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Debt-ceiling deadline 1 day - and 1 last recommendation - away

July 31, 2011 - Mike Maneval
Debate on raising the debt ceiling, after depressing setbacks of finger-pointing and demogoguery from both sides, appears to be on the verge of resolution. What makes these setbacks particularly disappointing is that serious progress is being made, and that proverbial lines are being drawn in the sand that are wholly unnecessary.

At various points, some important and impressive ideas have been on the table. The sale of broadcast spectrum to increase revenues and cuts to Social Security, are among the proposals - likely necessary today or in the near-future - that would begin to help reduce the nation's debt. At one point within the past two weeks, repeal of the consumer mandate in the health care reform law was on the table, as acknowledged on July 22. About seven weeks earlier I blogged a very similar recommendation, adding the reform law√°s planned tax relief for health insurance payments as another aspect to repeal. The proposed compromise that emerged Sunday night includes about $2.4 trillion in spending cuts. This is progress, and neither voters or politicians should belittle it.

Further, we know that the give-and-take of debate on the next bill - whatever the next bill is - will provide more chances to fight for some of the proposals to surface in this debt-ceiling debate. The U.S. legislature is not going away, and as long as factions within it have goals and aspirations, there will be opportunities to pursue the conditions and policies that have surfaced in this debate.

With a compromise announced as I was writing this update, my last suggestion for curtailing federal spending is less a recommendation for a condition upon this debt-ceiling increase than a starting point for this next argument.

Abolish the U.S. Department of Education.

The department is operating with an annual budget this year of $69.9 billion. Replace the department, which already includes numerous grant programs, with one federal education grant program with either a 5-percent overall spending cut every year for three years or 3-percent cut every four years. The U.S. government continues to aid schools and students - leaving more than 85 to 88 percent of actual federal spending on education intact - while cutting the debt by at least 8 billion over four years or 11 billion over three years, once you factor in mandatory spending.


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