Why everything must be on the table

Among those who understand government has a severe spending problem, there are considerable differences on what exact spending should be reduced. For a long time the focus has been on eliminating government waste, “porkbarrel” projects and earmarks. The spotlight has recently begun to shine on unsustainable entitlement spending (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid). Still others insist there must be cuts to the increases in the Pentagon’s budget, particularly since the Congress is appropriating money for purchases the Defense Department itself says are unnecessary and unaffordable.

Despite the sacred cows of many in Congress and in the electorate, the scale of the overspending means everything must be on the table for reduction. There must be spending reform in entitlements, discretionary, and military spending.

This all-of-the-above approach makes the most sense when each government program’s total appropriation is examined in terms of the deficit, which is what Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University does in the table below.

Obviously, it is not realistic–indeed, it’s unwise–to stop all Medicare benefits today or cut all national security spending, but this helps to put things in context.

The American people must demand their elected officials take the government overspending problem seriously. Government cannot and should not do everything, but it should govern and defend. The tasks involved in governing and defense come first. Everything else must be on the table.