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A Deficit Without Defense

9:15 AM, Mar 15, 2011 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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How much is entitlement spending the real source of our budgetary woes? Here’s a stat for you: In President Obama’s proposed 2012 budget, the White House Office of Management and Budget estimates (in Table S-4) that mandatory spending this year (2011) will be $2.194 trillion, while total federal receipts will be $2.174 trillion.

A Deficit Without Defense

That’s right: Even if we were to spend every dime of federal revenue on mandatory programs (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the like), we would still have a $20 billion deficit. When you add in interest payments on the debt ($207 billion), we would have a $227 billion deficit. That’s even if we didn’t spend anything at all on discretionary programs, the category of spending that includes homeland security, interstate highways, national parks, and, of course, national defense.

This highlights three key things: One, meaningful entitlement reform is our only route to fiscal solvency. Two, we absolutely cannot afford another entitlement, in the form of Obamacare. Three, we are nowhere near balancing our budget anytime soon, and attempts to mandate that result — such as through a Balanced Budget Amendment — would require either immediate entitlement cuts for current beneficiaries (which no one is proposing) or massive tax hikes. Rather than a Balanced Budget Amendment, therefore, we need a Limited Government Amendment, which would tackle the real problem: unlimited government spending. 

President Obama, who is either unaware or unconcerned that his White House’s own estimates show that spending on mandatory programs will exceed all federal receipts this year, proposes keeping entitlements on their current trajectory, adding Obamacare to the mix, and (again, based on White House estimates) increasing our national debt to $20.825 trillion at the end of 2016, compared to $9.986 trillion when we rang in the New Year in 2009. It is into this leadership vacuum that Paul Ryan and the House Republicans will soon step, as they propose a serious budget that offers long-overdue entitlement reform — thereby offering a path to prosperity for future generations of Americans, who don’t wish to be the custodians of debt-ridden decline.

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