Looking at the budget

Courtesy of Ezra Klein, here’s what the federal budget actually looks like.

Here it is with all spending accounted for:

And here it is when you take out “mandatory spending” (Medicare, Social Security, health spending, education, etc.):

(images courtesy of Ezra Klein)

Like Ezra said, there’s not much left to “freeze”. Security spending (i.e., the Pentagon) is exempt, as is veterans’ spending. You’re left with stuff like the National Institutes of Health, Section 8 housing, that sort of thing.

This is why most conservatives drive me up the wall (and why I admire IL Rep. Paul Ryan, despite being violently opposed to his raft of proposals to balance the budget). You see, they’ll rant about cutting “waste” and “spending”, while at the same time being curiously quiet about the exact items they’d cut.

This actually happened in a debate to me! On Election Night 2008, I debated Ari Armstrong on the local webcast for the CBS affiliate. Ari claimed that you’d have to cut spending, etc. My response was blunt: what do you cut, Ari? Medicare? The Pentagon? Social Security? Vets benefits? He responded by essentially punting, and I just kept on hammering the point.

This isn’t to say that I’m opposed to cutting stuff in absolute terms. I’m not. It’s to say these two simple points:

  • that cutting stuff is much more politically difficult than people imagine; and
  • that unless conservatives are down with cutting Medicare/Defense/Social Security/Vets, they’re lying when they say they favor cutting government.

By the way, if you want to play with the budget yourself, you can do so here.

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