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How Would You Cut the Deficit?

Could you figure out a realistic way to create a surplus of $418 billion in this country by 2015? I just did, using the New York Times’ budget puzzle.

Using this interactive, online feature, you have the opportunity to choose how you would end the deficit and see the direct results of your actions in 2015 and 2030. A chart shows each proposed optional spending cut and revenue-building option, explains it, and shows its effect.

My two biggest deficit-destroying choices were capping Medicare growth starting in 2013 and enacting a national sales tax. These cut the deficit in 2030 by $562 billion and $281 billion, respectively. Other important cuts were enacting the Bowles-Simpson plan (which would lower taxes while simultaneously reducing tax breaks for companies and individuals), reducing the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to 30,000 by 2013 (saving lives, money, and in my opinion, building a more positive image for the U.S. in the region), and allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for those making over $250,000 a year. These cut the deficit by $175 billion, $169 billion, and $115 billion by 2030, respectively.

However, just as important as the cuts I made were the cuts I didn’t make. There has been a lot of discussion about cutting foreign aid. I was never sure how I felt about the proposal. Given our deficit, shouldn’t America come first? Then again, we spend proportionately less on foreign aid than many other nations. When actually confronted with the fact that cutting foreign aid in half would only save the U.S. $17 billion by 2030, my choice was clear. Compared to the other cuts I made, it was such a small part of the deficit that it wasn’t worth the lack of positive influence and bad blood it would brew overseas.

And what about those infamous earmarks? When I considered all the good earmarks do (bringing districts that would otherwise not have avoice in things like roads and bridges that they need) vs. the bad (bringing us bloated legislation filled with demands no one has the time to read), it really came down to how much it would save if they were eliminated. It turns out that cutting earmarks only saves $14 billion by 2030. That isn’t worth stopping funding for all of the good local projects, despite that fact that a small percentage of them might be wasteful.

Cutting weapons programs also gets a lot of press. Is it worth potentially jeopardizing national security to balance the budget? As it turns out, no, it’s not. This cut would only save $18 billion by 2030, which is relatively small when looking at the $2,415 billion surplus America would accumulate by then if it followed my plan.

How did I acquire such a massive surplus? 51% of my savings came from tax increases and the other 49% came from spending cuts. Just call me the bipartisan budget balancer.

This tool is something every American should use to gauge for himself/herself what is worth cutting and what isn’t, as well as which popular talking points are actually insignificant (earmarks) and which ones would go a long way towards creating a surplus (capping Medicare). I consider myself quite the political junkie, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw how misleading the talking points of many politicians and pundits are.

No matter how much you think you know, you will learn something from this puzzle. Plus, you’ll get to brag to all your friends that you’re better at balancing the budget than the government. c

You can cut the defiit, and learn a little about legislation in the process, at: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/11/13/weekinreview/deficits-graphic.html?scp=2&sq=balance%20the%20deficit&st=cse.

Or see how I balanced the budget at: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/11/13/weekinreview/deficits-graphic.html?choices=2m5vq5rh.



Join the Discussion


This article has 7 comments. Post your own!

a thinking liberal said...
Sept. 17, 2011 at 8:10 pm:
I agree with the previous comment about the need to get rid of tax cuts I think that the current system of running for office and the need for campaign money may be some of the reasons that tax breaks are structured as they are.
 
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sandyb said...
Sept. 10, 2011 at 11:14 am:
This is an amazing exercise. It should be required reading for anyone wanting to voice an opinion on how to cut the deficit.
 
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gailfromny said...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 7:23 pm:
Good thinking about cutting back on weapons spending and rolling back the tax cuts.  It's hard to believe that anyone except those involved in the weapons industry and the super wealthy would disagree
 
kenny replied...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 9:45 pm :
Actually, the author was against cutting weapons programs, and I agree. Having the best weapons helps keep Americans safe once in war, but I believe it also acts as a deterent to potential agressors.
 
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Gbaby123 said...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 6:18 am:

Your ideas are concise and extremely thought through.

I appreciate your concerns. It's people like you that WILL make the difference in this world.

 
conservative lib replied...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 10:07 am :
This article really made me think about how much our leaders grandstand and debate about minutia that is more idealogical than effective.  For example, shifting money from soldiers on the ground to foreign aid would probably be more effective in the long run, but have a strong military presence sounds better.
 
elsiena replied...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 6:19 pm :

Very well thought out. I don't favor any cut of medicare. People have paid into medicare and social security all of their woring lives. The government has absolutely no right to take any money from that trust,any more than they could take money from our bank accounts. 

I also think that the US spends far too much on weapons and we already have enough to destroy the world ten times over.

Great idea to get rid of the tax cuts. 80% of major US Corporations pay no tax... (more »)

 
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