Saturday, January 22, 2011


Eternal Optimist's oldest daughter announced in an email today that the latest blog, "Entitle This," was a "bummer," and that EO needs to propose fixes, not just point out problems.

EO agrees entirely. Accordingly, he has decided to become Mr. Fix-it.

Here is a simple fix for the complex problem of the federal budget deficit:

Stop spending so much money.


Politicians do what we tell them to do, eventually. So we have to change their behavior by changing our behavior. We have to stop voting for politicians who spend borrowed money on us like a drunk sailor on a geisha.

Here are some practical things you can do to change the federal budget mess. Some of them are easy, some are harder.

1. Pray. Praying is the single most important and efficacious thing you can do for any problem.

2. Go to confession. I'm sure there's lots of work to be done.

3. Pay off your debts. Lead your Congressman by example.

4. Volunteer to forgo 1/3 of whatever federal money you yourself currently receive. I know, that's flat crazy, but if you can't do it, how do you figure your Congressman can?

5. Figure out how to make up the federal money somewhere else. Or sit on your ass and do nothing until the government goes broke and you have to live on zero. That's a plan.

6. Write your Congressman and Senators once a week, telling them how upset you are that 1/3 of federal budget expenditures come from borrowed money. Ask them to get back to you about what they did that week to fix the problem. Don't be rude.

7. Give money and time to politicians who will actually cut spending. Let the other politicians know you are voting against them, and giving money to their opponents. Explain why. Don't be rude.

8. Ask your Congressman and Senators to vote to repeal Health Care. We don't need more crack to smoke in our debt-pipe right now. When we fix our existing entitlement programs we can talk about more entitlements.

9. Kill business welfare, including farm subsidies. Businesses should survive or not based on their ability to compete in the market, without subsidies. No one can or should take Republicans seriously about controlling government spending until they slaughter their own sacred cows. Or hogs. Or whatever.

10. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (S2M2) benefits have to be reformed and cut. We no longer have the option of doing them stupid. If we don't rationalize them and put them on a permanently sound financial basis, they will break the government. Then, zero benefits, which is a lousy solution for poor people.

For those who find this repulsive, you can't hope to cut military budgets if you won't reform entitlements. Think of it that way.

11. Get out of Afghanistan on the best terms possible. EO has supported the war in Afghanistan for a long time. I believed it was a "just war," under Catholic theological teaching. But s*&$ happens, in the form of we've run out of money. If the Taliban comes back, life is tough that way. We still have Cruise missiles and aircraft. Our national survival does not depend on a particular result there right now. In contrast, if we don't fix the budget, we crash.

For those who find this repulsive, you can't hope to cut entitlements without cutting the military budget. Think of it that way.

If you need to cut the military budget, you have to end the war. You can't ask soldiers to fight a war while only shooting 1 bullet a week and taking the train to work.

12. Explain what you are doing to other people. Ask them to get busy, too. Don't be rude.

Here's a list of broad categories of federal expenditures. See the graph in "Budget Art" (an article from December). Try to figure out where to get $1.27 trillion (1,270 billion). I did the math below. I don't like the cuts, but they add up to $1.27 billion.

I would love to see a less painful plan that would work. I just don't have the smarts to think of one.

Discretionary: Link
Defense - $895 billion
Cut 200 B (Afghanistan costs about 119 B)
Other discretionary - $520 billion (rest of government, except entitlements)
Cut 200 B

Mandated entitlements:

Social Security - $730 billion
Cut 250 B
Medicare - $491 billion
Cut 160 B
Medicaid - $297 billion
Cut 100 B
Other - $612 billion
Cut 360 B
Interest $251 billion
[Can't cut]

Total cuts: 1.27 TRILLION


  1. I feel better. Think I'm gonna make up one of those form letters on my documents folder to send out to my federal representatives to make the regular letter writing more doable.

  2. I am very glad you feel better.

    You must be a computer whiz.