Want a Balanced Budget in 2020? Cut Military Spending by 40%

More


This graph is the product of Esquire Magazine's Commission to Balance the Federal Budget. The mag convened a three-day power-brainstorm with MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell and four former senators -- two Democrats, two Republicans -- to close a projected $700 billion deficit in 2020.

The group succeeded in finding $600 billion in spending cuts in 2020 without raising tax rates. They dramatically reformed Social Security, eliminated some major tax deductions, and increased the gas tax by $1. Most significantly, they reconfigured military spending to cut the Defense budget by 40 percent in 2020.

When you focus on the big numbers, the Esquire commission reduced spending by 3 percent of GDP almost entirely on the back of Social Security and Defense cuts: $86 billion from Social Security, $170 billion from military revamping, and $130 billion from wrapping up the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. What's wrong with that? Nothing -- in 2020.

But the long-term federal deficit crisis doesn't have very much to do with Defense spending. It's a health care problem riding on the back of more expensive medicine and longer-living patients. The commission begins to approach this problem by repealing the employer health care tax exclusion (which makes your office health care tax-free) and calling for pay-for-performance incentives to move away from a system that pays doctors to over-treat you. But it's hard to put into a magazine article (or any article) exactly how you plan to change insurance motives, patient incentives, provider-pricing and the other variables that contribute to rising health care prices in and outside Medicare.

Thumbnail image for aging v medical inflation medicare.png

If you're looking for one simple takeaway from the piece, try this: Balancing the budget by 2020 almost entirely through spending cuts is doable, if you cut defense spending by 40 percent.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

In a series of candid video interviews, women talk about self-image, self-judgment, and what it means to love their bodies


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In