Serious deficit reduction: a liberal plan



Deficit reduction is the rage on Capitol Hill as well as in the General Assembly in Raleigh, but the list of cuts offered by lawmakers is pretty limited, mostly consisting of slashing programs that help the poor (or rather, the politically powerless who can’t put up much of a stink). As usual, conservatives have concocted a list of cuts of programs they, in their wisdom, deem “unnecessary” — when in truth, it’s just a list of programs and projects they didn’t like in the first place. Progressive views about what should be cut are going practically unheard in the current slash-and-burn atmosphere, so consider this a small corrective to that unbalance. Here are some ideas for truly cutting the federal budget that would work and wouldn’t leave needy folks in the lurch. Some of these ideas were first proposed by writer/analyst Zaid Jilani on the ThinkProgress website.

1. Slash the military budget. We’re still building weapons and planning for wars against a big, bad, heavily armed enemy like the Soviet Union, and wasting billions of dollars per day. This year’s military budget, proposed by Defense Secretary Gates, at $553 billion, is the largest it’s  been, adjusted for inflation, since World War II. The Center for American Progress (CAP), a D.C. think tank, has come up with $1 trillion in reductions to the military budget that could be made over the next decade “by phasing out outdated programs and resizing our military.” Colin Powell, former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the military budget has to be cut. Even Pres. Reagan knew America’s military spending was excessive. In his second term, he reduced defense spending by 12 percent as part of an effort to cut budget deficits.

2. Get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. We have spent $783 billion and $393 billion, respectively, on these two useless, unneccessary, and largely failed wars. It's time for Uncle Sugar to tell the world, "Hey, we're busy going broke right now. You're on your own."

3. Empower Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. It’s simple: Allow Medicare to use its humongous size and its bulk purchasing power to negotiate drug prices down with pharmaceutical companies. According to Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), this could save up to $156 billion over 10 years.

4. Pass a financial transactions tax. The CAP study says a “0.25 percent tax on trades of stocks, bonds, derivatives, and other Wall Street financial instruments” would not reduce commerce or productivity but would generate “between $50 billion and $150 billion annually.”

5. End the tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer support for the oil industry.

6. Cut subsidies to big agribusiness In fact, cut them in half, as suggested by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), saving around $7.5 billion.

The Zaid Jilani article sums up the progressive view on deficit reduction this way:

While gradually reducing the U.S. budget deficit over time is a worthwhile goal, it’s important to remember that the deficit was not caused by funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, students taking summer Pell Grants, or the LIHEAP program. Rather, the U.S. budget deficit is largely a result of massive tax cuts for the wealthy, two prolonged wars, an ever-expanding Pentagon budget, and a recession caused by Wall Street. It is only fair that those who caused the problem are those who have to pay to fix it.

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