House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has found his talking point in response to President Biden’s refusal to negotiate over whether the government should default on its debts. “I want to look the president in the eye and [have him] tell me there’s not one dollar of wasteful spending in government,” the California Republican has said. “Who believes that? The American public doesn’t believe that.”
That isn’t really the question—like any large organization, the federal government surely has some waste it could cut—but eliminating wasteful spending wouldn’t get us very far. The deficit for fiscal year 2022 was $1.375 trillion, and we’re not overpaying that much for pencils and file folders. Balancing the budget as Republicans are asking for would require truly spectacular evisceration of programs Americans rely on.
So here’s another question: If we wanted to do some budget-cutting—not under the extortionist threat of default, but just because it might be worthwhile—what federal spending do liberals think we could do without?
But if you do want to make cuts, you might as well start where the money goes: The biggest items in the federal budget are Social Security, health care (including Medicare and Medicaid) and the military. As a general rule, Republicans would like to cut the first two, while Democrats would rather cut the third.