Saturday, February 26, 2011

Politics: Can you cut $100 billion from the Federal Budget?

According to Wikipedia the US government spent $3.55 trillion in 2010.

I don't think there is an actual 2011 budget on the books as of this writing.

So I can only use the 2010 numbers to try to cut $100 billion.

It should be noted that cutting $100 billion (considered drastic by the people in DC) still leaves the budget over $1,000,000,000,000 in the red.

Anyway, right now, neither party will touch the "mandatory" programs and the Republicans won't touch defense. Thus, the cuts have to be made from everything else. Note the debt can't be cut because if one doesn't pay one's debts one is in default which would result in major chaos in the financial markets.


As you can see, 14% across the board cuts would be needed to reach the target.

But what if everything except the debt was on the table?

Here is my attempt to make cuts:


Rationale

Start with 2% cuts on the premise ALL must give up at least a little.
Medicare - turn the program into vouchers
Medicaid - turn program to block grant to states
Other mandatory - I wonder what these are? But in the effort to have shared sacrifice they too take a small hit
Social Security - alter the benefit calculation so it is 2% less generous
EPA and Interior - we do need to protect the environment and natural places
DOJ - law enforcement is a proper government function
VA - our veterans need medical care
HHS - programs for public health and medical research are in this department

4% cuts
Treasury and Labor - they also have some law enforcement functions
Agriculture - the farm subsidies should take a hit but the food stamps and other social services for the poor should take a smaller trim

6% cuts
DHS and Defense - security is a proper government function but some gold plated weapons systems could be trimmed and homeland security probably has some overlap and fat
State - cut some foreign aid to get some savings
DOT - infrastructure work is needed but the Amtrak subsidies and the high speed rail projects are doubtful

8%
Commerce - its a real grab bag of programs which can be trimmed
NASA - if we don't fly humans into space we can really save money
DOE - are corn ethanol subsides in this department? Energy subsides and research projects are a result of lobbyists from those industries which need to be trimmed.

10%
HUD and Education - long known for wasteful spending and probably better handled at the state and local levels

12%
Others - there is probably a plethora of programs that don't fit into neat categories that could be trimmed.

To save even more money look at the ambitious (probably too ambitious) effort at Downsizinggovernment.org.

The sad part is even with $130 billion in cuts, my proposed budget is still over $1 trillion in the red! To actually balance the budget, one needs 30% across the board cuts or corresponding tax increases or a combination of both. That is how out of balance the budget is right now.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Science: How much vitamin D to take?



Recently, the Institue of Medicine issued a report on vitamin D.

Some in the research community disagreed with their recommendations.

Disclaimer: My research projects are in the realm of assessing the role of vitamin D on immunity. I personally take 2000 IU/day.