20
May
10

Balancing the budget: pretty easy on the web

By way of Andrew Sullivan we discover this little toy:

The idea is to dick around with various policy options and reduce the national debt to 60% of GDP by 2018.  Sullivan quotes Derek Thompson, whose dismay amuses me:

Ultimately the real lesson you learn as you play is that stabilizing debt, even when the method is box-checking, is painful.

Then he goes through the toy himself and validates his deficit-hawk credentials:

My policy preferences cut the debt to 51 percent of GDP in 2018 (compared with 85 percent on its current trajectory), and they did so, it turned out, by raising taxes by a $1.5 trillion and cutting spending by $1 trillion. That’s largely because I favor the expiration of the unfunded Bush tax cuts. I could trim my tax hikes a lot though and still make the goal of 60 percent.

I got to 56% without much in the way of ideological pain, reducing expenditures by about three trillion and income by about half that.  (In particular, I refused to let the lower-bracket Bush tax cuts expire.  Turns out I’m still a bit of a sentimental leftist.)  And before you nitpick me about the post’s title: yes, I’m aware that a balanced household budget would have zero debt, but national budgets don’t quite work that way.

Of course, the vast majority of policy options open in this simulator fail the Frakt criterion miserably.  For example, my run through the toy clawed $450 billion out of Social Security.  It would be somewhat more than naive to expect anyone to actually legislate those cuts.

Still, not a bad way to spend five or ten minutes.

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