Senator Pryor asks for Spending Cut Suggestions! Here are a few!(Part 32)(Brummett: Pryor not interested in getting hands dirty on deficit reduction)(Royal Wedding Part 21)

 Reuters reported today:

Before a flawless exchange of vows, a veiled Middleton wearing a laced dress with a long train, the first “commoner” to marry a prince in close proximity to the throne in more than 350 years, walked slowly through the 1,900-strong congregation.

As they met at the altar William, second in line to the throne, whispered to her, prompting a smile. The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams declared the couple married with the words: “I pronounce that they be man and wife together.”

Tens of thousands of people thronging the streets outside cheered when they heard the words, and again as the newlyweds left the abbey in a 1902 open-topped state landau carriage bound for Buckingham Palace, the queen’s London residence.

Prince William marries Kate in glittering ceremony

Britain?s Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, kiss as they stand on the balcony at Buckingham Palace after their wedding in Westminster Abbey, in central London
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Huge cheering crowds strained to catch a glimpse of the beaming couple as well as the military bands in black bearskin hats and cavalrymen in shining breastplates who escorted them to the palace where they were expected to kiss on the balcony.

Middleton’s dress, the subject of fevered speculation for months in the fashion press, was a traditional ivory silk and satin outfit with a lace applique and train.

It was designed by Sarah Burton of the Alexander McQueen label, named after the British designer who committed suicide.

The bride wore a tiara loaned by the queen and the diamond and sapphire engagement ring that belonged to William’s mother Princess Diana, who was divorced from Prince Charles in 1996, a year before her death in a car crash in Paris aged just 36.

Middleton, the 29-year-old whose mother’s family had coal mining roots, is a breath of fresh air for the monarchy, which has in the past been accused of being disconnected from ordinary Britons. She is seen as having the common touch.

Senator Mark Pryor wants our ideas on how to cut federal spending. Take a look at this video clip below:

Senator Pryor has asked us to send our ideas to him at cutspending@pryor.senate.gov and I have done so in the past and will continue to do so in the future. Here are a few more I just emailed to him myself at 8 am CST on April 29, 2011.

John Brummett in his article “Pryor’s words drift in gentle breeze,” Arkansas News Bureau, April 24, 2011 asserted:

By offering the momentary illusion of substance, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor gave a vintage performance the other day at the Political Animals Club.

The first report I came across declared that Pryor had said he would not vote to raise the federal government’s debt ceiling unless that action was accompanied by real and significant spending cuts.

That sounded like the senator only to a limited extent, that being the extent to which he often propounds as much like a Republican as a Democrat and can be flat wrong…

Indeed, the next report I came across clarified the matter. Pryor had not declared that he would insist on real and meaningful spending cuts before he voted to raise the debt ceiling. He had declared only that he would insist on a real and meaningful “commitment” to debt reduction.

Commitment is not an empirical thing. It is of the heart, mind and soul, thus not visible to the naked eye. Pryor was not making his debt-limit vote contingent on actual reductions in spending. He was making the vote contingent on reading the minds of his colleagues.

That was more like the Pryor we know…

If he wanted to get his hands dirty on these issues, he might join the so-called Gang of Six, meaning three Democratic senators and three Republican ones who have been meeting privately to talk about real deficit-reduction by which each side would embrace some measure of that which it historically resists — cuts in entitlement spending for Democrats and tax increases for Republicans.

But Pryor’s style is to detach from such efforts and applaud them abstractly, pledging to give every serious due consideration to whatever might eventually get proposed.

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I do not agree with Brummett’s observations. It is obvious that federal spending is out of control and we must reduce it drastically. I do think that Senator Pryor sees the numbers that we all see. I recently heard Congressman Tim Griffin give a 45 minute talk on the problem of the national debt at a townhall meeting at the Shannon Hills City Hall. 

Representative Griffin started off the meeting with this simple statement: 

“We have a debt crisis facing our nation. We have a debt crisis because Washington spends too much, not because Washington taxes too little. The spending is driven by retirement and health security programs. The cost of doing nothing is unacceptable…Our nation’s debt is $14.1 trillion and that is $45,484 for every man, woman and child or $142,819 for the average American family.”   
 
Congressman Griffin pointed out that because of growth of entitlement spending our discretionary side was of the federal budget has slipped from 58% in 1970 to 38% in 2011.
 
Rep. Griffin compared this to our household budgets. The fixed payments like rent have to be paid every month. However, the discretionary part of your budget may be changed from month to month. The problem with the federal budget is that fixed part of the budget is growing too rapidly. If nothing is done about entitlement spending then we will never balance the budget, and our country will go bankrupt eventually. 
 
The chart “Deficits Under Obama Budgets” was the most alarming that Rep. Griffin presented. President Bush’s last three budgets produced budget deficits of 161 billion, 239 billion and 407 billion.  President Obama’s first budget produced a budget deficit of 1.1 trillion dollars in 2010 and estimates for 2011 are around 1.65 trillion.
 
The last payment on September 30, 2008 that the Bush Administration made on the interest on the debt was $451 billion on the total amount of debt of $10,024,724,896,912.49. Now just two and half years later our debt is over 14 billion.

In my past posts I could have been accused of giving just general ideas of where to cut. Now I am starting in with specifics that are taken from the article “Federal Spending by the numbers, Heritage Foundation, June 1, 2010 by Brian Riedl. He notes:  

Immediately before the current recession, Washington spent $24,800 per household. Simply returning to that level (adjusted for inflation) would likely balance the budget by 2019 without any tax hikes.

Nick Gillespie wrote the article “How to Balance the Budget Without Raising Taxes or Cutting Essential Services” in the March 2011 issue of Reason Magazine. Here is a portion of that article:

There’s a 19 percent solution to our debt and deficit problems.

Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) new budget plan cuts $500 billion from the federal budget this year. Paul proposes cutting defense spending by 6.5 percent, saving $47 billion. But will his fellow Republicans go along?

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) put forth a budget plan with $32 billion in spending cuts for fiscal 2011 last week, but even that plan let security spending grow.

Congressional Republicans say they’ll get around to holding a vote for the 2011 budget (the fiscal year started Oct. 1, 2010) during the week of Feb. 14. But as President Barack Obama and Congress start wrangling over raising the debt ceiling and hashing out budgets for 2011 and 2012, there’s really only one figure you need to keep in mind if you care about restoring the federal balance sheet to some semblance of sanity.

That figure is 19, which is the percentage of total economic activity or Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that the federal government can realistically plan on in terms of revenue.

Any budget plan that is predicated on the government raising more than 19 percent of GDP will only guarantee continuing annual deficits and out-of-control debt levels.

Federal debt held by the public, the amount the government owes to foreign and domestic creditors, has surged to $9 trillion, or roughly $29,000 per person. That amount doesn’t include the money the federal government has borrowed from other government accounts like Social Security or Medicare (that’s another $5 trillion). The speed of the debt increase is as dazzling as it is the product of bipartisanship. As George W. Bush took office, gross debt was $5.9 trillion and by the end of 2008, it was $10.6 trillion.

The mounting debt stems from massive spending increases and minimal tax receipts. In fiscal year 2010, which ended last September, the government spent $3.6 trillion while collecting $2.1 trillion, resulting in a $1.5 trillion deficit. As a percentage of the overall economy, spending equaled 25 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and the deficit came to 10 percent of GDP, figures not seen since World War II.

These trends are unsustainable and threaten to destroy not only any sort of near-term recovery but the long-term economic growth that increases standards of living.

What’s needed is a multi-year framework that will allow the government, taxpayers, and creditors alike to feel confident that change is both possible and deliverable.

As a first step, the president and Congress should consider a 10-year plan that will balance the budget in 2020 without raising taxes from their current rates, give representatives and taxpayers a say in what outlays should be cut, and still keep government outlays slightly higher as a percentage of GDP than they were in Bill Clinton’s last year in office.

There’s no secret to balancing a budget: You simply can’t spend more than you take in. Since 1950, revenue from all sources has averaged just below 18 percent of GDP. There are years where the number is higher — in 2000, revenues reached 20.6 percent of GDP — and years when it is lower — in 2010, revenues only amounted to 14.5 percent of GDP — but the average is tightly clustered around 18 percent of GDP. This level has been maintained despite all sorts of attempts to radically increase and decrease tax rates and other revenue mechanisms. Unfortunately, federal spending since 1950 has averaged just below 20 percent of GDP, which explains why our cumulative debt continues to grow.

The CBO projects that, if the current Bush tax rates, fixes for the alternative minimum tax, and other measures are kept in place, federal revenues will reach about 19 percent of GDP in a few years and then remain at that level. While that figure is a bit higher than the historical average, it is well within the bounds of reasonable expectations.

The CBO estimates that if spending isn’t cut, the federal budget will grow from $3.7 trillion this year to over $5 trillion in 2020 (all numbers are adjusted for inflation). However, the CBO says that total GDP in 2020 will be $19.5 trillion. That means that if the government wants to spend 19 percent of GDP, it should only spend about $3.8 trillion. So if we want to balance the budget in 2020, we need to cut about $1.3 trillion in projected spending (due to rounding, some of the figures don’t add up perfectly). If you spread that amount over 10 budgets, it comes to trims of $130 billion in each year of the next decade from projected spending increases (not from current spending levels).

For illustrative purposes, the following table spreads those cuts equally on a percentage basis over the six largest categories of federal spending. However, the cuts do not have to be spread across the board. Some categories could increase, while others are subjected to larger cuts. The table also shows what the total projected federal budgets would look if spending restraints are enacted.

2011-02-07-Untitled2.jpg
Another appealing aspect of this plan — apart from its simplicity — is that it makes it very easy to design budget rules around it. The road is clear and Congress can adopt strict and credible budget caps for the next ten years that can’t be overridden without serious consequences.

David Osborne, the former head of Vice President Al Gore’s “Reinventing Government” task force, is a believer in what he calls “budgeting for outcomes.” As an advisor to various cash-strapped state and local governments, Osborne pursues a two-step strategy to fixing out-of-whack budgets. First, and most importantly, you set “the price of government.” That is, you figure out how much money you can spend in a given year. When it comes to the federal government, we have a strong sense of how much revenue will be available based on the past 60 years of experience and the CBO’s projection: It will be around 19 percent of GDP.

The next step is to clearly establish the top priorities of the government. In rank order, what are the most important things that the federal government needs to be doing and what are the things it can pull back from? For example, Sen. Rand Paul’s plan cuts federal education spending by 83 percent while cutting defense 6.5 percent. Do taxpayers share those priorities? The strength of Osborne’s approach is that it builds consensus even as it makes government decision-making more transparent.

Once the cost of government and its rank-ordered priorities are established, spending decisions become much easier both to make and to defend before a voting public. And the public isn’t shrinking from the conversation. Indeed, a January poll from CBS News found that 77 percent of Americans favor balancing the budget by cutting spending, compared to 9 percent who wanted to raise taxes. Majorities say they in favor of means-testing Social Security, reducing farm subsidies, and cutting defense spending. It’s time to those sentiments to the test. If we don’t, we’ll be facing higher taxes, higher spending, higher debt, and almost certainly higher interest rates and dollars that are worth less and less.

It’s well past time that the same elected officials who got us into the budget mess not only join but lead the conversation on restraining spending. As they pursue a 19 percent solution to the nation’s budget problems, they can always point out that in 2000, a year most Americans remember fondly, the federal government was spending just 18 percent of GDP.

Nick Gillespie is editor in chief of Reason.tv and Reason.com. Veronique de Rugy is an economist at The Mercatus Center at George Mason University. A version of this article will appear in the upcoming March issue of Reason magazine.

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Prince William and Kate Middleton, the new duke and duchess of Cambridge, kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the wedding.

Guests at Wedding

Guests wait inside Westminster Abbey where Prince William and Kate Middleton will marry. (AP Photo/Dominic Lipinski/Pool)
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