think the result of this will be. For example, Andrew thinks we should raise the Social Security retirement age to 72. I think that (a) this is nuts, (b) it’s politically impossible, and (c) the vast majority of Americans agree with me.

In fact, that’s what I think about this whole exercise. If Republicans really started putting programs on the table in the quantities needed to balance the budget, it would keep them out of office for the next century. So bring ’em on.