Note that I do not put dollar figures on these ideas. That's because I do not have the resources to make realistic estimates. However, in all cases brief reflection will show that costs will go down or income will go up, often by a lot. Now for the proposals:
- Research and development, which the government is very good at and pays for itself handsomely (consider the Internet, which began as a government project).
- Purchasing. The government buys a lot of stuff, and this can be used to boost important emerging industries. For example, it would make sense for all government buildings and military bases to be energy self-sufficient so as not to be vulnerable to attacks on the power grid. This would justify covering all buildings with solar cells and installing wind generators where appropriate. This would enhance national security directly and develop permanent domestic energy supplies.
Eliminating subsidies would substantially reduce government expenses and level the economic playing field.
- We can completely destroy any nation or combination of nations with our nuclear stockpile. Only Russia has similar capabilities.
- We can destroy any building in the world within a few hours with our precision guided munitions, and we can do that to thousands of buildings within hours or days. No other nation has this capacity.
- We can deploy hundreds of thousands of troops to the furthest reaches of the Earth, for example, Afghanistan. No other nation has this capacity.
- We spend more on the military ($680 billion -1,300 trillion this year, depending on what you include) than the rest of the world combined, even though many of the other powerful militaries are our allies and America is extraordinarily easy to defend: two borders are large oceans and both neighbors are friendly, small, and weak.
Defending America is pretty easy and should be fairly cheap. Global military dominance, on the other hand, is infinitely expensive. Although we have more than doubled expenses since 9/11, we have failed to destroy tiny al Qaeda. Indeed, al Qaeda is probably stronger today than it was then. The expense of global military dominance feeds into al Qaeda's strategy, which is to trick America into spending ourselves into bankruptcy. This strategy is working very well.
Of course, global military dominance is nice to have. One can push small nations around at will and even intimidate large ones. However, it is bankrupting us. We will either abandon it gradually, under control, or we will spend ourselves into default and the system will come crashing down in a completely uncontrolled manner with disastrous consequences. Choose.
There you have it, ideas to cut federal spending and increase revenue, sometimes radically; and something radical is needed. The federal government borrowed $1.7 trillion in the last year. That's about how much we must cut expenditures and increase taxes just to avoid increasing the interest payments we must pay on our $13.7 trillion debt. We need to cut expenditures and raise taxes more than $1.7 trillion just to reduce the bleeding. Right now interest payments are about $400 billion. Over the roughly 80 year life of an average taxpayer, $32 trillion in taxes is needed just to pay the interest. What do you get for that $32 trillion? Nothing. After paying $32 trillion in taxes you still owe $13.7 trillion and your grandkids can pay another $32 trillion to get nowhere. We need to not only eliminate the deficit and stop borrowing; we need to pay down the debt. That requires serious spending reductions and tax increases.
Lots of people will tell you they are serious about the deficit and the debt, but are unwilling to cut anything they like or pay more taxes. Real fiscal control will require cutting pretty much everything and involve pretty much everyone paying more taxes. The alternative is massive financial collapse. Choose.