The Catholic University of America
Apr 11 2011

A Savvy and Compassionate Budget, Balanced by 2030

Posted by Stephen Schneck at 2:40 PM
- Categories: Economy

Today’s budget debate is as much about the moral imperatives of governance in the modern world as it is about accounting.  Here I offer the outlines of a budget that I believe is moral—as well as savvy and which balances the budget by 2030.  My budget is quite different from the one currently in the news. 

Representative Paul Ryan, a Roman Catholic Republican from Wisconsin, this week submitted a proposed budget plan that illustrates the moral concerns at stake.  Ryan’s budget (which looks very likely for passage this week in the House of Representatives) does address appropriate concern for what America’s current fiscal irresponsibility poses for our children and grandchildren.  But, it does so slowly, not balancing the budget until 2040.  I wanted to move faster than that. 

What really should be a point of reflection, though, is not Ryan’s pace, but rather his methods.  The Congressman reaches his balance by imposing significant cuts on programs to the most vulnerable American populations, ends Medicare for the elderly and replaces it with a limited voucher system, dramatically reduces the funding for Medicaid and turns it over to the states, diddles a bit with Social Security, cuts even further the taxes on incomes above $250,000, and increases spending on defense (even as our Mideast involvements wind down).

This spring, the Fellows of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies have enjoyed fascinating discussions of the basic principles of Catholic social teachings.  I wondered, accordingly, if such principles (solidarity, subsidiarity, stewardship, preference for the poor, just peace) might be employed in application to budgeting. 

Below is the result.  Fiscally, it compares favorably with both Obama’s budget unveiled in February and this week’s budget from Rep. Ryan.  I cut in half next year’s anticipated deficit of $1.1 trillion and achieve a balanced budget by 2030.  This is achieved by slightly increasing taxes (although still below the Clinton taxes of the booming ‘90s), by modestly trimming defense expenditures, and by eliminating tax dodges for corporations and wealthy individuals.  Social Security and Medicare are not touched except to improve their funding model by raising more revenue for these programs from high income taxpayers. 

I’m not looking for a friendly Member on the Hill to put my budget into the legislative hopper.  Think of this as a “thought experiment” in the application of Catholic social teachings to public policy—one to spur discussion and reflection.  Still, this exercise should demonstrate to all that solving America’s budget mess need not occur on the backs of the poor.  My thanks to the wealth of budget information provided by the New York Times on its website!  I’m happy to provide more detail for questions about specific proposals.




2012 Savings

2030 Savings




Close Various Tax Loopholes



Reduce Troops in Mideast to 60k by 2015



Raise Ceiling on Medicare & Soc Security Taxes



 Undo Bush Tax Cuts on Incomes >$250K



Return Estate Tax to Clinton Levels



Surtax on Banks Based on Financial Risk



5.4% Surtax on Incomes Above $1 million



Gradual Imposition of CO2 Tax



Reduce Social Security to High Incomes



Reduce Military to Pre-Iraq Size



Return Capital Gains Taxes to Clinton Levels



Reduce Number of Nukes from 1968 to 1050



Cut Federal Salaries by 5%



Cut Federal Contractors by 250k



Malpractice Reform







Matt Green

Matt Green wrote on 04/12/11 9:23 AM

Well, you *should* look for a friendly lawmaker to introduce it! Some parts I like more than others, but at least it promotes a shared sacrifice in which each individual's sacrifice is commensurate with his/her own resources. I believe that a moral budget is one in which those in greatest need -- the poor, the sick, the elderly -- do not sacrifice proportionately more than the very wealthiest.

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