Posted by Rojas @ 4:11 pm on January 27th 2011

$500 billion in one year

That’s the deficit reduction achieved by Rand Paul’s proposal. Exhaustive details here.


  1. Sometimes this blog can be frustrating. Of all the topics for this blog to offer a two sentence non-opinion of, this would have been the last I would have expected.

    Comment by tessellated — 1/31/2011 @ 5:54 pm

  2. Fair enough.

    Allow me to clarify: I am IN FAVOR of reducing the federal budget deficit by $500 billion in one year.

    Comment by Rojas — 1/31/2011 @ 6:07 pm

  3. That’s no more illuminating than your original post, but you already know that.

    Comment by tessellated — 1/31/2011 @ 6:24 pm

  4. Blogging is weird that way.

    But I’ll go. An email to Andrew Sullivan’s site spurred by this post, which is a roundup of several reader reactions, all of them in some way negative, most of them in the “he cuts thing X. I LIKE thing X!”

    Can I make one quick point about your reader reax post on Rand Paul’s cost-cutting plan?

    You posted nine (9) emails, and every single one seems to come down to a question of motives and/or a perceived disagreement about whether something is inherently good, or not.

    Not a single one, not a one, concedes, at all, that our present spending policies are unsustainable and that choices have to be made.

    The result is kind of like those quick and dirty YouTube videos. “We should give money to education because I agree with giving money to education!” “Well, do you have the money to give to education?” “I don’t care.” “If not, where will you get it?” “I don’t care.” “But eventually, if we keep borrowing to pay for everything we might like to do, the system will fail, and we won’t have money for anything.” “I don’t care.” “But judging things only on whether we like them or not, and not on whether we have the money, or whether it is the federal government’s job, is irresponsible and unsustainable.” “I don’t care.”

    Seriously, you can hold those two competing thoughts in your head at the same time. I LIKE research funding, but I also recognize that the United States government can’t just borrow and tax to pay for everything I like. Cutting funding in a way significant enough to have a real impact and possibly turn the ship of state towards a sustainable path will almost CERTAINLY involve cutting funding for things we like, and things we wish we could fund. That doesn’t mean we should cease to undertake the job, or that we should programatically devolve any discussion of an itemized plan to cut spending as being as good or bad as the specific choice we agree with the least. And, attributing this to be a question of motives, “Rand Paul wants to significantly cut education spending? Why does Rand Paul hate education?” only further makes this an impossible mountain to climb. Your readers make some good points here and there, but on balance, those nine emails are a startling display of the common attitude that dug us this $14 trillion dollar hole to begin with.

    Put that another way: I really like electronics, beer, and food. But I recognize that, most of the times, I can’t just spend as much money as I would like on all three of those things. Why can’t we run a government the same way? And what if I feel there is more fat to be cut in my food budget than my electronics budget? Does that mean I like my blackberry more than eating?

    The bottom line is either we can do the cutting – which will entail not everybody being happy about every line item and almost certainly everybody, Rand Paul included, not getting their way entirely – or we can dicker around until it doesn’t matter and the government can no longer honor its obligations, at which point I can GUARANTEE your readers that those programs they like funded will be in the shitter anyway, along with the rest of us.

    Comment by Brad — 1/31/2011 @ 7:22 pm

  5. N.B. I’m actually pretty ambivalent about electronics, and I don’t have a Blackberry.

    Comment by Brad — 1/31/2011 @ 7:23 pm

  6. Brad’s response is more or less mine. I would add: I want to hear, from those who oppose Paul’s cuts, a concrete proposal to create the same amount of deficit reduction. Perpetuation of our existing balance of payments is a worse option than anything else on the table; even a massive VAT would be preferable.

    The last few months have blown out of the water the old trope that “the Republicans talk about spending cuts, but never have anything specific to offer!” Paul Ryan and Rand Paul have thrown down the gauntlet, and it is now the burden of their opponents to do better.

    Comment by Rojas — 1/31/2011 @ 7:44 pm

  7. There is also a much WORSE set of reader response emails than the ones Brad criticizes. I refer to the one in which the reader whines about the fact that Rand Paul doesn’t cut defense enough or ag subsidies at all…and somehow moves from this justifiable complaint to the outright rejection of Paul’s cuts.

    I’m in favor of cutting ag subsidies and defense. How about we cut those AND the policies Paul proposes? The horrible truth is that Paul’s proposal–which critics seem to see as a gutting of the core functions of government–eliminate ONE THIRD of the annual budget deficit. We are now going $1.5 trillion into the red EVERY YEAR.

    Given the absolute insanity of existing federal spending policy, Paul’s proposal isn’t anything resembling real austerity. It is a starting point.

    Comment by Rojas — 1/31/2011 @ 7:49 pm

  8. Well, put me almost in the camp of your WORSE reader responses. If you pretend to put forward a serious budget reduction proposal, and you can’t even be bothered to include one of the most obvious and ludicrous big farm rip offs, then it certainly makes me look with a jaded eye at your proposal. Figures like 6% cut in defense but 84% in education say a lot about which corporate interests you are most beholden too, and which foreign policy positions you are least likely to actually to reign in.

    Comment by Jack — 1/31/2011 @ 10:30 pm

  9. To clarify/elaborate, Newt Gingrich could come up with the result. Why should i view this is anything other than a GOP attempt to gut programs they have always hated, while maintaining the extraordinary corporate welfare opportunities for you most ardent supporters, as well as the capacity and willingness to continue forever wars.

    I defend Rand Paul and Ryan around my more liberal friends, but if the GOP wants to be taken seriously about deficits, walling off their hobby horses is not a good way to start.

    Comment by Jack — 1/31/2011 @ 10:33 pm

  10. Figures like 6% cut in defense but 84% in education say a lot about which corporate interests you are most beholden to

    A bizarre strategy on Rand Paul’s part to call for the end of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in a campaign which was beholden to defense contractors. C’mon, Jack, that’s a party talking point, not a functional argument supported by evidence.

    What does make sense is to propose a budget reduction plan that doesn’t declare war on every constituency in the United States at once–in other words, one which can actually mobilize a political coalition and which therefore actually stands a chance of becoming law.

    More to the point, you cannot have bipartisan deficit reduction because, as evidenced by two years of unitary Democratic rule, there is nothing they are willing to cut. Paul’s 6% cut to defense is 6% more than anything proposed by the Democratic Party. They advocate EXPANSION of ag subsidies in the form of specified “green jobs” biofuels programs.

    Are you really only willing to accept a balanced budget if it occurs through roughly equal cuts everywhere? You can have that with the Libertarian Party, and in the antimatter universe in which such a plan was politically viable, I’d be all-in. In the meantime, how about we support the only actual deficit reduction plans on the table?

    Once it gets done, we can all join forces with FreedomDemocrat, form a new coalition, and gut defense, agriculture and the drug war. Between the two coalition arrangements, we might be able to make a real dent. But it makes no sense whatsoever to throw away the deficit reduction in hand unless there’s the prospect of something better. Where do you see such a prospect?

    Comment by Rojas — 1/31/2011 @ 11:52 pm

  11. Here, by the way, is defense contractor syncophant and Republican apparatchik Rand Paul calling for the end of all US assistance to Israel.

    Comment by Rojas — 2/1/2011 @ 12:40 am

  12. OK, fair enough. I think we might be arguing past each other. Because you imply, or I willfully infer, that Paul is speaking for the GOP or some reasonably substantive portion of it, while dismissing other proposals because the entirity of the Democractic movement has not endorsed them. I think Simpson Bowles is a pretty reasonable starting point, for instance. As was Ryans’ I suspose.
    But I acknowledge your criticisms, and I will look at it more fairly since there are only so many realistic plans out there that make anything more than symbolic and/or polticially expediant cuts.
    Since I expect a partizan hack to merely propose deep deep cuts to those programs Republicans have always hated while, doing little to those they love, and specifically fencing off the most useless but politically usefull programs, and then I see an actual proposal that has some significant elements of that hacktastic concept, it makes me perhaps unfairly dismissive of the plan, rather than merely skeptical.

    Comment by Jack — 2/1/2011 @ 10:43 am

  13. You’re not wrong; these are partisan proposals.

    They are partisan proposals for the same reason Obama’s health care plan was a partisan proposal. Bipartisanship requires that there be people on both sides of the aisle with an interest in the overarching principle.

    You mention the bipartisanship of the Bowles-Simpson effort. I agree that it looked promising. Go back and reread the evaluations of the panel’s draft recommendations on the left and the right, and reflect on what subsequently happened to the commission.

    Comment by Rojas — 2/1/2011 @ 11:41 am

  14. Well see thats what I don’t agree with: the health care act was not a partisan proposal when viewed historically. Republicans had a pretty long history of proposing similar plans, only when the think is seen only as a present snapshot was it partisan. But thats pedantic, I know.

    I would say that Bowles Simpson added significantly to a wave of movement an ideas regarding fiscal solvency and the deficit.

    Comment by Jack — 2/1/2011 @ 12:02 pm

  15. A wave generated entirely from the right, I’d add.

    There are no Democratic partisans, in office or out, rabble rousing specifically for fiscal solvency. And at this point, the very concept smacks to them of some kind of Republican trick, which you’re both talking about but also kind of illustrating. I agree with you on the commission, but look at the reaction to it in Democratic quarters. Obama said some nice words and then proceeded to bury it – one glancing mention in the SOTU that came barely a month later, with not a single one of the specific recommendations mentioned much less advanced – the center-left declared almost every major agenda item to be 100% non-negotiably off-limits, and the far-left were outright hostile, trying to look into the backgrounds of the participants to see if they could link them to anything Koch-funded.

    I don’t mean to make that into a partisan knock, but in truth, reality in this instance IS kind of a partisan knock. You’ve read me for awhile, you know darn well that I have been front and center since 2002 banging on the GOP and its leaders for being unserious and cynical when it came to this stuff, and to not be trusted. I am by NO means in the bag when it comes to trusting the GOP. But Rojas is right, the only plans on the table are all coming from the GOP, and rather than take them as a starting point for discussion, the left is taking the tact of, as I said in my post, “devolving any discussion of an itemized plan to cut spending as being as good or bad as the specific choice we agree with the least.” That belays a profound unseriousness with and disinterest in doing anything, at all, about the size of government. There is not a single movement – not one – within liberal circles to engage with these issues. Not one. Oughtn’t that change?

    Comment by Brad — 2/1/2011 @ 12:17 pm

  16. I do want to draw one distinction here.

    That belays a profound unseriousness with and disinterest in doing anything, at all, about the size of government.

    I don’t expect Democrats to be eager to reduce the size of government. They think it’s too small. I get it. Nor can I claim with any real force that the size of government in the United States presents a crisis; that’s a matter of ideology, not of fact.

    What I CAN claim, with reasonably sound warrants, is that the inability of the government to balance its books represents a crisis. And this, to me, is what ought to be a nonpartisan area of agreement; there is nothing ideological about the idea that the government ought, under most economic circumstances, to spend no more than it takes in. This is a simple recognition of economics and mathematics. It is the fact that Democrats are unwilling to engage with THIS principle that is problematic to me.

    The Republicans want to cut spending and have made proposals in that direction. If the Democrats are serious about the deficit and unwilling to cut spending in any area, they ought to be countering with suggestions as to how to raise revenue. There has been some murmuring about a VAT, but nothing concrete, and nothing that has actually passed the lips of a policymaker to my knowledge.

    If we’re going to fight about reducing a $1.5 trillion annual budget cuts by spending cuts vs. revenue enhancement–well, that is a reasonable debate. The question of WHETHER we’re going to reduce said deficit, in the face of diminishing US hegemony and the ownership of our debt by unfriendly interests–well, no, that’s NOT a reasonable debate. And until the Democrats decide it’s a debate worth having, the debate is necessarily going to be centered on conservative/libertarian proposals.

    Comment by Rojas — 2/1/2011 @ 3:37 pm

  17. A fair clarification. I would still be against a large government that was nevertheless solvent, but you’re right, that’s not really at issue here, and I’m being lazy in conflating the two.

    Comment by Brad — 2/1/2011 @ 6:12 pm

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