Balance the Budget

November 14, 2010 at 11:07 am (By Randy)

Here’s a mildly entertaining way to while away your Sunday, courtesy of the New York Times:

Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget

Today, you’re in charge of the nation’s finances. Some of your options have more short-term savings and some have more long-term savings. When you have closed the budget gaps for both 2015 and 2030, you are done.

I disagree with the last sentence above as someone sometime has to begin reducing our national debt. Anyway, I came up with $893 billion in savings and tax increases for 2015 and $2,765 billion for 2030. Doesn’t have a hope in Hell of happening, and my draconian calcs reflect my mood at the moment (and may not be an accurate representation of my opinion 15 minutes from now).

Why not try your hand at it?


  1. wj said,

    I didn’t get quite as much improvement as Randy (only 1,888 billion or so for 2030). But then, as an exercise I was restricting myself to changes which are simply good public policy, regardless of their impact on the budget. Which tells me that this is eminently do-able . . . and should let us start reducing the Federal debt as well.

    Both of our numbers are large enough that I almost start to believe that something effective might get done. I still wouldn’t bet the ranch on it, but it at least looks not-inconceivable. Which is, frankly, better than I expected.

  2. Randy said,

    WJ, thanks for playing! We should probably disclose our selections – maybe later. My attempt only added up to so much because I completely ignored the political realities, and, to some extent, whether or not something was actually good public policy. ;-) Yours sounds like it had a better foundation. (FWIW, I think the maximum someone can “save” in the exercise is $3,000 billion.)

  3. Icepick said,

    I saw that the Debt Commision came up with proposals to save $4 trillion by 2020. Great, only $6 trillion more to go, assuming optimistic economic conditions! There’s no hope in hell of getting anything done until we’ve reached the point of collapse*, maybe not until after we’ve past it. Because EVERYTHING is somebody’s Third Rail. (My Third Rail is NASA’s unmanned space flight and science budget.)

    * We’re actually already past the point of collapse in some sense. The only solutions that have any chance of working will require a lot of pain.

  4. Icepick said,

    I came up with $592 billion for 2015 and $1,490 billion in 2030. Not nearly enough to cover the real budget shortfalls that will happen, but I was limited by rather crappy choices on the tax side. Almost all of the proposals on the tax front are very conventional. Which is to say it merely perpetuates the current system which allows the politicians and lobbiests to completely suck dry of the rest of the country. I refuse to reward the pols by playing their game even in a useless excercise such as this. Anything with a “tax break” or “tax credit” is just another chance for the politicians to fuck the rest of us by manipulating the system. The lobbiests love this system for the same reason.

    We need a tax system that an idiot could understand. You know, people like our current Secretary of the Treasury or the recent Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives!

    Some of the spending cuts weren’t well definied. Raising the Medicare eligibility age to 70 would be good if it were phased in. The devil’s in the details though, so I left about $50 billion on the table for that.

    Currently I’m at 66% savings from spending cuts and 34% from tax increases.

    It’s still not enough….

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