Resistance Begins at Ohm!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

$38 billion - A pathetic pittance

$38 billion is like sending a $1 check for a $200 payment. Not even worth cashing, let alone arguing about.
The post-game show talks about the beneficiaries of brinkmanship. How getting a cut to this and that program is a major concession. How nearly $40 billion is 60% of the way between one arbitrary number and another. That somehow, Boehner won something by losing the majority of cuts republicans wanted. That somehow Obama lost by staving off cuts to NPR, PBS and Planned Parenthood. With all of the chest beating about these wastes of precious revenue, you have to figure they are permanently off the table. Well that was easy, how many other wasteful programs can they take of the table next time?

I don't really care where the $100 billion comes from. The programs that get a pass this time have to be back on the table next time. Instead of arguing over it, the house leadership should have just said, "OK, we will set those aside for next time. Now find something else to cut that equals $40 billion."

Eventually we will get down to reality. The target for cuts is $1.65 trillion. Savings do not exist until you get to zero deficit. And then you have to balance savings against debt payment. Talk about reductions in unfunded programs, not cuts to a budget like there is actually any money to pay for it. Talk about savings next year, not next decade. Be honest, you have no idea what will happen between now and 2012. Budget outyears = smoke and mirrors.

We can afford to pay for about 5 things and everything else is an expendable expense. Interest on the debt, social security (in some revised form), medicare (because there is no way seniors are going to get health insurance once they aren't working), border protection and military defense. And the trust funds need to go back to being separate accounts used for the intended purpose or for paying off debt (which is basically deferring interest to a loan later, still saves money).

It isn't a matter of picking and choosing winners anymore. It isn't picking NPR over planned parenthood. Instead of talking about an orderly shutdown of government during a lapse in spending authority, we should be talking about an orderly shutdown of government programs forever.

Likewise with the tax code. It isn't a debate about deductions vs allowances vs credits. Stop fiddling with income tax to impose a social agenda. Quit wasting time about marriage penalty and alternative minimum tax. Value added tax and only value added tax, computed on sales (wholesale and resale), surrendered at the time of sale to the treasury. See how much eliminating the IRS will do for the budget... that's a $12 billion dollar savings right there.

I am starting to think that the solution may be the number of people in Congress. Maybe we need to limit each elected representative to three staff, limit the number of committees to ten, and limit the committee staff to 5 per. I think that is actually very generous even if 2320 employees is about a quarter of the current number estimated at 7000-8000. There is only so much a person can do, and then the rest just has to be ignored. Hard to get into the details, think up all the tangential arguments, write all the emotional speeches, plot all the political angles with 75% less "time" to do it. The legislative branch actually employees something like 33,000 people, but most are taking care of other things like security, facilities management, information technology, visitor services, etc.

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