You Fix the Budget, says the New York Times
President Obama’s bipartisan committee is hard at work on ways to slash the federal deficit. Cutting federal pay and benefits, Bush tax cuts, reducing foreign aid and cutting Social Security are all items on the table. In a novel approach, the New York Times is asking its readers to weigh in via an interactive puzzle. “You Fix the Budget,” says the Times – because Washington will be at it for years to come.
‘You Fix the Budget’ in this ‘Age of Austerity’
Cutting the deficit will require tough decisions; participating in the Times‘ “You Fix the Budget” puzzle is understandably devoid of grief or other unpleasant after-effects. Politicians with a clear view of the federal deficit know that the government must enter an “Age of Austerity,” as some call it. Readers can make the tough decisions without pressure from lobbyists or fear of alienating a constituency. Will the austerity of politicians match the austerity of New York Times readers?
By 2015, the deficit will be $400 billion too large
Economists anticipate a federal deficit in 2015 that will be $400 billion more than can be reasonably sustained. Small deficits can effectively be run forever, as a single year’s economic growth pays for the previous year’s budget shortfall.
But $400 billion is far beyond that level. Experts say that will be more than 2 percent of the nation’s output for 2015 – that’s half the Pentagon’s annual budget plus more than half of the budget for Medicare. On the bright side, writes the Times, $400 billion is still much smaller in context than the deficits with which Greece and Ireland are currently struggling. It’s also smaller than the U.S. federal deficit from 1990 to 1994.
Cutting the deficit: Not politically appealing
The decisions New York Times readers make regarding taxes versus spending – how much taxes should rise, and how much spending should be cut, for example – will “probably be something that is not politically feasible now,” suggests William Gale of the nonprofit public policy organization the Brookings Institution. Voters have tended to favor politicians who speak generally about cutting the deficit, rather than those politicians with specific plans of action.