Arithmetic, Reality, and Dreams of A Balanced Budget

Apparently, the Republicans and Tea Partiers are insisting that the federal government budget be balanced immediately (the demand for no increase in the debt ceiling) and that it be done entirely from spending cuts (the “no tax increases” pledge) to discretionary spending.

This is enough to demonstrate that they simply are not dealing in reality and cannot do simple 2nd grade arithmetic.  I’ve commented before and in classes about how politicians simply cannot deal with large numbers – they confuse millions, billions, and trillions.  McCain on the campaign trail once insisted that approximately 100 different cuts of 1-50 million dollars each would be enough to close a trillion dollar deficit.  Only off by a factor of, oh, 2000 times!

The budget deficit is running approximately 40% of the total budget.  In other words, to bring spending down to the level of current tax collections, we would have to cut 40% of government spending.  Yet, a simple perusal of the government’s budget (the one they passed just 3 months ago), shows that non-defense discretionary spending is only 15% of the budget.  Even if we add in defense and completely shut down the entire armed forces and fire lay-off all soldiers, we only have 38% of the budget.  It still wouldn’t balance.

I don’t know what’s worse.  The fact that these politicians keep saying these things even though a child can tell you it won’t work, or the fact that the news media keeping repeating it without the slightest challenge, or the fact that apparently millions of Americans believe them.

One thought on “Arithmetic, Reality, and Dreams of A Balanced Budget

  1. Pingback: This Is No Movie Folks. It’s Real and It’s Scary. « EconProph

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