The Cupboard is Not Bare
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said on Sunday, in terms of deficit reduction, "The cupboard is bare.. There's no more cuts to make." We're not sure what cupboard Ms. Pelosi is looking at or if there was much in there to begin with, but she's wrong. There is a whole pantry of spending that can and should be cut.
In her statement, Pelosi was talking about discretionary spending, which Congress dictates annual spending on and is being focused on via sequestration and the continuing resolution. However, her statement ignored the mandatory spending part of the budget.
Politicians often talk about discretionary spending, but this part of the federal budget has declined over the past few decades and, contrary to many assumptions, is not the main driver of our national debt or root of the spending problem. The real issue is mandatory spending, which is most of the budget and is funded on autopilot without regular oversight. This type of spending is comprised of mostly Social Security and federal health programs. According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, mandatory spending will account for 100 percent of the growth in noninterest spending going forward.
So, is Leader Pelosi even looking in the right cupboard, pantry, or other kitchen storage apparatus? If we simply observe what the Congress has done to date on deficit reduction it might appear that we've run out of large-scale options:
• We already taxed the rich in last year's Fiscal Cliff Deal and returned payroll taxes to their regular level for everyone. There is reason to doubt these revenue options will be heightened again, and outside of comprehensive tax reform, it's hard to see a path with new revenue.
• Discretionary spending is being cut to low levels with the spending caps and sequestration. It will be hard to cut this further as it's the spending that the Left traditionally points to as "investments" and would be politically tricky to cut. More importantly, it's not the major source of our debt problems.
Some claim all the "low-hanging fruit has been plucked," and that the previous methods of dealing with deficit reduction have been fried and tried. But those claims are made by people who are looking in the wrong places. We need to look at mandatory spending in all the other cupboards and get it off autopilot. We need to reform major entitlements, reduce fraud, improper payments, and other inefficiencies, and otherwise take more control of Washington's big-spending ways.
Leader Pelosi said "We all want to reduce the deficit. Put everything on the table, review it, but you cannot have any more cuts just for the sake of cuts."
She's right in that sense: everything should be on the table, and politicians should cut spending because they need to, not for maintaining ideology. It's time to disregard sacred scows and put mandatory programs on the spot for scrutiny. If we are ever going to eliminate our deficit and reduce thedebt, it is going to come from reining in spending, and considering all spending open for reduction -- particularly the kind that most impacts the budget.