I ain't mad at the "fiscal cliff" deal. We got the 39.6% tax bracket back, plus a higher Estate Tax rate, unemployment insurance for another year, the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits for another five years, and the old Farm Bill until September, so Congress has another nine months to write a reauth that isn't a complete piece of crap. Plus, we stopped the Medicare eligibility age hike and that "chained CPI" rubbish for Social Security. Given all of that, I'm willing to play Congress's game, just this once, and talk about spending cuts. It's not that I never talk about spending cuts, as you know, but I won't go on about revenues like I normally do -- no lengthy diatribe about bringing back the 91% tax bracket or closing offshore tax havens or enacting a financial speculation tax or lifting the ceiling on payroll taxes. Today, we're going to talk about spending cuts.
Here they are: let Medicare negotiate its own drug prices; crack down on Medicare/Medicaid payment errors and billing disparities; stop giving out tax breaks to oil and other fossil fuel corporations; force the military to stop buying unnecessary spare parts; and cut waste- and fraud-ridden Homeland Security (sic) contracts. Doing these things (per USPIRG's report "The Next Trillion") would result in over $140 billion in budget savings annually; ending direct payments to the corn industry would save $5 billion more. Now, you may well be saying, but our annual budget deficit is around ten times that. And that's true. Of course, even right-wing economist Walter Williams seems to think a 91% tax bracket would wipe out most of the rest, but I digress. The dreaded budget sequestration actually cuts a little less ($1.2 trillion over nine years), and you have no reason to suspect our government will run better after it kicks in.
But the above suggestions don't just cut spending; they do us all good, and any spending cut should be able to do both. If Medicare uses its size and leverage (like the VA, or like any corporation) to buy the same drugs for less money, that's a good thing. If Medicare stops paying the wrong people and stops health care providers from overbilling, that's a good thing. If we stop giving out billions in tax breaks to oil corporations that let refineries sit unused, that's a good thing. And we shouldn't tolerate any waste and fraud in federal contracts, and buying supplies we don't need actually makes us less secure. And we may save more than $5 billion if we cut the corn subsidies -- without them, soft drinks will be a lot more expensive, and we won't drink as much and we won't suffer from obesity and diabetes as much and thus our health care system (and, therefore, all of us, since we're all paying into it one way or another) won't be burdened as much.
Of course, it'll be tough getting yourself heard through the drama Congress and the "liberal" media like to create. Demand these works of your Congressfolk (and tools are, as always, in the upper left-hand corner of this page) and you'll hear a lot of subject-changing about cutting entitlements. Newsflash: we've suggested $72 billion in Medicare spending cuts and zero dollars in benefit cuts. Cutting spending does not equal cutting benefits. We should make our Congressfolk write that on a blackboard a hundred times. And if they dismiss any of the above suggestions as somehow "unserious" while demanding raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67 when that'll save our government bupkus, or demanding the privatization of Medicare which will drive seniors' health care costs sky-high while also saving our government bupkus, then we'll know that Congressfolk are only out to steal what's ours, and we can treat them accordingly -- first at their townhalls, if they have the courage to hold any, and then at the polls.