Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Answer the Question!

We have our marching orders.

Jacob Weisberg:
[M]ore than anyone else in politics, Rep. Ryan has made a serious attempt to grapple with the long-term fiscal issue the country faces. He has a largely coherent, workable set of answers. If you don't like them, now you need to come up with something better.
David Brooks:
Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, has his budget. Where’s yours?
Andrew Sullivan:
And the Democrats and Obama now have to offer a response. The question I'll be asking is quite simply: how would they save $5.8 trillion from the federal budget over the next decade? Tell us, please.
It's hilarious how the guardians of seriousness who claim that they want a serious adult conversation more than anything resort to patronizing goading to try to get that discussion going. But Fire Tom Friedman is a tad emotionally stunted and thus rarely backs away from a patronizing goad. So despite the fact that I'm neither Obama nor a Democrat, I'm going to take the Sullivan challenge: 5.8 trillion, here I come!

I must admit I was a little intimidated -- 5.8 trillion! -- until I saw this chart:

The key line there is the one at the bottom. Total revenue changes = -4.2 trillion. So while Ryan may be proposing 5.8 trillion in spending cuts, he's also proposing 4.2 trillion in tax cuts. Now I've never subtracted trillions before but I'm pretty sure that 5.8 trillion in spending cuts - 4.2 trillion in lost revenue means that the savings of this plan is only 1.6 trillion. So if we don't hand out any tax cuts, we only need to come up with 1.6 trillion in cuts.

Still, 1.6 trillion. But wait: 1 trillion of Ryan's "spending cuts" comes from ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. God let's fucking hope so. But if the wars end, all of us who are designing budgets -- serious policy wonk geniuses like Paul Ryan and Internet cranks like myself -- get to count that "savings" the same. So if Ryan is taking credit for 1 trillion spending cut if the wars end, so am I. This isn't so hard.

Still, 600 billion. But wait. That's over ten years! Politicians like to present their spending cuts over ten-year periods because it makes the #'s sound much more impressive. (They also measure their penises in centimeters). So I just need to cut $60 billion a year and I've matched Ryan. I reckon $60 billion out of the that $550 billion annual defense budget wouldn't even be missed.

I did it! I saved the U.S. the same amount of money over ten years as super genius Paul Ryan. And it took me 43 seconds. Granted, I didn't get specific about the defense cuts but I'm pretty sure if I had another 68 seconds I could bang that out, too.

And you know what? I could keep going. I could raise taxes on the wealthy. End corporate welfare. End the wars a lot faster than Ryan wants to. Make GE pay something, anything, in taxes. And now I'm kicking Ryan's ass in reducing the debt. Look at me, mom- I'm serious! And I haven't thrown Grandma out of her nursing home or kicked anyone's kid off dialysis. (Oh wait, I think that means I'm not serious.)

Of course, it's not that hard. Take away the bullshit trillion for Iraq and Afghanistan, (and you really should; taking credit for savings for wars you think someone else might end one day is beyond pathetic; now if Ryan actually threatened to cut off funding for the wars, I'd not only give him his trillion back, I'd retract all the means thing I've written about him) , and only 12.5% of Paul's courageous cuts (600 billion) goes to reducing the debt. The other 87.5 % goes to the rich and corporations. Pretty serious stuff.

Now if Sullivan issues a challenge to come up with a better illustration of Shock Doctrine economics than Paul Ryan's budget, I think I'll sit that one out.

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