Part 1—King in charge: Is your country a pitiful helpless giant, the way Dick Nixon once said?
Well yes, it pretty much is! One example: As surveys are constantly showing, we the people don’t have a clue about the way the federal budget works.
We believe all kinds of crazy things. We’ve done so for many years.
Why are we the people so pitifully helplessly clueless? Consider what John King did at last Wednesday's GOP debate!
King was moderator for the debate. After a bunch of silly piddle, he kicked things off in the manner which follows. To watch these proceedings, click here:
KING (2/22/12): Gentlemen, it's good to see you again. Let's get right started on the important issues with a question from our audience.Did Gilbert from Gilbert’s question make sense? In order to bring down the national debt, we will have to start running an annual surplus. That would take enormous changes. Is that what he meant?
Sir, please tell us who you are and state your question.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name is Gilbert Fidler from Gilbert, Arizona, and I'd like to ask this question to all the candidates if I could.
Since the first time in 65 years our national debt exceeds our gross national product, what are you going to do to bring down the debt?
KING: Thank you, sir. Senator Santorum, let's begin with you.
At any rate, King quickly threw to Santorum. He blathered at great length from there:
SANTORUM (continuing directly): Thank you, Gilbert. I put together a specific plan that cuts $5 trillion over five years, that spends less money each year for the next four years that I'll be president of the United States. So it's not inflation-adjusted, it's not baseline-budgeting. We're actually going to shrink the actual size of the federal budget, and we're going to do so by dealing with the real problem.Santorum went on and on, describing his plan to “cut $5 trillion over five years.” For ourselves, we’ll come right out and admit it—we don’t understand that part of his answer!
And here's where I differentiate myself with everybody else, including, obviously, the president. I actually have experience on tackling the toughest problems that we have in this country, and that's the growth of entitlement spending.
Obviously, the first thing we need to do is repeal Obamacare. That's the one entitlement that we can get rid of.
And that's a couple trillion dollars in spending over the next 10 years. But there's bigger issues.
When I was born, less than 10 percent of the federal budget was entitlement spending. It's now 60 percent of the budget.
Some people have suggested defense spending is the problem. When I was born, defense spending was 60 percent of the budget. It's now 17 percent. If you think defense spending is the problem, then you need a remedial math class to go back to.
Defense spending will not be cut under my administration, but we will go after all of the means-tested entitlement programs—Medicaid, food stamps, all of those programs—and do what we did with welfare.
We cut the welfare—we cut spending on welfare, froze it and then we block-granted it to the states and gave them the flexibility to run that program the way they saw fit with two provisos. Number one, there would be a time limit on welfare and a work requirement. We were going to say that poverty is not a disability, that these programs need to be transitional in nature. We need to do the same thing with Medicaid. We need to do the same thing with, with food stamps. All of the other means tests of entitlement programs.
And unlike the Paul Ryan plan—I see I'm out of time, but unlike the Paul Ryan plan, we also will deal with Medicare and Social Security, not ten years from now. But we need to start dealing with it now because our country is facing fiscal bankruptcy.
Santorum said that he would cut $5 trillion over five years. Did he mean that spending in each of his first five budgets would be (roughly) $1 trillion lower than is currently projected?
Given the size of the annual budget, that would be an enormous change. Is that what Santorum meant?
From that starting point, Santorum went on and on, rattling off all kinds of points. Trust us! No one in the room, including Fidler, had any idea what the solon was talking about. But did he mean what he seemed to say? Did he mean that would cut projected spending in next year’s budget by (roughly) $1 trillion?
That would be an enormous change. Is that what Santorum meant?
Santorum gave a long, detailed reply to a somewhat murky question. Luckily, we had a professional journalist on hand! He was right up there with the candidates!
John King was in charge of this debate. Why do we live in a country where no one know squat about the budget? What makes us such pitiful helpless know-nothings?
Tomorrow, we’ll look at what King said. When we do, you’ll start getting your answer.
Tomorrow—part 2: What King said