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How to balance the budget through spending cuts

In their paper "One Thousand Cuts," Michael Ettlinger and Michael Linden tried to create realistic scenarios in which we cut or eliminate the deficit solely through the use of spending cuts. It's an interesting read for a depressing reason: For all the talk of spending cuts, there's very little specificity in the discussion. I spoke with Ettlinger this morning. A lightly edited transcript follows.

Ezra Klein: Your paper, as I read it, tries to take the vague talk of spending cuts and show what it looks like when translated into real reductions in the funding of real programs. So what’d you learn from the exercise?

Michael Ettlinger: Well, when you talk about cutting spending, you’re talking about cutting things that serve a useful purpose and for the most part are popular. You dig into it, and there’s not a line in the budget that says waste, fraud and abuse. Every line has a rationale behind it.

EK: So then why do people believe that there’s so much waste and fraud in the government? If these programs serve purposes and are basically popular, and they’re where the money goes, why does the government’s spending have such a bad reputation?

ME: To make up some numbers, 60 or 80 percent of the public supports any given line in the budget, but the remainder don’t support that given line. So all of us have 10, 20, 30 percent pf the budget we think could be cut. So as long as that’s in the budget, all of us individually think there are budget cuts that should happen before I pay higher taxes.

EK: One way politicians try to elide some of these decisions is to propose across-the-board spending cuts. How would such an approach work in practice?

ME: Across-the-board spending cuts make zero sense. Even if you think that the government spends way too much, there are clearly priorities. So the challenge is, say you’re talking about a 15 percent across-the-board spending cut, but once you begin pulling things off the list because you don’t want to cut them, which inevitably happens, then the other programs are looking at cuts of 30 percent or 40 percent. And then you think, well, the National Park Service may be good for some cuts, but I don’t want to cut it by 40 percent.

EK: In the paper, you make the point that tax expenditures should be thought of as spending. Explain what a tax expenditure is, as I think this category is often overlooked.

ME: There are lots of provisions in the tax code that were put there for reasons that aren’t the fair collection of adequate revenues. So we will put in a tax benefit for oil companies, the purpose of which is to encourage oil companies to drill more in the United States. That has nothing to do with the tax system. It’s a subsidy, just as if we passed a law saying oil companies get paid by the federal government for producing domestically. But politicians like it because it can be called a “tax cut” rather than a “spending increase,” though the two things are the same. And because the tax code doesn’t get looked at every year, these provisions build up with less scrutiny than other forms of spending.

EK: So what did you come away thinking should be cut? What’s your waste, fraud and abuse line?

ME: The area where CAP has done a lot of work is on the defense side. Defense was given almost a blank check in the last decade. There was obviously a need to ramp up spending because of the wars, but we way overshot the mark. We’re spending more, in real terms, than we have at any time since the beginning of World War II -- more than during the Cold War or Reagan's buildup. And if you talk to people who really understand our national security needs, they’ll acknowledge there’s a lot we can cut back on defense.

EK: You made a point there that I want to stop on for a second: Defense is one of the categories that we routinely exempt from cuts. The president’s spending freeze was on non-security discretionary spending. The GOP’s Pledge is focused on the same category. And then mandatory spending and tax expenditures also receive less scrutiny. Does this allow for more inefficiency in those sectors?

ME: I thought it was a big mistake when the administration announced they were freezing non-security spending. It implicitly suggested that’s where all the waste is. And that just isn’t true. Defense is a huge amount of space, and there’s room in mandatory spending, too. There’s a big discussion over Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, but there are agricultural subsidies in mandatory spending, too.

EK: Anything else?

ME: The motivation for this report was largely kind of disgust at all of these people who were calling for massive spending cuts but not really willing to own up to what that would mean in terms of the government’s role promoting economic growth and promoting the safety of the American people. So we did this report as a challenge: We figured out a way you could do that, and so if you’re for this, you can own what we proposed or come up with your own, but if you’re promoting that, you have an obligation to be honest with the public about what the consequences are.

By Ezra Klein  | September 24, 2010; 11:31 AM ET
Categories:  Budget, Interviews  
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Comments

No doubt there is some cutting that could be done in DOD, but it's worth pointing out that the entire 2010 DOD outlay, $664 billion, doesn't equal half of the $1.42 trillion 2010 deficit.

Posted by: wavygravy | September 24, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

But, but the GOP promised me a pony! I want it all without having to pay for it!

Posted by: MosBen | September 24, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse


Fire Ezra Klein.

Posted by: screwjob21 | September 24, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

We need to begin to cut defense spending and federal outlays to states. We need to begin these cuts in the Red States and see how they work. I'm certain that the people in Utah will appreciate closing down the military facilities there. They won't have to worry about accidental fires from the use of live ammunition used in training exercises.

Posted by: Maddogg | September 24, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Huge chunks of the defense spending are scattered in different budgets. Let's commence cutting defense and all those milion layered spy on spy companies that have no idea why they exist except they are Red State give-a-ways.

Posted by: Maddogg | September 24, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

or your could limit program growth to 1% more than the rate of inflation. Accodring to some analysis, this would be a slashing cut to the programs, according to civilian budget practice, it would be modest.

Posted by: PALADIN7E | September 24, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

You have it right. My question to the GOP: If you are going to balance the budget by cutting spending and lowering taxes, can you give us the numbers? And don't use that dodge that cutting taxes raises economic activity and increases revenue. When GW Bush massively cut taxes for high earners, that was followed by the worst recession in 50 years.

Give us the numbers. Exactly what do you plan to cut? Do you plan to freeze what Medicare pays and let seniors pick up the skyrocketing health care costs? Do you plan to do something similar with Social Security? Privatize it, pay a set amount, and then let the big banks raid it like they raided our other retirement savings? Will you really cut Pentagon spending in half or whatever.

Give us the numbers! I remember that the two presidents in my lifetime who added more to the deficit than all the presidents before them combined were Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. The recent president who actually tried to deal with the deficit was Bill Clinton.

OK, GOP. Give us the numbers!

Posted by: tinyjab40 | September 24, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Ezra ans Soros aren't being honest here... there's an easy way to cut the deficit without cutting ANY programs or raising ANY taxes:

http://biggovernment.com/mwarstler/2010/05/05/gov2-0-witold-skwierczynski-must-die/

Expect to lose 25% of public employees... the bottom 25% who do less than 10% of the work.

Expect public employees to work the same hours annually that the private sector work.

GOV2.0 for the rest of it.

Posted by: in2liberty | September 24, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Ezra ans Soros aren't being honest here... there's an easy way to cut the deficit without cutting ANY programs or raising ANY taxes:

http://biggovernment.com/mwarstler/2010/05/05/gov2-0-witold-skwierczynski-must-die/

Expect to lose 25% of public employees... the bottom 25% who do less than 10% of the work.

Expect public employees to work the same hours annually that the private sector work.

GOV2.0 for the rest of it.

Posted by: in2liberty | September 24, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

tinjab40:

its humorous to listen to democrats lecture republicans on specificity and "numbers" when they havent...even...passed...a budget...

why be specific when you can be broad based - a 5% of government spending across the board? if the government can put a cap on private carbon emissions, the government can put a cap on the government's own spending on every program in the entire federal government.

would there be exemptions? sure, but what is the democrats alternative? what is there agenda beyond cap and trade and amnesty?

Posted by: dummypants | September 24, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Ezra ans Soros aren't being honest here... there's an easy way to cut the deficit without cutting ANY programs or raising ANY taxes:

http://biggovernment.com/mwarstler/2010/05/05/gov2-0-witold-skwierczynski-must-die/

Expect to lose 25% of public employees... the bottom 25% who do less than 10% of the work.

Expect public employees to work the same hours annually that the private sector work.

GOV2.0 for the rest of it.

Posted by: in2liberty | September 24, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I can make it even easier to understand.

If you want to balance the budget you MUST raise taxes AND cut spending in one or more of the following programs: DoD, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid.

So Republicans, please let us know how much you want to raise taxes and which programs you will cut and by how much. I DARE YOU TO TELL THE VOTERS THE DETAILS (and unless/until you do so, stop complaining about the deficit).

I'll answer my own question: I would restore taxes and spending levels to the last year where we saw balanced budgets (2000).

Posted by: lauren2010 | September 24, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

We need to begin to cut defense spending and federal outlays to states. We need to begin these cuts in the Red States and see how they work
*************

this is the old "al gore and his corporate jet emissions argument". americans are beyond pissing contests. threatening to without taxyer money from taxpayers becuase they want to be taxed less is ganster government - plain and simple. their is a reason the left historically has a thuggish reputation. that impulse shines through in your comment.

Posted by: dummypants | September 24, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

The United States of America represents about 5% of the worldwide population. Given our immense wealth, perhaps it makes some sense that we would spend a disproportionate amount on defense. As much as 5 times the worldwide average per capita, or 25% of the total worldwide spending, might be justified. Most certainly, 50% of worldwide spending is not justified.

Current worldwide annual spend of $ 1,480 Billion, current U.S. annual spend of $ 740 Billion or 50%. This should be worldwide annual spend of $987 Billion, U.S. annual spend of $ 247 Billion or 25%.

This is an opportunity to reduce our Federal spend by $493 Billion annually - $4.93 Trillion per decade that could be applied to deficit reduction. Deficit reduction makes the U.S. stronger. We need to do this.

You Borrow and Spend Republicans are the problem.

Posted by: Provincial | September 24, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

So let me get this straight. The democrat party wont even propose a budget to show what their spending priorities will be in an election year but you wine that the GOP's specific plan is not specific enough. AMAZING! Why is federal spending 35% higher than 2008? It cant be cut back to 2008 levels? Are you serious?

Posted by: j751 | September 24, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

To BALANCE the U.S. BUDGET Is Important, and EASY to Do! -- But- MOST IMPORTANT -- Is to Remove / Erase the NATIONAL USURY $DEBT!! - Most of the $DEBT has been craeted from/by USURY $INTEREST upon INTEREST DEBT-- as the result of Criminal 'FIAT' Funny-money,-- & UN--Constitutional ""FRACTIONAL RESERVE BANKING PRACTICES & LOANS""!!! -- WE-the-People demand that Our' U.S. CONGRESS - Repeal the 'FEDERAL RESERVE ACT'!-- And END Teir' Criminal Supports & $BAIL-OUTS of these Globalist $funny-money "FIAT" $THUGS!!

Posted by: jward52 | September 24, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

lauren2010,

I like your idea, except the unfunded liability levels are...ready for this...10X what they were in 2000. what you are suggesting is that we cut the new healthcare bill entirely, as mdicare and medicaid spending was 1/10 what it was then and social security was about 4/5 of what is now...taxes were lower as well. So you are advocating the repeal of the new healthcare bill, lower medicare and medicaid payments, and less payouts to social security...I thought I liked you plan, but I think it can be done better.

Posted by: Bosoxfan | September 24, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

"their is a reason the left historically has a thuggish reputation. that impulse shines through in your comment."

Gee, as an ex-Republican, I always thought the right had a thuggish reputation. And this is reinforced by actual examples of thuggery (e..g brooks brothers riot, impeachment of Clinton, voter caging, false ACORN hysteria, limiting rights of gays, NY mosque panic, immigrant bashing, and the list goes on).

In reality, people of all political persuasions have a penchant for thuggery, or violence, etc. There are times in history when lefties seem to be thugs, and times in history when righties are the apparent thugs. Right now, in the USA, that distinction firmly belongs to the right in my opinion.

Posted by: lauren2010 | September 24, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Oh my gosh Ezra, what a scoop. Michael Linden and Michael Ettlinger, two stooges who work where? Let's see......The Center for American Progress of course. The Soros funded neo-marxist echo chamber where all the loser ideas for this loser administration are pooped out of. Looks like a typical Journo-List half baked article where commie economists back up commie ideas written by a commie propagandist and posted in a commie mouthpiece for the commie DNC. Yeah, we get the commie thing. You got nothing.

Posted by: whatup | September 24, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse


Ezra, With all the talk here about budget cuts, wouldn't it be nice if the Democrats actually provided a budget for the current fiscal year?

The Democrats have refused to introduce this current year's budget. Whatever happened to fiscal responsibility.

How can people rip the GOP when the Democrats are left lacking all credibility.

A majority of Americans have caught on to the smoke and mirrors used by the Democrats to deflect attention from their disastrous economic agenda.

Posted by: janet8 | September 24, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Bosoxfan

Any serious attempt to have a law that automatically forces a balanced budget (in the event of gridlock or other reasons) MUST include a stipulation to automatically rollback taxes and spending to the LAST year where a balanced or surplus budget was actually achieved. That's the ONLY was such an amendment can possibly work.

I do realize the sacrifices this would cause to many people. But my theory is that once people EXPERIENCE the pain of this kind of action, they will start to understand that money is better spent helping people instead of defense contractors and political buddies and transnational corps. Right now we are languishing from death from a 1000 cuts, but it would be better to inflict a non-fatal gunshot wound and get the patient into surgery ASAP where a full recovery might finally be realized.

Posted by: lauren2010 | September 24, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

"There are lots of provisions in the tax code that were put there for reasons that aren’t the fair collection of adequate revenues."

BINGO!

Beginning with Prop. 13 in California (1973, I believe), the national conversation on taxation has become so distorted that I despair of ever coming back to sanity on the issue. Reagan brought the virus with him to Washington, and it has now reached the point that simply uttering the word 'taxes' in the presence of a politician of either party is the functional equivalent of holding a up a cross in front of a vampire. Republicans chant 'it's your money!', but choose to ignore the fact that it's also your military, your Medicare, your Social Security, etc. Democrats pretend that our problems can be solved by taking a bit more from 'the top 2 percent', which a) is false and b) ignores the fact that the fantasy of most Americans is that they are only one more lottery ticket (or other equivalent stroke of luck) away from being in that top 2%. (Lake Wobegon nation, where all incomes are way above average!)

My hubby and I had an argument before the last election as to whether it would be better to have McCain win and then just watch everyting go down in flames, in the hope that hitting bottom might have the same effect on the country as it sometimes does on a drunk. I was in favor of the going down in flames theory, he opposed to it. As a grownup, I know he is right, but I can't help think that there is no other solution. We were in a spiraling dive, and pulled out only through a series of extraordinary actions, and although we pulled out of the dive and are in temporary control again, we are spending all of our time arguing about whether there was a better way to pull out of the dive, instead of trying to figure out what we need to do the land the d_mn plane.

Posted by: guesswhosue | September 24, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

"If you want to balance the budget you MUST raise taxes AND cut spending in one or more of the following programs: DoD, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid.

So Republicans, please let us know how much you want to raise taxes and which programs you will cut and by how much. I DARE YOU TO TELL THE VOTERS THE DETAILS (and unless/until you do so, stop complaining about the deficit).

I'll answer my own question: I would restore taxes and spending levels to the last year where we saw balanced budgets (2000)."

End Medicaid.


But its curious you answer the question the way you do. Obama has run away from nearly every Clinton policy enactment.

Posted by: krazen1211 | September 24, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

"Give us the numbers! I remember that the two presidents in my lifetime who added more to the deficit than all the presidents before them combined were Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. The recent president who actually tried to deal with the deficit was Bill Clinton."

Has your brain shut down over the last 2 years? We have a new deficit king.

Posted by: krazen1211 | September 24, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Ending Medicaid won't balance the budget by itself.

Posted by: lauren2010 | September 24, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I'd also like to know who the 60 votes are going to be in the Senate for ending Medicaid.

Posted by: MosBen | September 24, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Another problem skirted has to do with the notion of "popular". The 47% of Americans who pay no federal tax have as much say over what is popular as the 53% of Americans who do pay federal tax. So if that 47% who doesn't pay federal tax says "give us more free stuff", they lose nothing at all, because to ask for more free stuff costs them nothing. The 53% who actually are robbed to pay for this "free stuff" bear all of the burden for this.

As we move to legalize more and more low income people who fall into this nonpaying bracket in the name of "immigration reform", and then sign them up as registered Democrats, will we reach a point in which 51% of Americans pay no federal tax and dictate through majority what the 49% who do pay taxes will do?

Most of the goods and services paid out to citizens from the US government go out on a per capita or need basis. That means most of the benefits go towards those who pay no federal tax, since they fall in both the per captita and need catagories. This pandering to those who pay no taxes has gotten many a Democrat elected, and it needs to stop.

As we can not easily deny the vote to Americans, we must instead junk the progressive tax system, making all Americans pay a flat percentage for their federal tax. Then as people clammor for more and more government services, their tax rate goes up, and there is disincentive for them to consume more and more federal services. Taking into account privately purchased alternatives at some point becomes appealing and a viable alternative to a federal provided service, as long as we all truely pay.

Under this flat tax system, failure to pay your taxes would be a felony and deny you voting rights, much as felons are excluded from the electoral process presently.

Until we address the fundamental flaw that there is no check or balance curbing non-taxpaying demand for government services, the popularity of unsustainable and unaffordable government spending measures will continue to be high.

At what point do those productive few who actually earn enough to pay tax just leave the USA for some tax haven nation like Bermuda? Already we see the soak the rich policies in NYC are driving millionaires out of the city to other, lower tax paying states. How high can you go before people leave the nation to seek assylum from progressive taxation?

Posted by: Wiggan | September 24, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/business/economy/14leonhardt.html

Wiggan,

Read the link them come and apologize for using fuzzy statistics.

Your 47% figure is a cable news fiction.

Taxes have fallen faster for millionaires and income for them has risen faster than any other group.

Posted by: lauren2010 | September 24, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Krazen

The current deficit is almost entirely due to GW Bush.

Posted by: lauren2010 | September 24, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans have given us their plan for balancing the budget in their "Pledge to America." They propose cutting spending by up to $146 billion and cutting taxes by at least $3.7 trillion.

Must be that new math they are teaching these days.

Posted by: stichmo | September 24, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Once the recession is over, I'm all for budget cuts, and it was good to see a discussion in which defense cuts are also on the table, especially all the foolish spending on war in the last 9 years.

Posted by: oldtimehockey | September 24, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Here is why America borrows $1.4 Trillion in 2010 to pay the bills:

Military spending is already 28% of all government revenues.

***2010 USA Discretionary Spending: Defense=$722 Billion, All else = $648 Billion***

*** 2010 USA Mandatory Spending (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) = $2.2 Trillion ***

USA Federal Revenues are $2.4 Trillion and federal spending is $3.57 Trillion. Mandatory Spending (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, plus) is $2.2 Trillion, and Discretionary spending (defense, two wars, education, homeland security (immigration), NASA, art, culture, manufacturing incentives, agricultural subsidies, government services, etc.,) is $1.37 Trillion. Of that $1.37 Trillion, defense is $722 billion for 2010 and everything else put together is $648 billion.

In Germany, higher taxes lead to a higher Quality of life, more gainful employment, higher levels of manufacturing and productivity and more free time for vacations. In America, lower taxes lead to higher unemployment, outsourcing of Jobs and manufacturing, less free time, and a lower quality of life.

America cannot afford over $100 Billion/year in tax breaks for the Rich, or the $250 Billion/year in tax breaks for the non-rich.

Raise the Social Security Tax to include all income and not just up to your first $107k. As more people have gotten wealthy, wealth has been shielded from the Social Security Tax as it has not kept up with inflation.

http://politics.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2010/09/20/cutting-benefits-isnt-the-way-to-save-social-security.html

“Cutting Benefits Isn't the Way to Save Social Security: The answer isn't raising the retirement age; it's making the rich pay a fair share”

“Most people don't know that someone making $300,000 or even $30 million a year pays no more in Social Security taxes than someone earning roughly $107,000. In 1983, 90 percent of wage and salary income was taxed, but today it's less than 84 percent. That's a huge windfall for the rich and a serious shortfall for Social Security.”

Posted by: Airborne82 | September 24, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

"No doubt there is some cutting that could be done in DOD, but it's worth pointing out that the entire 2010 DOD outlay, $664 billion, doesn't equal half of the $1.42 trillion 2010 deficit."

Misleading! You are comparing apples and oranges. Deficit is accumulated over time whereas defense budget ($664 billon) is spent every fiscal year. You would have to divide the deficit by the number of years it has been incurred before comparing it with annual defense spending.

Posted by: biggy3 | September 24, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

All of us who paid any attention for the last fifty years know what "waste, fraud, and abuse" really means in the Republican lexicon: Social programs for disfavored minorities, for the poor, for children, and for women, and environmental programs and science (volcano monitoring, for example, according to Bobby Jindal). If you're rich, old, White, and male, you're all right. Military spending, corporate subsidies, and tax cuts for the rich don't count, because the beneficiaries are Real Americans.

Government of Real Americans by Real Americans for Real Americans! None of your Communist, Nazi, Muslim, terrorist, Kenyan Mau Mau, Antichrist riffraff coming around for Reparations or wanting to date our daughters.

But we're not racist bigots. You didn't hear any "N*****, n*****, n*****" from us, especially not from Lee Atwater or Laura Ingraham. Except when nobody was supposed to be listening, or we had a really good excuse, or we really, really, wanted to.

Posted by: Antibogotes | September 24, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

It is my opinion that defense oriented spending approaches or exceeds $1 trillion per year. The dod budget specifies only a part of that spending.

There's a wiki link somewhere that provides details.

Posted by: lauren2010 | September 24, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

"The current deficit is almost entirely due to GW Bush."

Lauren,

Warren Harding started office in the midst of a horrific reccession that began under Wilson. Did he simply run massive deficits and blame them on his predecessor?

He did not. Harding cut taxes and cut spending even more, and ran a surplus each year.

Despite a deflationary downturn as severe as the 2007-2009 recession, the U.S. was back at full employment in 1923.

"It is my opinion that defense oriented spending approaches or exceeds $1 trillion per year. The dod budget specifies only a part of that spending."

Robert Higgs calculated $935 billion for FY2006. If you accept everything he includes as defense, it is surely in the $1 trillion ballpark today.

It is hard to believe that this amount could not be sliced dramatically, with no real loss in security. It is all waste and theft, money sucked from the taxpayers and diverted back to military contractors.

http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1941

Our wonderful Defense Secretary made a lot of noise fighting the F-22, saving perhaps a couple billion of taxpayer money (normally commendable), and then turned about and championed buying 2,443 F-35 fighters for $380 billion (and climbing).

Can you imagine a world where we'd need 2,443 F-35s, but 1,800 just wouldn't do? What about 1,400? How many would we need if we just minded our own business?

Here is an example of hundreds of billions of dollars of waste sitting around in plain view and no one does anything.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE68900220100910

Posted by: justin84 | September 24, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

For True Deficit Hawks:

The Bush era tax cuts should expire, but the tax code should be simplified with a minimum rate of 10~15% for all individuals and corporations. The corporate tax rate of 35% is a Joke when loopholes allow companies to write off 100% of their taxes and force small business and individuals to bear the greatest blunt of America’s tax burden. America needs a minimum tax rate of 10~15% for all businesses and individuals after all deductions

http://www.forbes.com/2010/04/01/ge-exxon-walmart-business-washington-corporate-taxes_slide.html?partner=abcnews

“It's the tax benefit of overseas operations that is the biggest reason why multinationals end up with lower tax rates than the rest of us. It only makes sense that multinationals "put costs in high-tax countries and profits in low-tax countries," says Scott Hodge, president of the Tax Foundation.”

All Bush era Tax Cuts, Oil Industry subsidies; estate taxes giveaways and Feedstock and Cotton Subsidies from top to bottom should end. Hit 'Reset' until America can bring its military men and women home from the Middle East.

End the $150~$200 Billion over 10 years to Rich farming conglomerates while victims of decades of abuse and discrimination cannot get a dime. End the $80 Billion in subsidies for rich oil companies over 10 years. End the Estate Tax giveaway that costs $300~$700 Billion over 10 years.

PORK - PORK - PORK - PORK - PORK - PORK - PORK - PORK

I want my babyback..babyback..babyback, I want my babyback..babyback..babyback….Billions

$150~$200 Billion over 10 years to Rich farming conglomerates. Farm Subsidy Database:

http://farm.ewg.org/region?fips=00000®name=UnitedStatesFarmSubsidySummary

Recipients of Total USDA Subsidies to farms in United States totaled $15,410,000,000 in 2009;

http://farm.ewg.org/top_recips.php?fips=00000&progcode=total&page=0&yr=2009

Posted by: Airborne82 | September 24, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Still the auxillary to the Obama government, aren't we? Who is Dr. Ettinger? He is the vice president for something or other at the Center for American Progress. What is the Center for American Progress? Google it. But basically, it is run by John Podesta, financed by George Soros, and dictating much of the administration's economic policy. So, you are still promulgating the journolist line - the concensus "progressive" - (that is to say, neo-Marxist) - position.

Pap - in terms of economics, classical understanding, the above analysis is pure pap. But I suppose, in term of Marx-influenced economics, it has a wonderful sciolistic plausibility.

Posted by: dante99654 | September 24, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Michael Ettlinger: "Well, when you talk about cutting spending, you’re talking about cutting things that serve a useful purpose and for the most part are popular. You dig into it, and there’s not a line in the budget that says waste, fraud and abuse. Every line has a rationale behind it."

I think you must have forgotten to check the Pentagon.

Posted by: bourassa1 | September 24, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

America spends more on "defense" than all of the world's other 192 countries put together.
10 times as much as China. 20 times more than Russia. More than 100 times as much as Iran or N.Korea.
And that's just the official defense budget, not counting hundreds of billions more on: nuclear weapons (DofEnergy's problem), mercenaries (mostly paid by State), veterans' affairs, spy satellites and other vast hidden intelligence budgets ... plus about $230 billion a year paying off the interest on loans taken to pay previous military spending also not covered by tax revenue.

Well over a trillion a year. The military spending of 4% of humanity dwarfing the expenditure of the other 96%.

This despite the fact that almost all of the potential competitors are on America's side. 73% of global military expenditure last year was by NATO members and most of the rest was friendly powers like Japan, S. Korea and Brazil.

All this when America's only declared enemy DOESN'T EVEN HAVE TANKS.

But no waste, nothing unnecessary, right?

Multi-million dollar pallets of cold cash disappearing off chopper pads in Kurdistan. 75,000 lost guns in Iraq. The entire Iraq 2006 military budget, $1.2 Bn, nicked by their absconding defence minister and never seen again.

But no fraud, no abuse.

$337 million a pop for the F-22, which can't fly in the rain, can't survive life in the Middle East, is too fragile to be used in any of America's actual wars. 10 times the cost of the fighter it's replacing. A program that was supposed to deliver 1500 planes, and ended up delivering 180 ... at the full agreed program cost.

But as all those Congressmen with Lockheed plants in their districts agree, there's a perfectly sensible rationale behind continuing this program even when the Sec of Defense is begging to close it. Yup, the rationale is obvious enough.

Don't worry, Ettlinger. It's not that you're a bad accountant. You just happen to have been born into a giant insane asylum.

Posted by: bourassa1 | September 24, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

Even from the comments above we see everyone has different priorities for taxes and spending. These comments are a microcosm of how society sees the same issue in general (there is no consensus).

Ergo, there are only TWO ways to balance a budget so out of kilter like ours: 1) let things run rampant until the system collapses and self-balances, or 2) restore tax rates and spending to the last known point in time where we actually had a balanced budget.

I prefer the less painful option 2, which obviously is still painful.

That would mean restoring taxes and spending to those levels from the year 2000, the year of our last balanced budget (under a Democratic president). This would effectively mean raising taxes and slashing spending across the board. Everyone would lose something in the bargain.

Of course, no Democrat or Republican today would agree to such a solution, and that means no one today really wants a balanced budget INCLUDING ALL YOU TEA PARTY HYPOCRITS and anyone else who feigns anger at the deficit. And that means we are actually headed toward solution 1 (collapse). So plan accordingly.

Posted by: Lomillialor | September 25, 2010 6:54 AM | Report abuse

About cutting SS and Medicare. These programs are funded with their own special taxes. So, in order to cut the programs and balance the budget, it becomes necessary to keep collecting the special taxes, but not distribute the revenues for the stated purpose.

Posted by: gratis11 | September 25, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

@Lomillialor:

One problem with trying to roll back the budget clock to 2000 is what happened next: Republicans proceeded to win the next election and the balanced budget was history. Unlike, say, health care reform, a long term balanced budget is not something that the Democrats can achieve with a temporary majority. The only ways we get a balanced budget over the long term are (1) the Republican party completely self destructs, or (2) Republicans become convinced that deficit spending is a bad idea even when Republicans control the spending. I don't think either of those are likely to happen.

Posted by: KennethAlmquist | September 26, 2010 12:14 AM | Report abuse

@Wiggan: "Another problem skirted has to do with the notion of "popular". The 47% of Americans who pay no federal tax have as much say over what is popular as the 53% of Americans who do pay federal tax."

This is a lie, of course. You are deliberately overlooking payroll taxes. Even the 47% who pay no income tax pay payroll taxes; everybody who gets a paycheck pays payroll taxes. And while income tax is "progressive," that is people with high incomes pay at a higher rate than people with lower incomes, payroll taxes are grossly "regressive," e.g. a person with a million-dollar income pays one ninth the FICA rate as a person of average income.

I see right-wingers bringing out this same pseudo-fact just about every time I read commentary on taxes. You all know about payroll taxes perfectly well, but because you are more interested in pushing propaganda than in telling the truth, you came here and typed out your fake right-wing talking point anyway. Disgusting.

Posted by: wkiernan2 | September 26, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

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