Jim Smolen jsmolen at
Wed Apr 24 10:08:28 EST 1996

karl at (Karl Dussik) wrote:

>Just look at the recent battle over balancing the budget.  Even with a
>shutdown, entitlements kept on coming (and growing).  And look who supported
>balancing the budget - the Republicans, and who opposed it - Clinton and the
>liberal Democrats.  If Reagan had this Republican Congress we would have a
>surplus by now.  All Clinton ever did on his own was propose budgets that
>had $200 billion yearly deficits for the next 5 years, after which it
>started soaring toward the $400 billion mark.
>Karl Dussik                | Standard disclaimer: Speaking only for myself. |
>"It was no accident that the debt increased by $3 trillion in the 1980's.  We
>have come into activities where the cost goes up.  I think had Democrats been
>in the White House in the 1980's, we would have done the same."  Sen. Daniel
>Patrick Moynihan, Chairman of the Finance Committee, Face the Nation, 6/21/93
>"One of the biggest problems with the Republican budget is that it does not
>control the cost of entitlements.  It grows from 64% of the budget to 74% of
>the budget." - Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE), Meet the Press, 10/29/95

I really love those quotes.

There is a strong temptation on all sides to point fingers at the two
parties, blaming them each for the deficit. There is plenty of blame
to go around.

A more constructive stance, particularly for those of us in science
who are caught between the anvil and the hammer of the budget crunch,
is to figure out what to do about it. It's easy to squabble about
causes...let's look at cures.

My way of looking at potential cures is to identify the driving forces
behind the problem. Such forces would have two properties - they are
already large parts of the budget (else they would not be large
contributors to the current crunch) and they must be growing (else
they would not be threats to the future). Only two parts of the budget
meet those dual criteria - interest payments on the national debt and
entitlements. Between them, they account about two-thirds of the whole
budget and if they are not stopped and rolled back, there will soon be
no remaining one-third.

Of these two parts of the budget, only the debt service is (IMHO)
TRULY untouchable.  Defaulting on the national debt is unthinkable and
would lead to the economic ruin of the country. But further growth of
this segment can be halted by passing balanced budgets. Entitlements
are deemed untouchable by politicoes....but they really are not. Their
entitlement status is a political one, nothing more.

A correlary of my point of view is that I am not really concerned with
any aspect of the budget which is not simultaneously large and
growing...those are all side shows for the budget crunch argument.
Hence, highways,  foreign aid, welfare, defense, farm supplements,
NEA, EPA, corporate welfare, NASA, SCSC, Space Station, NPR, cancer
research, etc. are not the budgetary villains for me, no matter how
much I may personally agree or disagree with their priorities. In
fact, I would make the case that these are all the most useful and
interesting things that gov't does and the most important to preserve.

I would urge that anyone who is seriously concerned with this issue to
visit the homepage of the Concord Coalition. This is a bipartisan
group that has had the fortitude to deal reasonably with these serious
issues. They are NOT distracted by sideshows and politics. I would
point out that I am not a member of the Concord Coalition and disagree
with them on a number of specifics, but that's my personal perogative.
They have the essential story right, and it's one that any practising
scientist, who are concerned about their future and how this current
crunch might be resolved, would do well to read. If we are going to
play the political games necessary to preserve our future, we would do
well to know who we are allied with and who we must confront.


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