aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Cut everything

At lunch yesterday, a stray comment on the need to reduce government expenditures prompted a snarl from a friend about cutting the defense budget. For my friend, government spending on defense is Bad and government spending on other stuff is Good: a simplistic dichotomy, but characteristic of too many folks.

Me, I think government spending is the problem, itself. That means that yes, the defense budget needs to be cut. And, yes, everything else needs to be cut, too. Really cut, not just slow-the-rate-of-increase-in-spending cut. Whole departments and multitudes of federal programs need to be eliminated. Rolled back. Dropped from the to-do list.

Instead of spending like you're going shopping while hungry, we need to decide how much money there is to spend, then prioritize it. The question for defense then is, if we've only got X dollars to spend, how do we get the most bang for our buck? And the same question needs to be asked of everything else.

I propose a swap. Let's agree on a total amount to spend. Defense gets X amount of that, entitlement programs get Y amount, and everything else gets Z amount. The people who care about defense will then propose how we defend the country with only that much money. The people who care about entitlements will then propose what programs to fund with only that much money. And they both have to come up with a plan for everything else -- with only that much money. That's the key: with only that much money.

I'm not holding my breath on that, of course. For while I'd be willing to cut defense extensively in return for cutting the other stuff extensively, my friend and those on his side just want to cut defense and increase the other stuff. They think it's a moral choice, rather than a financial one; indeed, they would cut defense even if the budget as a whole were in balance, and increase the other stuff no matter how out of balance we are.

Meanwhile, the spending increases even if no one proposes any increases. The budget has built-in escalators to spare Congressmen the need to wrestle with hard choices. In the federal government's budgeting process, the numbers that were intended as ceilings have turned into floors, and the only answer to any problem is More. The conservative responds that the only cure for that is Less. I'd prefer an intelligent, planned Less, but I'd settle for anything that gets us to Less. Because More is destroying us.

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