The Agenda

An Essential Tool for Understanding the Federal Budget

Everyone who reads this blog will absolutely love the new budget simulator from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. I love budget simulators. Until now, the best I’ve seen have been Budget Hero from American Public Media and the Principles and Priorities Budget Game from the Concord Coalition. But Stabilize the Debt crushes them both when it comes to the clarity of presentation, if not always the range and sophistication of the budget options. Truly a path-breaking effort. Naturally, I have some small quibbles, e.g., I’d love to have more fine-grained options on the spending and revenue side.

Try to stabilize the debt level while adhering to the Obama administration’s commitments on taxes and spending. You will find it difficult. It is also difficult if not impossible to make the Bush tax cuts permanent without also making deep cuts to entitlement spending and raising other taxes. But I was able to slash debt through a wide array of fairly restrained measures on the spending and revenue side.

A few of my favorite options include the “Replace Employer Health Care Exclusion with a Flat Credit (In Place of Excise Tax)” and “Curtail State and Local Tax Deduction” and “Convert Mortgage Interest Deduction to a 20% Credit,” not to mention slashing biofuel subsidies and much else besides. Combine this with aggressive entitlement reform and you make a lot of progress very quickly. 

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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