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Even Conservative Bloggers Miss the Point on Spending Cuts Sometimes

I really like Allahpundit’s work and agree with him on most things. Friday he put together a post that makes a reasoned argument for why budget cuts can never happen.

Just 29 percent of tea partiers are prepared to cut Social Security compared to 18 percent who want to toss even more money into the entitlement sinkhole. GOP Rep. Tom Latham warned freshmen Republicans today that they might feel excited right now about winning the big budget battle with leadership, but wait until their constituents have to live with the cuts.

Using a graph from the Pew Research Center, Allahpundit demonstrates that when we talk of cutting broad budget lines, no one really want to cut much of anything.

Support for Decreases in Federal Spending

The problem is right in front of the analyst – look how broad the budget areas are that the Pew Research study surveyed upon. “Public Schools”, “Aid to Needy in U.S.”, “Infrastructure”, “Medicare”. Only the hawk-est of the budget hawks would say “Yes, cut Public Schools, Education and Infrastructure”. Heck, I’m pretty much a small-government guy, but I do know that the government does have a place in some infrastructure (Interstate Highways, FAA, national power grid, etc).

So when Pew asks people if we should cut funds for “Education” of course most people would say “no, cut something else”. What if Pew had instead asked, “Should we ask teachers to pay into their own retirement plans and insurance like most private sector workers?” I bet we get a different answer.

By brushing each area with a broad brush, you will hit a nerve on just about every American. We all know that Social Security cannot be shut off now or in the next 20 years. No one is suggesting that we cut granny off from her socialized retirement plan. Instead a reasoned approach to reducing the benefits for future retirees and eventually eliminating it for all but the most destitute would certainly cut the costs. Medicare would benefit from a similar approach.

The way the survey was phrased, they might as well have asked 200 respondents these questions:

Due to recent budget difficulties, some federal programs need spending cuts. Which of these statements most represents your feelings on which budget area to cut:

  1. Should we stop educating our children to pay off our debts?
  2. Should we ignore the wounded veteran’s health care needs?
  3. Should we force granny to pay for her health care even though she can’t afford it?
  4. Should we stop doing stuff for the needy in the U.S.?
  5. Can we cut off Granny’s social security checks?
  6. Should we stop fighting crime?
  7. Should we stop building infrastructure?
  8. Should we stop protecting the environment?
  9. Should we stop doing scientific research?
  10. Should we stop energy research?
  11. Should we stop defending the country against terrorists? (yes, even the “largely secular” ones)
  12. Should we stop defending the country .. period?
  13. Should we stop paying people that don’t have jobs?
  14. Should we stop helping the world’s need?

While Pew probably didn’t ask those questions, they might as well have. Instead, if #13 was “Should we reduce the unemployment benefit to six months” you might get a different answer.

Cuts are not impossible nor implausible. We have to ask the right questions to get the right solutions. Maybe having a whole Freshmen class of Tea Party legislators will get us to think out-of-the-box.

One can only hope.

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