Achieving a smaller federal budget is very easy, once you take the politics out of it.
If you were tasked with cutting the budget and if you didn’t have to worry about the repercussions of those cuts, simple. Slice wherever you like and see what happens downstream. Cut the defense budget by two-thirds! Eliminate arts programs! Whatever you want, slice away.
The problem, of course, is that there are almost always a lot of Americans who have pretty strong feelings about those things that are receiving funding. Sometimes directly: Talk about cutting Medicare in half and you will instantly hear an awful lot from Medicare recipients. Sometimes indirectly: A lot of programs that don’t receive a big slice of the federal budget otherwise have a lot of fans, even if they’re not getting immediate benefits themselves.
There’s another problem buried there, too. Most of the budget is eaten up by three things: defense, Medicare and Social Security, all things that people pretty broadly like. When it was rumored last month that President Trump wanted to cut arts funding, we charted how much the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting received as a percentage of the federal budget.
Not very much.
On Monday, the White House announced a proposed budget that would increase military spending by 10 percent, making up the difference elsewhere. That would, as the administration admits, require slashing spending in a lot of other places — even as Trump has indicated that he won’t cut Social Security or Medicare.
So how can he do it? You tell us. We made a tool that lets you try to make Trump’s proposal revenue neutral, using spending and revenue estimates for 2017 released by the previous administration. (Some Postal Service spending is protected; it’s not included below.) Can you increase the military by 10 percent, protect security programs — and still make the numbers work? Better yet, can you do those things and end up running a surplus?
Each slider changes spending on the budget item up to 100 percent in either direction. All categories are from the Office of Management and Budget.
As you’ll quickly learn, hitting that goal means reducing — or zeroing out — a number of other categories.
What we’re allowing you to do above is precisely what we offered at the outset: Make any changes you want without facing political repercussions. Zero out agricultural subsidies in real life, though, and see how your next election goes.