The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, November 05, 2010


The American electorate has resoundingly repudiated the big government message of the President and a substantial percentage his party. But one glaring question remains: how do we cut spending, and over the long term, reduce the federal deficit to sustainable levels?

In his press conference immediately after the election, President Obama conceded that deficit reduction is important to the American people (sad that he didn’t realize that 18 months ago) and like all good politicians on both the Left and the Right, referred to a commission he created to make spending and deficit reduction “recommendations.”

As this so-called Federal Debt Commission plods toward its post-election report, it’s worth noting that its recommendations, however appropriate, will likely be watered down by both parties to the extent that nothing tangible will result. President Obama is not obligated to follow its recommendations nor is the new Congress.

The debt commission has taken many, many months to study the problem and come up with its recommendations. Laudable, but actually unnecessary. In reality, it’s pretty easy to define what needs to be done.

Let me be naïve (as what I’m about to recommend would never happen) and prescriptive. It’s really not that hard.

First, our President—great communicator that he is—should use his vaunted charisma to tell the American public the truth: “There will be pain, and the pain will be felt by every sector in our society.”

Now for a few specific recommendations:

  • Government employment will be cut by 10 percent across the board, with at least 40 percent of the cuts coming from the ranks of mid-level managers who make more than the mean burdened government salary of $124,000 per year.

  • The military will have its budget cut, with particular emphasis on redundant bases, weapons systems, and personnel, and must learn to fight our Islamist enemies with fewer dollars.

  • Education funding at a federal level will be reduced and any federal money remaining will returned to local control.

  • Some of those who receive government assistance will see reductions in social services (e.g., school lunch programs, food stamps, unemployment compensation. New and more rigorous tests for eligibility will be instituted.

  • Social security recipients will lose their COLA for the next five years (at least) and those who are to receive social security in the future will see the eligibility age increase and the amount provided means-tested.

  • Medicare premiums will be means-tested so that a person driving a Bentley will pay more for his insurance than a old-timer living in a trailer park.

  • Federal subsidies for agriculture will be phased out.

  • The new national health care program will be radically revised so that it truly is deficit neutral. It is currently a disaster.

  • Government employees will have their overly generous compensation frozen for five years (if they’re unhappy with that, I suspect that many in the private sector would be more than willing to take their place).

  • Government defined-benefit pensions will be eliminated for all new employees and replaced by 401Ks that are common in the private sector. Government pensions would be renegotiated for all existing employees (including military) under the age of 40, with the intent of reducing existing pension liabilities by 20 percent over 10 years.

  • Some government agencies (e.g., commerce, agriculture, state) would have radical reductions in size and budget.

  • The TSA would be restructured for efficiency and cost savings of at least an additional 10 percent.

  • The intelligence community would be restructured for efficiency and cost savings of at least an additional 10 percent.

  • The staffs of all congressional offices (that’s approximately 24,000 people) would be reduced by 20 percent. International travel budgets (including the President's would be cut by 20 percent. It wouldn’t save much money (on a Federal scale), but it’s the symbolism that matters here.

  • White House (non-security) staff would be reduced by 20 percent.

  • Foreign aid would be reevaluated with a target of a 10 percent reduction overall per year.

  • New legislation outlawing ear-marks would be instituted, and the line item veto would be proposed for the next President.

  • Over the long term (but not in the middle of this economic downturn) taxes will increase on the “rich” (and sadly, on everyone else).

  • Whenever the number of people paying no Federal income taxes rises above 30 percent (it is currently 47 percent), tax policy must be adjusted to keep those who pay nothing at or below 30 percent of all taxpayers

And that’s just for starters.

And by the way, one more small tweak. After he or she leaves office, no member of Congress can work as a local, state, or federal lobbyist for 10 years, nor can they take any other non-elective government position at the Federal level.

Will any of this happen? Of course not! Too much pain, too many core constituencies angered. Too many lobbyists working against it.

Instead, our duplicitous “leaders” will continue their profligate ways until we crash … hard … and see our country change in ways that are frightening to contemplate.

If our “leaders” tried to implement even a third of what I’ve listed, it would be an historic profile in political courage. Too bad there’s very little courage on either side of the aisle.