A Modest Correction to the 2012 Budget

After all the noise, it occurs to me that we have not heard enough serious discussion about what needs to be cut and how the budget needs to be reduced.  This is the reason President Obama has no credibility on the budget, by the way – he offers no serious effort to address the deficit crisis, an indictment made worse by the fact that his first two budgets made the problem far worse than any President before him has ever done.  But President Obama is not the focus,; we must address the simple but difficult problem of finding a way to put our morbidly obese government on a diet.  This article begins a discussion on how we should do that.

 

I start with Obama’s proposed budget from February of this year, which is to date the only detailed look at how he wants to spend the tax money (and, unfortunately, revenue which does not exist).

 

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/budget_2012.pdf

 

I also submit that we must presume that Congress gets serious about spending only the money they actually have.  Also, the structure of my proposed budget starts from a simple hierarchy of projects and departments:

 

I.                    Critical Needs

II.                  Important Needs

III.                Unavoidable Costs

IV.                Useful but discretionary

V.                  Waste

 

Let’s be clear – we are in crisis, which means we have to make deep cuts to avoid serious problems down the road.  Let’s also be clear, that spending is the problem, not revenue.  Historic review shows that Americans are paying as much or more as they always have; tax cuts solved a problem of over-taxing.  We need to use a chainsaw on spending, not a penknife.

 

Obama’s proposed budget sets aside spending for 24 departments, agencies, and major programs.  They are, by name, the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security,  Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Justice, Labor, State  and International Programs,  Transportation, Treasury, Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, the Corporation for National and Community Service, Corps of Engineers, National Intelligence, National Science Foundation, and Overseas Contingency Operations programs.  They may be classified by priority and constitutionality as follows:

 

I.                     Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, State, Treasury, National Intelligence   

II.                  Commerce, Energy, NASA

III.                Agriculture, Interior, Labor, Transportation, Social Security Adm., Corps of Engineers

IV.                Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, EPA

V.                  Dept. of Education, HUD, Small Business Administration, Corp. for National and Community Service, National Science Foundation, Overseas Contingency Operations

 

Let’s keep it simple for starters:  Category I gets its budget, pretty much untouched although we should always look for fat or ways to avoid unnecessary costs.  Category II gets  a 20% budget cut, Category III gets between 40 and 75% cut, Category IV gets 80% cut, and Category V gets defunded.   This is in regards to discretionary budgets.

 

Obviously, this would be controversial, and certain specific programs or needs will have to be examined, and at need re-funded to minimal levels to meet requirements.  Any effective plan  must make a hard revision of basic assumptions.  Before going on, though, let’s see what that does for the budget to make these cuts:

 

Department of Agriculture:  $23.9 B original discretionary, $12.0 B revised

Department of Commerce: $8.8 B original discretionary, $7.04 B revised

Department of Defense: $553 B base budget, unchanged

National Intelligence Program: classified in budget, $55 B revised

Department of Education:$77.4 B original budget, defunded in revised

Department of Energy: $29.5 B original budget, $23.6 B revised

Department of Health and Human Services: $79.9 B original budget, $15.98 B revised

Department of Homeland Security: $43.2 B original; budget, unchanged

Department of Housing and Urban Development: $48 B original budget, defunded in revised

Department of the Interior: $12 B original budget, $6 B revised

Department of Justice: $28.2 B original budget, unchanged

Department of Labor: $12.8 B original budget, $6.4 B revised

Department of State and Other International Programs: $47 B original budget, unchanged

Department of Transportation: $13.4 B original discretionary, $6.7 B revised

Department of the Treasury: $14 B original budget, unchanged

Department of Veterans Affairs: $61.85 B original budget, $12.37 B revised

Overseas Contingency Operations: $116 B original budget, defunded and rolled back into Defense and State in revision

Corps of Engineers–Civil Works: $4.6 B original budget, $2.3 B revised

Environmental Protection Agency: $9 B in original budget, $1.8 B revised

National Aeronautics and Space Administration: $18.7 B original budget, $14.96 B revised

National Science Foundation: $7.8 B in original budget, defunded in revision

Small Business Administration: $0.985 B in original budget, defunded in revision

Social Security Administration: $12.5 B original discretionary, $6.25 B in revision

Corporation for National and Community Service: $1.3 B in original budget, defunded in revision

 

Totals:  $1,278,835,000,000 Obama Budget , $858,811,000,00 revised  ($420 Billion savings)

Discretionary Spending ONLY

 

Are these cuts painful?  Obviously.  Are they necessary?  Actually, we need to cut deeper, but this would be a start.  My point is twofold.  First, government simply has to get away from thinking it can do everything it wants with our money.  And second, so far no one in Congress, in either party, is really serious enough about what is needed.    

The Path to Unsustainability
"So shallow, so hyperpartisan, and so intellectually dishonest"