What Fiscal Responsibility Means


Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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65 Responses

  1. Avatar Simon K says:

    Can they do a California one? Or would it just be a big sign saying “Now Panic”.Report

  2. Avatar Aaron says:

    I was able to get the budget in line pretty easily: by raising taxes! I know it’s a crazy notion, but with the US tax burden at its lowest point in a lifetime, maybe we should consider it. It seems like we have a huge percentage of the population deluded into the idea that they are laboring under the worst tax burden in US history.

    I realize that with one party playing a frankly dishonest governing partner, it will be difficult if not impossible for the Democrats to enact some major tax increases. But I can’t be the only one who looks at the level of taxation under Clinton and think, “Well, that wasn’t so bad.”Report

    • Avatar Scott in reply to Aaron says:


      Yes, raising taxes is always the easy answer as opposed to asking if the gov’t should really pay for all that stuff in the first place.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Scott says:

        @Scott, And yet cutting every single thing that movement conservatives want to cut while keeping taxation and defense spending at current levels simply results in the deficit getting worse.Report

        • Avatar Scott in reply to Mark Thompson says:

          @Mark Thompson,

          I personally believe that conservatives would be willing to accept cuts if the liberals were willing as well. If the Dems in NJ are any example, their usual solution to increase taxes as opposed to cutting until you balance the budget.Report

          • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Scott says:

            @Scott, Last I checked, conservatives were demanding that we set an absurdly high floor for minimum defense spending and complaining about cuts to NASA, etc.

            Like I said above, if you’re willing to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire and bring all but 30,000 troops home by 2013, fending off a deficit crisis becomes a manageable tax. If you are unwilling to do either of those two things, or even, to an extent, go whole hog for either of those two things, then it becomes a near-impossible tax, no matter how much you cut everything else. There are plenty of Democrats who are willing to do this, mostly from the liberal wing of the party. I can’t think of many/any Republicans willing to do it.Report

            • Avatar Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

              So you’re saying that Douthat’s scenario doesn’t work for mainstream conservatives? Seems like a stretch considering Ross is the one advocating it in the first place.Report

      • Avatar Aaron in reply to Scott says:

        @Scott, I hardly think raising taxes constitutes the “easy answer” when a sizable portion of the population has fallen into a “no new taxes ever” mentality and one of the two governing parties has adopted “Get your government hands off my Medicare” and “More war for everyone!” as their motto.

        In fact, I would say that raising taxes is about the hardest option of all. I am unaware of anyone, outside of some particularly hardcore libertarians with some particularly hard-nosed ideas about the welfare state, who wants to seriously debate the role of government in maintaining an acceptable standard of living. Raising taxes isn’t the easy way out — lowering them in the first place was.

        And if you think there are any politicians — Republican, Democrat or other — who are going to stand around while The Grapes of Wrath is recreated in their districts, you are seriously mistaken.Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to Aaron says:

          “And if you think there are any politicians — Republican, Democrat or other — who are going to stand around while The Grapes of Wrath is recreated in their districts, you are seriously mistaken.”

          Ugh, folk Marxism at its worst. Ok maybe not the worst but still pretty bad.

          The government can help create the conditions where private economic activity has the chance to prosper (or destroy them). But it rarely or never creates the economic activity itself (eg, see the stimulus package). It is private economic activity that will prevent the real-life sequel to The Grapes of Wrath, if in fact it will be prevented. Therefore if we hope to prevent that, there are substantial limits on the extent to which we can assert collective control over economic activity. Vote Republican.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Aaron says:

      @Aaron, That struck me as well. If you are willing to let the Bush tax cuts expire and are willing to bring all but 30,000 troops home by 2013, it was relatively easy to cut the deficit – you still had to do a number of things, but there is a reasonable amount of flexibility. On the other hand, if you are unwilling to do either of those two things, it is virtually impossible to get the deficit much below even 70% of GDP by 2018, which would still be an increase over the current projections.Report

  3. Avatar North says:

    Fascinating tool Mark. Thanks for the link!Report

  4. Avatar Jivatman says:

    We have basically two choices for spending reductions, the entitlement programs medicare and S.S., and Military.

    Of course, it’s no surprise the political establishment has utterly failed to face these difficult facts. It’s easy and safe to score political points by attacking earmarks, foreign aid, or suggesting problems previously caused under the Bush administration the legislature failure to be a check on the executive, will be solved if only we continued to increase the power of the executive to levels closer to a junta than a developed democracy, and enact line-item veto.


    Entitlement reform is politically impossible, as the elderly vote and the young don’t. Any attempt and you will scenes similar to the Bonus Army, times 1,000,000.

    Military would seem promising. Many young people like me would support vast reductions in the military even if no money were saved, the danger it poses to peace abroad and freedom domestically is too great. Obama has consolidated and marginally expanded the constitutional subversion of Bush, but still say he’s weak on terror. I shudder when I think what another Republican president would bring. While many developed countries face deficit problems, the U.S. would seem to have the “benefit” of a vast military industrial complex that can be reduced before entitlement and welfare programs that directly affect people.

    But again, young don’t vote, and the military is an amazingly useful political tool. We often speak of politics, and politicians appealing to the lowest common denominator. The military allows them to race to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and appeal to our basest instincts of basic safety and security. Trying to appeal to reason regarding the chances of a terrorist attack against stress, auto accidents, or heart disease, fails.Report

    • Avatar Aaron in reply to Jivatman says:

      @Jivatman, indeed. If I could magic away the Defense budget, I would. The problem is, there’s no Nixon able to go to that China. And, as someone who I can’t remember (Yglesias, maybe?) once said, the reason Nixon was able to go to China is because he didn’t have Richard Nixon to red-bait him about it.Report

    • Avatar Scott in reply to Jivatman says:


      I guess you and Mark have either forgotten what happened here in the US on 9/11 or simply don’t care. The US military had already been cut significantly after the end of the cold war and was only going to be cut further until 9/11 occurred. Maybe you should blame the “religion of peace” and not Bush.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Scott says:

        @Scott, is the suggestion that military might would have prevented 9/11?

        That’s not even fighting the last war, dude. That’s fighting the war 4 or 5 wars prior.

        Hey, maybe if it weren’t for SALT II, 9/11 could have been avoided!Report

        • Avatar Scott in reply to Jaybird says:


          Maybe you should read what I actually wrote instead of trying to be clever.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Scott says:

            @Scott, and maybe you could understand that by “cut the military”, they don’t mean “get rid of it” but “get rid of Iraq and Afghanistan”.

            Hell, we shouldn’t have a military capable of nation-building. Let the UN have one of those. Let them pay for it.

            We should have a military capable of destroying any nation on earth and leaving a note saying “don’t make us come back” on the empty throne we leave behind.

            Anything else is extraneous and indulgent.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Scott says:

        @Scott, I absolutely resent this remark. Where were you on 9/11, Scott? Because I know exactly where I was. I know exactly what I saw. I know exactly what I heard. I have not forgotten. Not. One. Bit.Report

        • Avatar Scott in reply to Mark Thompson says:

          @Mark Thompson,

          Then how can you “agree in full” with Jivatman? Let’s quote him, “Military would seem promising. Many young people like me would support vast reductions in the military even if no money were saved, the danger it poses to peace abroad and freedom domestically is too great.” As I said, the military budget in this country was on they down after the cold war and has only increased b/c of 9/11. Or am I missing the real reason military expenditures have gone up?Report

          • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Scott says:

            @Scott, Might it be possible that I think that the increased military expenditures have actually hurt us. And you didn’t answer my question. Where the hell were you? How dare you accuse me of forgetting that day? How dare you, sir?Report

      • Avatar Simon K in reply to Scott says:

        @Scott, Can you explain to us how soldiers are useful in preventing ordinary people with box-cutter knives from boarding aircraft?Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Scott says:


        I guess you and Mark have either forgotten what happened here in the US on 9/11 or simply don’t care.

        Before I rip you a new asshole, how old are you?Report

        • Avatar Scott in reply to Dave says:


          Such tough talk for someone whose anonymity is guaranteed by the internet. FYI, 9/11 was part of the reason I put my money where my mouth is and joined the U.S. Army Reserve.Report

          • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Scott says:

            @Scott, And yet you still refuse to answer a pretty simple and direct question. You still insist on telling me what I do and do not remember, what I do and do not care about.Report

            • Avatar Scott in reply to Mark Thompson says:

              @Mark Thompson,

              Actually I was going to let the whole thing go since clearly you are reading something into to what I said.

              I think you were pretty clear in that you “agreed in full” with Jivatman about cutting the military and the danger the US military poses to peace. Maybe you should have read his comments before you so quickly “agreed in full?”Report

              • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Scott says:

                @Scott, You wrote “I guess you and Mark have either forgotten what happened here in the US on 9/11 or simply don’t care.”

                There’s not any “reading into” involved. I still agree in full with Jivatman. In fact, my experiences both on and after that day are a huge reason why I agree with Jivatman in full. Others with similar experiences to mine may well disagree. But they would not dare make the accusation “you have forgotten or don’t care.”Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Scott says:


            So you are an adult. I see.

            Surely we can reason together, like adults do, rather than impugning our opponents’ imperfect memories, can’t we?

            If so, then let me suggest that it is a well-known principle in economics that eventually, more of the same input yields less of the desired output. It’s called diminishing marginal returns. Continue adding more and more of that input, and marginal returns may even go negative — more of the given input only makes things worse.

            Why does it indicate an imperfect memory to suggest that we may have reached such a state with our military expenses? Our desired output — security — may be in decreasing rather than increasing supply, because security requires fiscal solvency and the ability to leave some uncommitted reserves of cash or credit for unknown particular emergencies.

            What this has to do with insufficient memory, or perhaps insufficient devotion to the cult of 9/11, is beyond me.Report

            • Avatar Scott in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

              @Jason Kuznicki,

              Read what Jivatman said and Mark’s agreement. Mark didn’t suggest that the US reached the diminishing marginal returns with regard to defense spending. Let me quote Jivatman, “Many young people like me would support vast reductions in the military even if no money were saved, the danger it poses to peace abroad and freedom domestically is too great.” That is what Mark “agreed in full” to.Report

              • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Scott says:

                @Scott, Does it occur to you that maybe I might think that the expansion of the military has done zero, nada, zilch to make things safer?Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Scott says:


                As I tell my wife when she expects me know what she is thinking, “my ESP isn’t working today dear.” Sorry, I don’t know what you are thinking either. Maybe you should have said something more than “agreed in full?”Report

              • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Scott says:

                @Scott, If you don’t know what someone is thinking, it usually makes sense to actually, y’know, ask them, rather than make all sorts of assumptions about what they are thinking. But, hey, you know what it was like to be me on and immediately after 9/11, so assume away and feel free to never admit being wrong about your assumptions.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Scott says:

                @Scott, you may wish to consider using another tactic that (I presume) you use with your wife.

                When she says something that could be read in more than one way, going out of your way to interpret it in the way that puts yourself in the best possible light while putting her in the worst possible light is a lot, seriously, a lot of fun, you *MUST* know that it’s not conducive to a long-term conversation on the topic.

                Instead of going with the “I’m awesome, you suck” interpretation, going for a “wait, what? clarify for me please, surely you didn’t mean that shoes mean *THAT* much to you” approach will end up being a lot more helpful in the long term.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Scott says:


                Although you don’t realize it, you’ve just offered the textbook definition of negative marginal returns: Even spending the same amount, albeit doing “less” with it, would be better, because what we actually are doing is not increasing our net output of security, but is instead decreasing it. That’s precisely a situation of negative marginal returns, just as I said.

                Frankly, even flushing all that money down a (very large) toilet would be better, say Jivatman and Mark. It is always so with negative marginal returns. You’re better off wasting your inputs.

                And I, too, agree in full.Report

            • Avatar Scott in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

              @Jason Kuznicki,

              I never suggested that the US spend anymore on defense than it currently does. At least read what I actually wrote. The only reason that the US increased its defense budget since the end of the cold war was 9/11 not b/c of some right wing fantasy. I suppose if terrorism stopped tomorrow then the US would cut the defense budget, however, since it won’t I don’t think this is the time to mindlessly cut the defense budget.Report

              • Avatar Travis in reply to Scott says:

                @Scott, you’re assuming without evidence that any of that giant increase has done anything to make our nation safer. One could actually argue it has made us more vulnerable. The fact is, all that money was spent on engulfing our military forces in wars of choice against countries which had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11. *cough* Iraq *cough*Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Scott says:

            @Scott, dude.

            All you have to do is acknowledge that it is, in fact, possible to respond to something like 9/11 in more ways than merely giving up one weekend a month and two weeks a year in exchange for money.

            “Whoops, sorry, got a little heated there. I didn’t mean to insult you or your patriotism. I just get really hot under the collar when people attack the stuff I think is really important… and, without thinking, I guess I attacked stuff that you think is really important. Sorry about that. No hard feelings.”

            And that way you can get back to explaining why it’s so very important that we have the levels of military spending we have now rather than the levels of military spending we had 10 years ago in order to prevent 9/11s.Report

  5. Avatar Kyle says:

    The LA Times did one of these for California’s budget and it was impossible to close the budget through traditional liberal or conservative means.

    What bothers me about the taxes-spending divide is that both sides have a point and both miss the glaring ways in which both taxes and spending inefficient.

    In any sense, I’m beginning to think there ought to be some kind of flat tax indexed to yearly levels of government spending. Or perhaps increasing taxes for one year to cover the deficit so people can’t avoid the real cost of government spending. Then we’d be more judicious about spending choices.Report

    • Avatar Scott in reply to Kyle says:


      Why don’t we move the date of all our government elections to the April 14th so people will think about their tax bill when they vote?Report

      • Avatar Kyle in reply to Scott says:


        Having done my taxes in February, April 14th is just another day for me. Still it would only rile up people who are mad that they have to pay thousands for things like roads, landscaping, safe food and medicine, and not being killed but do nothing for the (millions of?) people who don’t pay income tax, which is my issue.Report

        • Avatar Scott in reply to Kyle says:


          Sounds like you’ve bought into the system and just mindlessly hand over your money because the gov’t knows best. Just like Joe Biden said, paying more taxes is patriotic.Report

          • Avatar Kyle in reply to Scott says:


            I live in a military town. My taxes pay for tricare for my neighbors, for the three carriers docked in our bay, the salaries of the marines and sailors I see daily, for paved streets that protect my car and tires, for police and fire-fighters, the latter of whom will be incredibly important come fire season. Have I bought into the system? Of course, if by system you mean my community.

            Paying a tax to Uncle Sam and not a tithe to the King of England is a privilege born of blood, you’re damned right it’s patriotic.

            What I don’t pretend is that taxpayer funds are spent efficiently/well, or that were I to pay less I could keep the same landscaped streets, paved roads, litter-free sidewalks that I like to see.

            What bothers me is that you have one party whose constituency thinks supporting the troops and/or families and lower taxes aren’t mutually exclusive and another party whose base thinks it can always just raise the taxes other people pay to pay for things they themselves shouldn’t have to. Both parties ought to put their money where their mouths are.Report

            • Avatar Scott in reply to Kyle says:


              Given that I work for my state’s revenue collecting authority, I think I can safely say that none of the taxpayers I deal with think that paying taxes is their patriotic duty. Of course what did you really expect Joe Biden to say to try and garner support for tax increases?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Scott says:

            @Scott, “Sounds like you’ve bought into the system and just mindlessly hand over your money because the gov’t knows best. Just like Joe Biden said, paying more taxes is patriotic.”

            Have you ever met *ANYBODY* who held a different position than the one you hold who did so honestly after having thought about it?

            On, like, any topic whatsoever?Report

    • Avatar Jivatman in reply to Kyle says:


      Several ideas
      1. A balanced budget amendment to the U.S. constitution would have done part of that. It failed by one vote in the senate in 1997. As for state governments, every one has one except Vermont.

      2.As for your proposal, it would seem one of the simpler taxation schemes, like the flat tax (popular in former USSR) or fair tax, could be tagged directly to spending itself, perhaps even constitutionally.

      3.The president of the country of Georgia has proposed an “Economic Liberty Act”, which would limited the non-productive public sector spending to 30% of the country’s GDP, as well as similar caps on debt and deficits.

      What these have in common is that they’re proactive policies for long-term competitiveness, which is why it’s so unlikely they’ll ever be enacted – politicians can only react, and think in the short term, generally until their next election.Report

      • Avatar Aaron in reply to Jivatman says:

        @Jivatman, balanced budget clauses have been one huge source of problems for the states in the current economic situation. If the federal government had had one, it would have been unable to lend any assistance to the states with budget shortfalls (forty-eight of them, I believe).

        As for points 2. and 3., I’ve lived in Bulgaria, and I don’t think we should be taking our cues from either it or Georgia. Beyond that, a flat tax would be hugely regressive and would be a massive de facto tax increase on the middle class. It’s about as likely to be adopted in the US as we are to switch to an all chicken based economy.Report

        • Avatar Jivatman in reply to Aaron says:


          Many states are taking this opportunity to reformulate their governments, consolidating departments and eliminating the excessive numbers of judicial counties, drawn before the days of the automobile. If states, as well as the Federal government, could borrow the U.S. would probably already be a hopeless case, instead of just the desperate case it is right now.

          As for the former USSR, It takes a while to be a developed country. At the fall of the USSR, these countries were left destitute, no private companies, voluntary no civil society, nothing. The communist state controlled everything and now that state was gone.

          Now, most of them have adopted very economically liberal policies.That their economies have grown at such feverish rates is a testament to that success. Poland, for example, was the only EU country that didn’t enter a recession during the recent downturn.

          All of the proposals I listed, including the proposed 1997 balanced budget amendment, included appropriate escape mechanisms in case of emergencies.Report

      • Avatar Plinko in reply to Jivatman says:


        1. Given the fiscal situation of many states, pointing to their balanced budget requirements isn’t filling me with hope. Their accounting shenanigans aside, the social safety net they’re largely responsible for is countercyclical. If you’re willing to cut the social safety net, it’s feasible, but without it you’re either finding a way to run surpluses during booms and wasting the economic activity until the busts, or you’re going to cut spending when it’s needed most which
        2. I think the Kyle’s idea has some merit as a small, al, though the idea of actually funding most/all of the federal budget this way would be insane. Bruce Bartlett’s takedown of the FairTax discusses a lot of the salient points that are applicable. http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/files/bartlett_fair_tax.pdf
        3. See item 1.

        I think you’re exactly wrong about what these policies are and why they won’t be enacted. They won’t be enacted because there are no powerful interest groups that want them and plenty of powerful interest groups who would see them as threatening the gravy train, politicians will inevitably follow.
        That said, I oppose balanced budget amendments and spending caps because they substitute for the foolish judgment of elected politicians the dumb judgement of arbitrary numbers which would be even worse. Either we carve out exemptions that would render them meaningless (most likely) or we suffer consequences far greater than long-term fiscal imbalance like the inability to actually respond to a real, immediate crisis.Report

    • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Kyle says:


      Our national debts are unsustainable. However, I also cannot agree to a BBA for the reasons mentioned by Aaron. Sometimes the flexibility of debt is required. Though I’ve never been in debt, I keep a credit card for that reason.

      The problem with state governments is that they determine spending by taxation. There is no automatic refund when the state is running a surplus. Instead, they take on new liabilities that become a problem when income drops. The problem with the federal government is that taxing and spending are viewed as two distinct things.

      So the idea that has been bounding around in my head is that we determine levels of taxation by how much we spend. Any surpluses are immediately refunded to the people before new and innovating uses for it can be found. In the event of a deficit (and this is where my idea syncs up with one of yours), the government is allowed to take out a loan not to exceed five years. They have some flexibility the first three years if they are weathering a downturn, but after year three an automatic tax hike takes place to cover the debt. The only alternative is to cut services and the money saved (dollar for dollar) goes directly towards paying down that debt.

      Because of the last two years of the five, the can cannot be kicked down the road indefinitely. More debt cannot be accrued to pay off previous debts. The automatic tax hikes would be a matter of public record. People would know ahead of time how much taxes are going to go up if nothing is done. I imagine tax rates spanning all the way from Coolidge to Ford rates. Raising taxes is merely a matter of the treasury moving the taxes down to the next column over (and refunds are determined by moving it to the previous column – what they would have paid if they had been in that column to begin with).

      I am open to hearing why this would be a stupid idea. It’s something that only came to mind recently and I have not necessarily thought it all the way through. Your one-year proposal may be superior, though I don’t know if it’s flexible enough. However, move it too far down the line and the consequences of today’s spending (and/or undertaxation) are not as apparent as they need to be.Report

      • Avatar Plinko in reply to Trumwill says:

        Well, there’s the obvious problem of budgeting – how do people budget year to year for taxes when the real federal budget can only be determined after the fact? The massive uncertainty caused would probably have a chilling effect on consumption for both individuals and corporations that would cause nearly as much economic contraction as just paying higher rates without actually getting anything in return.

        There’s a reason one of the few things that can’t be filibustered in the US Senate is budget reconciliation – the matching up of actual revenues and actual expenditures is not so simple as assuming what you planned actually occurred, overall ecnomic growth, inflation, interest rates, exhange rates and unforseen expenses all play big roles in determining the net deficit/surplus vs. budgets.Report

        • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Plinko says:

          @Plinko, you make a really good point. Recouping the next year could have a real detrimental effect on stability. The good news is that I’m looking at five years, so you can start collecting on it a year later. Everyone can know in July what adjustments are going to need to be made the next year.

          Given that it is something that would change some a little year in and year out, I wouldn’t expect the annual taxation shift to actually be that large. I think there would be a lot of incentives to try to get actual spending and estimated revenues correct.

          The real federal budget, insofar as what the government actually needed to perform its services, would be determined after the fact. But it would be paid for going forward.

          So in 2011, the government estimates that it needs X in revenue. Turned out that they needed X+Y. They discover this in May or June of 2012. So they need to increase taxes to get Y. At this point, it probably makes the most sense to add an (Y-X)/48 premium on collections from 2013 to 2014. So in July of 2012, you are informed that next year (2013) you’re going to see taxes go up to cover this hole unless before 2013 government services are cut.

          If 2012 is predicted to require N and instead requires M (and M is greater than N), you do the same for 2014. In the event that N is greater than M, then either the money goes straight back to the constituents or you apply it to Y-X

          Every time you underestimate one year, you’re going to have to recoup later. But the rules for recouperation would be less flexible. I chose 5 years because it seems to be flexible enough to avoid having to go all over the place with taxes, but also keeping things in check as far as repayment goes. You never get more than five years behind paying your bills.

          The biggest obstruction would be determining who determines the tax column. My preference would be the CBO or Treasury Dept making a recommendation that congress votes up or down on. In any which way, though, the decisions would have to be made. It would be a lot less like it is now where they can be indefinitely put off if a loan cannot be maintained for more than five years. And it wouldn’t be as bad as the fix that the states are in, where they have to make these difficult assessments and don’t have a whole lot of time to correct their mistakes.Report

      • Avatar Plinko in reply to Trumwill says:


        The way you’re putting it puts a lot of my concerns to rest, but are you running with this idea as a way to cover most/all of the federal budget or just a portion to complement the total federal revenue streams? Would it levy as a flat tax on income or some such iteration? A consumption tax? A per-capita annual levy?
        I am extremely skeptical of flat taxes to cover most/all of anything approaching any of our WWII and beyond levels of federal expenditures, but an excise tax of some kind – maybe a supplemental income or VAT determined by the formula to raise a portion of federal revenues or all of the revenues needed above a certain level from income/consumption/duties/fees/payroll taxes – would be keen with me as a way to hammer home to all of us the cost of what we expect from government.Report

  6. Avatar Plinko says:

    I think a tool like this ought to be a great opportunity for mass education on how serious our long-term fiscal issues really are and what avenues actually exist to address it instead of just endless repeating of talking points that wouldn’t even make significant reductions in the long-term fiscal situation even if they could be implemented.
    I’m waiting for some serious news/blog outlet to challenge politicians to do these kinds of simulators and discuss. Something tells me I’ll be waiting a long, long time.

    On a related note, am I the only one that felt like many of the options on the table often didn’t go far enough? I would have loved to raise Medicare and Social Security eligibility to 70. I’d be happy to partially offset it with some increased disability funding and a Medicare buy-in at cost for those aged 62-70. I’d have signed right up for increasing Capital Gains/Dividend taxes closer to Income Taxes (and partially offset with reductions in Corporate Income Taxes), but those weren’t on the table, either.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Plinko says:

      @Plinko, Absolutely agreed. I hear you about the not going far enough thing, also. My best guess is that they tried to keep things within the politically feasible, although what you’re suggesting shouldn’t be that out of the question.Report

      • Avatar Kyle in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        @Mark Thompson,

        Incidentally, the best moral argument against draconian benefit reductions is that they’re changing the game for people who’ve been playing, which if anything seems like an argument for alacrity in developing/implementing some kind of means-testing for social benefits.

        At the very least new programs ought to have more explicit goals, metrics to measure success by, and sunset clauses.Report

        • Avatar Plinko in reply to Kyle says:


          I agree, the faster we act, the more incremental and slow the change could be to better allow fair adjustment. Waiting longer only demands more drastic changes that would actually be unfairly disruptive.
          But it’s easy to sit back and say this. I can’t for the life of me imagine a scenario in our political reality where these ideas are taken seriously by anyone with any power other than their voice.
          Finding the balance is tough, but any of us cand do it with just a little work and some compromise. The real genius would be finding a way to make one actually work in our current political reality.Report

    • Avatar Kyle in reply to Plinko says:


      I’ll be honest, I agree with what you’re saying but I’m far too distracted by a desire to watch the Price Is Right now.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Kyle says:

        @Kyle, I’m with Kyle. I was half way into writing a response when it devolved into da-da da-daaaaaah! Da-da da-daaaaah! Da-dah-da Dah-da da-dah-dah da-da -da-daaaaah! (Don’t forget to have your pets spayed or neutered.)Report

  7. Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

    I cut it to 42% of GDP by 2018 and only had two minor moments of qualm. Just over half of my actions involved increasing revenue, I was pretty close to a 53-47 split between “increasing revenue” and “decreasing spending”.

    I’d actually like to see a much larger version of this animal, there’s stuff I would hack off outright (or rather, phase out within 4-8 years) without too much regret. There’s also a lot of additional manipulations I’d agree with on the revenue side; I’m all for providing a safety net, but I don’t feel compelled to have that safety net tied to anything other than safety.

    If it’s more expensive to retire to California than it is to retire to Iowa, I don’t feel compelled to require the federal government to subsidize people retiring to California. I’ll agree to helping pay for your medical care after you retire, but I don’t see any reason why I should agree to pay for your medical care because you want to retire to an area where medical costs are 70% higher than they are somewhere else.

    It’s a *safety* net, after all.Report

  8. Avatar Koz says:

    The real hope for prosperity and limited government, etc., etc.


    “But the Senate voted 57-42 against a Republican amendment offered by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., that set tougher underwriting standards, including the downpayment requirement. That measure also would have eliminated a condition that mortgage lenders retain 5 percent of any mortgages they resell in the securities market.”Report