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Divvying up the federal budget requires a strong stomach

By John Daley | Posted - Oct. 8, 2012 at 7:46 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY -- In this meaty political season, there are a lot of claims to chew on, on both sides. But much of the talk steers clear of reality.

One topic that gets lost in the sauce is the issue of federal spending. The federal budget is like a big political pizza - one slice goes to services for the sick, another to the military, another to schools, another to roads.

Westminster College economist Aric Krause says one big job of governing is deciding who gets a slice and how big.

"So where do you cut? That becomes the interesting question," he said.


So where do you cut? That becomes the interesting question.

–Aric Krause


Krause says there's a chart every American should understand. Of the entire federal budget, most spending goes to three things, backed strongly by many Americans: social security, Medicare and the military. That leaves less than 20 percent left over for the rest.

"A significant amount of the budget goes to social security and health care and Medicare and people will be angry if those are cut," Krause said. "A significant amount goes to defense. A lot of people will be angry if that gets cut."

So what to do with the $1-trillion gap between spending and tax revenues?

Mitt Romney says let's look at public broadcasting. "I'm going to stop the susidy to PBS. I'm going to stop other things. I like PBS. I like Big Bird... But I'm not going to keep spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it," he said.

Trouble is, PBS represents just .00014 percent of the entire federal budget.

Meanwhile, Democrats get accused of downplaying the need for cuts. Even though social security revenues will be overtaken by costs within two decades, Vice President Joe Biden recently "guaranteed no changes in social security."

Specifically how would each side cut the political pie if elected?

"We haven't really seen the specific types of details we would need to see," said Krause. "What they're going to do. What each party is recommending. On either side." One can see why these problems are so tough for both candidates and both parties. Cutting up the political pizza is hard -- real jobs, real lives depend on how that is done.

The best outcome is a growing revenue pie, but getting there requires raising taxes and spending cuts - something that is far from easy.

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John Daley

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