Exchequer

Brady’s Bunch of Low-Hanging Fruit

Republican Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas has proposed some reductions in federal outlays — hoorah! — that amount to . . . not much: about $44 billion in the next fiscal year, and about $156 billion over the next five years. Okay, fine, do it: Go ahead and cut foreign aid and the Robert Byrd memorial scholarship, and collect those billions in unpaid taxes from federal workers. That, along with some military-spending cuts, covers, oh,  about 1 percent of the expected 2011 spending. Which is to say, Brady’s bill eliminates in one year about half of the national debt the geniuses in Washington piled upon us in the month of December alone.

Yes, yes — journey of a thousand miles, and all that. This is not going to get the job done. And it will be hard even to get Brady’s modest little trims through the Senate and past President Obama.

Congress is going to have to make cuts of the size Brady proposes about once every two weeks (fortnightly, as we say around here) to get the budget balanced.

Brady goes for the easy ones, mostly: subsidies for fossil-fuel research (hippies cheer!) and eliminating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (Republicans cheer!).

Here is what Republicans have to cut: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Pentagon: That’s pretty much the whole show, budget-wise. Yes, by all means, take the low-hanging fruit first, do it now — do it today! — but congressional Republicans aren’t going to get out of the hard ones. Remember: You guys asked for this job, begged for it, pleaded for it. And you know what you have to do.

Now go do it. We ran a $150 billion deficit in November, 2010. A five-year plan that covers one month of deficit spending is a start. It is not a good start, not an impressive start, but it is a start.

—  Kevin D. Williamson is a deputy managing editor of National Review and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism, which will be published on Tuesday. You can buy an autographed copy through National Review Online here.

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