The Corner

How Would You Slash the U.S. Budget?

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget built an online budget simulator – “an exercise in hard choices,” they call it – so that everyone can try to stabilize the U.S. debt at 60 percent of GDP by 2018.

Ross Douthat reports about how he did it:

I’ve successfully reduced our deficit to a relatively stable 60 percent of G.D.P. by the year 2018. All it took was means-testing Social Security and raising the retirement age to 68, keeping health care reform in place but slashing its insurance subsidies by 20 percent, increasing cost-sharing and premiums for Medicare and raising the retirement age to 67, passing tort reform, returning food stamp spending to 2008 levels, slashing subsidies for agriculture and biofuels, cutting the federal workforce by 5 percent across the board, cutting earmarks by 50 percent, converting the home-mortgage deduction to a smaller credit, replacing the tax deduction for employer-provided health care with a flat credit, increasing the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon, cutting foreign aid and military spending by $200 billion, drawing down troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan to 60,000 in 2016, taxing life insurance benefits, letting the Bush tax cuts expire for high earners and partially phasing them out for the middle class, eliminating the state and local tax deduction, and cutting out a lot of smaller things as well.

I tried it, too. I got to my target by getting rid of many tax credits, such as the new-market tax credit and the biofuel tax credit. I also increased the retirement age to 68, reduced benefits protecting low-income earners, canceled TARP and rescinded unused funds, froze average unemployment benefits to 2009 levels, grew discretionary spending with inflation, allowed tax cuts to expire, cut some weapon systems, repealed the health-care legislation but kept Medicare and Medicaid cuts, eliminated outdated non-defense programs, reduced farm subsidies, and reduce the federal workforce by 5 percent. I also slashed state and local tax deductions and replaced the mortgage-interest deduction with a 20 percent credit.

I’m forgetting some of the other things I cut, but there was definitely more.

How would you do it? Check it out – it’s very fun to cut spending.


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