Bruce Bartlett explains why a “balanced budget” for the US federal government is an impossibility. Unfortunately, most people who strenously object to the deficit and want a balanced budget simply don’t understand the realities. They often confuse “millions” and “billions” (it takes 1000 millions to equal a billion). They further operate from greatly distorted ideas of just where the actual federal spending goes.
Domestic discretionary spending amounted to $485 billion last year. With a deficit last year of $459 billion, we would have had to abolish virtually every single domestic program to have achieved budget balance. That means every penny spent on housing, education, agriculture, highway construction and maintenance, border patrols, air traffic control, the FBI, and every other thing one can think of outside of national defense, Social Security and Medicare.