Being Smart on the Budget
Here are the approximate numbers that you're going to be hearing about all day today: The President's 2012 budget will be a $3.5 trillion-plus plus earmark.
Given the tragedy in Arizona last month, we will be spared anyone on the GOP side using that tired and tasteless bromide that the President's budget is "dead on arrival," but House Republicans will counter with a bill which they say will cut $100 billion out of the budget for the seven-and-a-half months remaining in this fiscal year.
The President's people will say he also has a plan to cut spending by about $1.1 trillion over the next decade which will include about $350 billion in new taxes.
Congressional Republicans will probably try and make Congressional Democrats vote on the President's plan - including the tax hikes - sometime in the next month or so and hand the "Tax-and-Spend" tag on them again.
As Vince Lombardi used to say about running a boring offense: "We're going to keep running the same plays until they figure out how to stop us." Maybe Lombardi didn't say that, but he could have.
If I were the governor of the Great State of Upper Iguana and faced the budget problems that most of our states and the federal government are facing, here's what I would do.
I would pick a year before all those states were running surpluses, let's say something like 2004. I would have some really smart people go through the budgets for three years -- 2003, 2004, and 2005 - to (a) see how much we were spending, and (b) what we were spending it on.
I would then compare that composite budget to the budget under which we are operating in 2011 and see (a) how much we are spending and (b) what we are spending it on.
I would pay much more attention to the two (b)'s because the (a)'s are pretty easy to find.
Any current program that didn't exist in the 2004-era budgets, or which has grown significantly in the ensuing six years, should be given a closer look.
The test would be: Is this a "must-have?" Or, is this a "nice-to-have?"
We would cut all the "nice-to-haves" and then see what that did to our budget. If we were still in the hole, we'd have to start in on the "must-haves."
We all want the government to spend money on things we think are important. I'm now a huge fan of foreign assistance, which was I not prior to my trip to Africa last month.
I was an enormous fan of the "cash-for-clunkers" program because for the first time in my tax-paying life the government said "Here's $4,500 of your taxes. Would you like us to put that toward a new F-22 or a new car for you?"
I chose the car.
Senator John Kerry (D-Mass), according to USA Today, has called for a reversal in the President's plan to cut home heating assistance saying: "I've always supported serious efforts to restore fiscal sanity, but in the middle of a brutal, even historic, New England winter, home heating assistance is more critical than ever to the health and welfare of millions of Americans, especially senior citizens."
I think Kerry's description of this winter as "brutal [and] even historic" should be weighed against an op-ed he wrote for the Huffington Post not two years ago in which he argued that global warming was such a looming threat that: "Scientists project that the Arctic will be ice-free in the summer of 2013. Not in 2050, but four years from now."
Either the Arctic is going to be ice free in two years or we need to fully fund home heating assistance to combat this brutal winter.
Can't be both.
Each side will unfairly pick out the most egregious examples of overspending on, or undercutting of, what each believes to be crucially important programs, which means crucially important to elements of its political base.
It will be up to us to be smart consumers of the news coming out of the coming budget fight to cut through the sophistry and decide for ourselves what the government should be spending our money on (having taxed it), and what we should be spending our money on (having earned it).
On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Definitions of both "bromide" and "sophistry." Also links to the USA Today piece on Kerry's being anti-cold and to his HuffPo piece in which he was anti-warm. Also a Mullfoto which is a most troubling example of a local government attempting to control its citizens behavior and a Catchy Caption of the Day.