Letter: Zero-based budgeting

The debt ceiling crisis: The Republicans first need to defuse the liberal canard that they are playing politics and will “default on our debt” and “starve Grandma.”

This accusation can be preempted by first passing a “baseline budget” and handing that resolution to the Senate. Not a continuing resolution, but a core budget for 2013. This would just disburse the actual revenues of the federal government. It would direct the Treasury to disburse incoming FICA funds directly to Social Security recipients (Grandma gets her check); and then – in priority – use other federal revenues, as withheld from each paycheck, to service principal and interest on the debt ($30 billion, I believe), pay the military personnel accounts (feed the troops in Afghanistan), and a few other necessary items.

Maybe candles and pencils for Congress to work at their jobs, which is not their reelection, up to the $200 billion collected monthly.

The balance of monthly expenditures (the other $100 billion, which will have to be borrowed) can then be negotiated at leisure; and where negotiation fails, the debt ceiling stops that spending by definition. In stark terms, is this worth borrowing for?

They could negotiate to put a few goodies back by restoring income taxes on some of  “the 47 percent” who pay nothing right now. But each member will have to fight for their pork. (Who, with a straight face, could propose borrowing a few billion from our children to give to the Muslim Brotherhood, except when buried in an “extension of last year’s State Department budget, plus inflation?”) The amount of authorized borrowing becomes directly tied to spending priorities.

This would show even the New York Times that fiscally responsible proposals are not just designed to starve grandma and that Democrats are shutting down the government if this goes nowhere. It also provokes a handy forum for a bottoms-up review of spending against the reality of no money.

This is the same basic approach almost every household in the country faces to live within their means, and would be the first time in a long time that the elements of federal spending were isolated and considered against the reality that no tax increase on our population can address the breadth of unconscionable spending that Washington is doing.

Who knows? A few laps through this and we might even get control of our budget before the dollar crashes and impoverishes the country for generations to come.

Robert Klaus

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