Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Principles for Budget Cutting

Readers know that I have a soft spot for David Brooks, who visited Duke in November to inaugurate "Gridlock." His column today on budget cutting is excellent. He advocates three principles: First, make everyone suffer. These times deserve shared sacrifice from everyone, which means fewer programs for the needy, but also higher taxes from those who can afford it. Second, trim from the old to invest in the young. It is Medicare that is dragging the budget into the abyss. The government should be paying for less care at the end of life and investing in early child development and education. That is where our future lies. Third, make cuts based on evaluations of programatic effectiveness. This would seem self evident, but, as Brooks points out, House Republicans and governors across the country are cutting based on politics, not based on what works and what does not. I would add a fourth -- stop using the fiscal crisis to promote a policy agenda. It is hard enough to get through the current budget difficulties without layering on hot button policy debates over things like family planning and collective bargaining rights. If the votes are there to make big policy changes, go right ahead, but don't pile these things on top of the budget debate. This is a burden the process cannot bear.

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