Symposium 2011: We are currently over $15 trillion in debt as a nation. What changes should be made to restore fiscal responsibility and direct the country towards a balanced budget?

Sydney:  It seems that Government is way too big. There are plenty of Departments that could either improve their efficiency, or be removed altogether. Alternatively, there are clearly some Departments that should be administered by the States. There is also duplication at the moment, such as in the welfare system where both States and the Federal Government seem to be doing the same thing. Either the States need to be responsible, or the Federal Government should be.


Now that our troops are leaving Iraq and Afghanistan we will hopefully see a lot less spending on the military. Another major problem is all the powerful interest and lobby groups who manage to get themselves taken care of at the expense of the nation. And I know it’s not popular but it seems stupid that the extremely wealthy, that is the multi millionaires don’t pay more tax.


Michigan:  As an individual, family, or business, if you don’t have enough money to cover your own bills, how can you pay someone else’s?  We waste billions of dollars in this country each year.  Everyone bitches about it no one will do anything.  We will be our own demise.


RMC:  I think a balance budget amendment does have merit, but it could pin the Congress in a corner.  For example, let’s assume that the economy tanks and tax revenues go down.  We can’t spend more that we take in under the balanced budget, so programmes are going to have to be cut.  There is a case to be made for temporary deficit spending to boost the economy.  That’s another argument for another time.  I do think that the Congress needs to discipline itself to balance the budget as much as possible, but a balanced budget amendment would have to have some wiggle room for extraordinary circumstances.


The bigger problem is that the spending keeps increasing not actually decreasing.  The last time that the federal budget was actual cut year over year, you know, the budget was $1 trillion last year and $900 billion this year, was back during the administration of LBJ.  Why can’t the Congress actually cut the size of government?  No, they just cut the size of the increase.  Instead of the budget going up by 10% it’s only going to go up by 7%.  Well, the budget’s still increasing, not decreasing.


If the Congress had the will power, which they don’t, they’d say we’re going to immediately eliminate certain programmes, we talked about that earlier, then we’re going to cut the discretionary spending in the budget by 10% each year for the next ten years then cap any future spending increases at the annual rate of inflation.  We need to look at the entitlement programmes and eliminate fraud and waste, and I’m sure that will save at least 10% annually in those programmes.


It’s pretty simple, actually.  You tell each cabinet department that they have a mandatory 10% spending cut.  They can decide how they’re going to cut the spending.  I suspect it will involve layoffs at each department, but such is life.  I think we’ll all agree that fewer bureaucrats is always a good idea.


We then need to use those savings from the spending cuts to pay down the debt to pre-2000 levels.  I think we’ve discussed historically that it probably isn’t feasible or practical to pay off all the national debt.  Besides, the last time that happened was back during the administration of Andrew Jackson.  But substantial reductions in the debt would be a financially responsible thing to do.


It really amazes me that they talk about it being eight or ten years before the budget deficit is closed.  I think it’s pretty simple.  End the spending that has produced the deficit.  Have they not thought of that?  Oh, that’s right, it wouldn’t be politically popular to cut programmes that benefit your constituents.


Cartwright:  First off, we need to cut spending not just the rate of growth in spending. We talked about what departments we could eliminate, and while that may be a nice idea, it probably won’t happen right away.  Let’s tell each department with the exception of Defense and Homeland Security that they’re going to have to provide a plan that reduces their budget by 20% next year.  We immediately end foreign aid in whatever form that may take whether it be direct foreign investment, loans, fighting malaria in Africa, feeding the Ethiopians, or whatever.


We need to tell our elected officials to grow a set and quick jerking the public around.  There’s absolutely no reason it will take a decade to reduce the deficit.  The Congress needs to have the guts to send a balanced budget and one that includes massive spending cuts to the President, whoever that may be next year.  The President needs to sign it, and if he doesn’t, the Congress needs to have the courage to shut the government down.


Look, we’re not talking about shutting down the military or stopping Social Security checks or shutting down Homeland Security.  No, it’s going to be the people at the Department of Education and Labor and Energy and so on that are going to have to stay at home.  The national parks and museums will be closed and so forth.  Hell, the government isn’t working as it is, so shut the nonessential stuff down for a while and save the money.  We can either be tough on saving our nation financially or we can be a bunch of cowards.


Of course, we shouldn’t have to do this every year.  Let’s get a balanced budget amendment or give the President a line item veto for the budget.  There are pros and cons to both, but it’s better than having nothing.

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