At the start of the Netflix self-help documentary “Get Smart With Money,” a voice actor says, “How do you get ahead without taking out loans?” That, in a sentence, is the maddening thought process that animates Washington — Republicans, Democrats, and the media alike.
As we approach the federal debt ceiling, Republicans are doing the thing where they swear they won’t raise it without spending cuts, only to inevitably trip over themselves when asked the most innocuous, straightforward questions pertaining to what specifically they would like to reduce spending on.
Axios on Wednesday previewed that coming show. “Fiscal conservatives want to balance the federal budget,” it said. “Former President Trump has warned his party to leave Medicare and Social Security untouched. It’s basically impossible to do both — and every way House Republicans could try to square that circle comes with political risk.” Included in the article was a chart showing how much cutting would need to take place in broad swaths of the government — “defense spending,” Social Security, Medicare, etc. — in order to balance the federal budget over the course of a decade.
With everything on the table, there would need to be a 26 percent reduction. If you remove “defense spending” — which more accurately is military contract welfare — veteran benefits, Social Security, and Medicare (essentially, the most popular programs), there would need to be an 85 percent reduction in spending in every other area of the federal government.
Think of it like balancing your own household budget while taking off the table any cuts to premium brand groceries, any proposal to downsize your home, and any alternatives to your current health insurance and care providers, all of which make up the vast majority of your spending. If you’re not going to touch those, you’re going to have to make up for it by drastically chopping at the budget elsewhere — vacations, entertainment, beauty grooming, new clothing, and so on.
The intent is to scare Republicans, who, without fail, face that reality, and suddenly can’t blink or speak. Or worse, they come up with some politically suicidal proposal to “reform” (i.e “cut back”) Social Security as millions of Americans are on the cusp of eligibility.
This round will probably be a repeat, but if House Republicans were serious about making spending cuts at least practical, if not immediately achievable (Biden and Senate Democrats will nix any attempt), it’s easily done.
First, there’s no reason for the government to hold itself to a timeline on when the budget should be balanced. That is far too ambitious for the worthless, cowardly dummies in Congress.
Second, the only way to get started on reducing spending, let alone balancing the budget, is to get started on reducing spending. Start somewhere. Anywhere. Take Sen. Rand Paul’s annual government waste audit and spin the wheel. Wherever the arrow lands, whether it’s the nearly $2 billion for “maintaining 77,000 empty Federal buildings,” or the $200,000 for the Pentagon’s “Starbucks espresso machines,” gets a 10 percent cut. Or 5 percent. Anything.
In that Netflix documentary, one of the subjects hoping to get her finances in order says she orders food delivery almost nightly. That’s the kind of stupidity found in both Democrats and, more disappointingly, Republicans (more disappointing for no other reason than that they’re the ones who act like they understand basic monetary concepts like, “Saving money requires spending less than what comes in”).
Here’s a place we could save at least a little. Nah! I don’t like to cook!
Trust that any area proposed for a budget reduction will be greeted by all of Washington with some variation of, “But that’s only [insert marginal percentage] of the federal budget!” or “But that would mean [insert any excuse]!”
Excuses are the surest sign that something isn’t necessary. Trim it back. And if anything is as critical as the government bureaucrats say it is, they’ll figure out how to make it work with less. Just like everyone else in America.
But again, this would require Republicans to actually start somewhere. When have they ever done that?