Sunday, November 14, 2010

Public Finance

Ok, so one of my favorite assignments in Graduate School was having to balance the New York State budget and writing a memo to the budget director outlining the rationale of my decisions - YES, geeky. Anyway, you can imagine my excitement with this NYTimes budget puzzle - again, YES, geeky!

The fact of the matter is that a simple tool or exercise like this has the potential to opening people's eyes who think that balancing a budget can simply be done through reducing spending or raising taxes. It is a puzzle, just like the title says. Some fixes provide short term relief but over time do little to reduce the overall deficit.

A few of my favorite ways to reduce the federal deficit:

eliminate earmarks!

Right, because eliminating less than 1% of the federal budget will have a HUGE impact. Sure, sure, there is the infamous Bridge to Nowhere project but earmarks are designed to bring much needed money back to congressional districts to fund projects such as infrastructure projects, social services, National Parks improvements and other necessary and important projects. We trust that our elected officials will use their best judgment to determine what exactly these projects are, and with new Democrat reforms tot he earmark process, it is easier than ever to see what projects a member has submitted for consideration by the Appropriations Committee, using this online tool. For example, in using this tool, I can find out that my former boss submitted a proposal for $400,000 to fund a 24/7 drop-in center for homeless LGBT youth. A worthy project. An underfunded project. $600,000 for a ferry dock landing for the Statue of Liberty. A National tourist spot that millions visit, without this type of funding, how are people going to get to the Statue? Oh, wait, let me guess - it is their personal responsibility? Ok. Right.

If you look at this tool, you will see some of the biggest expenditures come from military spending. But using the logic that was used to kill the

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