Solving the Budget Deficit: Cleveland Edition

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.

12 thoughts on “Solving the Budget Deficit: Cleveland Edition

  1. I think I was overly soft when I noted, “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.”

    I am pretty damn sure that if I had my druthers as to what the federal government did and did not do, I could eliminate the deficit and cut taxes – since my federal government would be a lot smaller and a lot cheaper. For starters, I’d cut quite a few departments and agencies.

    But there is the real and the ideal. I have a hard time imagining the Department of Education disappearing.

  2. Not bad, though I would have done it differently and I’m not sure the constraints of the program would allow the details. Basically I’d prefer to:

    1. Raise the retirement age to 70;

    2. Index SS so that it applied only to the elderly who are poor (with poverty set relatively high — maybe three times the poverty line).

    3. Cut defense — though like you, I wouldn’t rely on cuts in ongoing conflicts.

    4. Institute a VAT combined with a lowered and simplified income-tax structure.

    1. I can’t support a VAT unless it replaces the income tax. Having both will simply provide greater and greater incentive for more spending in the future. Starving the beast so that you run up a huge deficit might not be the way to go – but I’m certainly opposed to providing it a second course.

  3. I was tempted to be Mr. Unpopular and end the Bush tax cuts only on incomes below $250,000, but I decided to go with the Lincoln-Kyl proposal, despite my dislike of the estate tax.

    1. Glad to see the spending cuts. But too tax heavy for my taste.

      Ultimately, in my humble opinion, we need to focus on what the government ought to do (or even what the federal government has been empowered to do according to the Constitution) and then build the state, its budget, and a tax system to raise revenues to pay for the means to meet those ends. So this tool, to a certain extent, misleads us into thinking that we just need to solve the deficit. Instead, we need to think more radically and aim at the goal of eliminating every part of the government that cannot be justified by a theory of the proper end of government.

    1. Not anarchism. But let’s argue about what the just ends of government are and then build a budget/state to meet those ends. In other words, give me a political theory!

  4. So you did not mean “end” as in “end” but goals and purposes or “ends” of government.

    And by “end” you did mean that there was only one purpose or goal of government ? Will you share it here with me.

    As to the task of a political theory I’ll have to research my answer for you since I don’t have one in mind or in hand at least that I can put a label on for identification. Hi ho, hi ho it’s off to work I go!

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