Why We Can't Reduce the Deficit: A Glossary

There are many articulate and persuasive arguments out there for why we can't cut Social Security, why we can't raise taxes, why we shouldn't create new taxes, and why we can't cut public salaries.

It's a reminder that solving a deficit crisis is like solving a Rubik's Cube. Understanding the how is easy: The cubes go up and down, right and left, but matching the colors takes skill and luck. Similarly, everybody understands how to control one's finances: you make more money or spend less money. For a government, that means raising existing taxes (income, Social Security, investment), introducing new taxes (a national consumption tax or carbon tax), cutting discretionary spending (like defense and employees) or slowing the growth of promised spending (Medicare and Social Security). But then there's the thing of actually doing it.

So in case somebody you Why is reducing the deficit so difficult?  feel free to use any of the following ten reasons.

1) We can't slow medical inflation, because nobody knows how.

2) We can't begin to cut state aid, because it's effective stimulus that keeps hundreds of thousands of public sector workers employed.

3) We can't cut Social Security, because vulnerable seniors with hard-hit savings rely on it for most of their income.

4) We can't raise payroll taxes, because adding to the cost of workers will make unemployment worse.

5) We can't create new taxes, because the VAT is regressive and the carbon tax will throw sand in the engine of America.

6) We can't raise income and investment taxes on the top 2 percent, because that punishes the people who create America's wealth through investment.

7) We can't raise income and investment taxes on the lower 98 percent, because aren't they hurting enough already?

8) We can't cut military spending too deeply, because the spillover effect will hurt our tech industry and make us vulnerable.

9) We can't cancel the stimulus, because it's building a better nation.

10) We can't freeze government wages, because at the most important positions, public employees are already underpaid.

These aren't merely excuses. They're legitimate arguments. Some, I think, even have the virtue of being right. But if you accept them all, then there is literally nothing we can do.