11/12/10

Not Posting about Bowles-Simpson, part II.

The post in which I take back that I'm not going to to link anything about it. Here's Chait building off of Collender (which I linked to before):
Here is the deeper problem. Conservatives are convinced the federal budget is filled with waste and useless bureaucrats. Yet they have a very difficult time articulating functions that the government is fulfilling that it shouldn't be. There certainly are some -- farm subsidies is one of the biggest examples. The government should get out of that business altogether.
But for the most part, the domestic discretionary budget has been squeezed for savings for several decades on end. Virtually all of the programs remaining represent important public functions. That's why the commission is reduced to proposing charging visitors to the national zoo and implementing phony schemes to cut government staff and pay without changing any of government's mission. If you want to treat this portion of the budget reasonably, you need to either actually agree on some functions the federal government will stop performing, or else just recognize that you need to start paying for the functions it is performing. Catering to airy conservative prejudices against government without translating that into a specific re-conception of the federal role is useless.
To be clear, I think the revenue increases, defense spending cuts, cuts to assorted programs like farm subsidies, and entitlement cuts are a coherent and useful contribution to the deficit problem. The treatment of the discretionary budget is not.

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