Sunday, June 27, 2010

PS427: Stabilize the National Debt Yourself

As we are talking about budget choices at both the state and federal levels, here is a nifty exercise in seeing what you care to cut to get the federal debt under control.

Ezra Klein writes about some of the issues here.

And more fun, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has the budget simulation here.

See what it takes you to get to 60% of GDP.

Discuss: What choices did you make?

What political obstacles would arise in getting your choices passed by Congress?

Who do you think should pay for reducing the deficit? The rich through higher taxes, the poor through reduced services, the elderly through Medicare and Social Security cuts, the middle class by removing income tax deductions for homes and state taxes, the military by ending defense spending as we know it? You choose, but explain your choices.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

PS427: Soaring Welfare Spending?

The Heritage Foundation has a new report arguing against a substantial increase in welfare spending.

The report is linked here.

Be sure to read the reference notes at the end as well. Click the link at the end of the report to reveal the references.

Discuss: What is "welfare"? What programs does it include and what are not considered welfare even though they are social spending (such as social security or Medicare)? Why make these distinctions?

Why didn't the welfare reforms of the Clinton presidency "end welfare"?

How significant is the growth in this category of spending? How much of the budget is devoted to these programs?

What is the state role in welfare spending and how do states differ in their payments for welfare programs?

What are the policy goals Heritage seeks to promote through guts to welfare spending?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

PS427: The Anti-Stimulus, State Responsibility and WFA

Ezra Klein at the Washington Post is an interesting journalist with a wonkish policy focus. This week he published a piece on state budget problems as the "anti-stimulus", amounting to a huge amount of money not being spent that can equal or even exceed the size of the federal stimulus package.

See his article here.

Some reader's subsequently object (quite correctly) that federal aid to the states amounts to enabling their bad budget management and just encourages them to delay confronting the basic shortcomings of their budgeting. Klein raises that issue and presents some counter evidence, along with a link to an academic analysis of the state budget short fall and its roots in unemployment levels:

That link is here.

And finally, what are the roots of government (state and federal) deficits and can't they be readily cured by eliminating Waste, Fraud and Abuse (WFA). The public seems to think so. See this piece by Democratic pollster Mark Mellman.

Link to opinion about WFA here.


Is Klein's empirical argument one that both lefties and righties should (in principle!) be able to agree on, even if they differ on policy solutions? Or is there an underlying ideological debate about the fundamental point Klein is making, which means that no such empirical agreement is possible?

What role do you think public attitudes play in state and federal efforts to address budget deficits and revenue?

Why does the public continue to believe that such large portions of government revenue is wasted and therefore could be cut without any consequence?

If it is so easy to do, why has NEITHER party made significant headway in cutting spending? (Consider the record of the 1990s and the federal surpluses that resulted as both a positive and a negative example.)

PS427: State budget cuts: across the board, and at cross-purposes


State budget cuts: across the board, and at cross-purposes

Almost every state has suffered budget shortfalls in the wake of the 2008 recession. How states have coped with cuts is varied and of varied effectiveness.

Discuss: Why do states find it difficult to adopt effective budget cutting strategies?

Why are some states more successful than others in dealing with budget problems?

Will these cuts be restored once the economy recovers or are they likely to result in permanent reductions?

Which budget areas of state government are "easy" to cut and which are "hard"? Why?

Why don't they just cut "waste, fraud and abuse" to solve the budget difficulties?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

WisconsinEye 2010 Campaign Overview

The video link is here.

I review the 2010 election campaigns in Wisconsin with Steve Walters at Wisconsin Eye.

Friday, June 4, 2010

PS544: Booth's map at Museum of London

Booth's map of London is written up in the New York Times from last month. The Galleries of Modern London at the Museum of London has a show up with the original maps. The Times story is a pretty nice writeup.

Thanks to Flowing Data for bringing this to my attention. Flowing Data is an excellent site for data visualization examples and inspiration.