Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Balanced Budget

A long time ago, P.J. O'Rourke wrote a great article that contained the line "The good news is I balanced the [federal government] budget.  It took me all morning but I did it."  He then proceeded to detail exactly how the budget could be balanced.  That was an important lesson for me: A problem that generated a lot of noise and political squabbles was not really that big, and could be solved by a bit of clear thinking and willpower.

This process has been repeated.  A magazine gathered a five former senators and a former CBO director in a room for a few days and told them to balance the budget.  They did it.  Here are the proposed reforms and here is a diary of the proceedings.

I basically agree with everything they propose.  There was a lot of good economics and public policy here; they zoomed in on much of the worst and most wasteful spending to cut.  This was a very good thing to organize, and it shows what is possible.

It is also an example of how special interests keep our society away from good solutions.  People will fight each individual proposal here.  Politicians that tried to do it would lose votes.  The way to solve our problems is to create a commission like this, and agree ahead of time to do whatever they say, and do all of it at once.  People will lose the ability to fight for just their thing, and should realize that a balanced budget is worth the loss.

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