Following the suggestion of one of our readers (as well as Jason’s bold spending cut-dominated march into the breach), I too attempted to solve the deficit using the New York Times’ slick online tool. Behold, problem solved: here. I actually produced a budget surplus – which I’d be more than happy to refund to the taxpayers since it is their money after all and not the government’s.
To the chagrin no doubt of my fellow classical liberals, I had to use a combination of spending cuts and tax increases given the constraints of the NY Times tool. Perhaps with greater options I could have done it with fewer or no tax increases, but I could not honestly do so within the parameters of the tool. Specifically, my combination was 82% budget cuts and 18% tax increases.
A few notes on my choices:
I didn’t cut the number of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m extremely reluctant to let deficit concerns dictate specific foreign policies like the troop levels in Afghanistan even if I think that our ends should be correlated with our means. So I wish I had greater options there since I’d love to prune our overall foreign policy ends and commitments which would allow serious cutbacks in the defense budget.
I also refuse to endorse the notion that the military should “reduce the length and frequency of combat tours. No unit or person will be sent to a combat zone for longer than a year, and they will not be sent back involuntarily without spending at least two years at home.” Although this is good for service members, it isn’t necessarily the best policy to achieve our missions (which should be the first priority assuming the missions are necessary for our national interests narrowly defined). Indeed, I would argue that if we need to have a large footprint in Afghanistan, it might make sense to have longer and more frequent tours for many of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines given that counterinsurgency requires a deep reservoir of knowledge about the problem set, something that can best be gained by more focus on and more time in the theatre of operations.
I’m also loathe to tinker with medical malpractice. Given that I’m not an expert in this area, I just don’t know enough about how shielding doctors and others from malpractice might harm the very important tort system.
Given that we have to fund the government in some way through coercive means (even lotteries, if we could raise enough revenue in that fashion, would have to involve coercion since the logic of the system would require a state monopoly), I tried to choose taxes that would have the least negative consequences and perhaps even some positive ones (like a carbon tax and eliminating tax loopholes).
Also worth noting that I had a much easier time cutting the longer term deficit than the short-term deficit.