22 July 2011

Roll back

rantings of a random scrub | Why I don't Understand the Current Debt Ceiling/Budget Debate

The US Federal expenditures for 2007 were a total of $2.8 trillion. The US Federal expenditures for 2010 were $3.55 trillion. This is a more than 25% increase. Where has all of this increased spending gone, and why are the programs it went to fund so critical that cutting them is not a serious option? It's not like 2007 was the dark day of anarchy, lawlessness, and starving seniors. Originally the increase was 'stimulus spending' of various kinds, but it seems to have morphed from 'temporary increase' into 'permanent budget baseline,' and any talk of serious cutting is treated as beyond the pale by the media and the Democrats alike.

I'm of the opinion that going back to the 2007 budget (adjusted to account for population growth) should be a viable option, and would save something like $5-6 trillion over 10 years. It sounds (to me) both simple and feasible. What am I missing?"
This is exactly what I have been asking myself.


  1. This actually kicked off a significant discussion on my Facebook page. A friend of mine looked a little deeper at the numbers and it basically boils down to most of it being tied to (1) scheduled payments to old people for getting older and sicker (SS and Medicare) (2) welfare benefits, and (3) defense. All of these are all politically touchy.

    Nobody wants to tackle entitlement spending because seniors want what they have coming and have the political clout to punish anyone who acknowledges that wishing will not make it sustainable. Nobody wants to look like a dick by trimming unemployment and welfare back to 2007 levels. Defense is the one category of spending Republicans can be relied upon to never, ever, touch for fear they'll look weak.

    It's kinda depressing.

  2. Thanks for filling me in. Sounds reasonable, but I'd want to see the numbers on that myself before I'm fully convinced.

    I know getting "non-defense, non-discretionary" spending fixed isn't enough, but I still don't see what cutting that back to 2007 levels isn't the obvious step one that people can agree on.

  3. People can't agree on it because it's not a simple matter of "spend the same amount we spent in 2007". They'd have to decide specifically which of the programs -- themselves more expensive now than in 2007 -- they'd have to cut, and by how much, and in what ways.

    Things cost what they cost. You can't just arbitrarily spend less on them...you have to either do them (and pay the current economic price for doing them) or not do them (and pay the political price for not doing them).

    Since the overwhelming majority of them are flagrantly unconstitutional, my vote would be for not doing them, deficit or no deficit. But politicians naturally feel a lot more nervous about spending their own popularity than they do about spending our money.

  4. But that's exactly the benefit of saying "just do what we did in 2007" rather than "cut 20% off the top." We know what programs existed in 2007, and what their funding levels were. You don't have to decide how much to cut every different department and bureau and agency. That work is already done for you.

    Now getting people to agree to go without the largess they've gotten used to in the last four years (of recession and "austerity") is another matter, but the decision of what to cut is already done.