Arnold Kling  

Can I Have My Prize Now?

Posing the Macroeconomic Quest... Portrait of an Elitist...

I played the deficit reduction game at the New York Times. I stopped playing when I had already eliminated the 2030 deficit without raising taxes. The choices that did the most for me were capping Medicare growth after 2013 (I love the way that they don't make me explain how I would do that), reducing the tax break for health insurance, raising the Social Security retirement age to 70, changing the inflation index for Social Security, reducing Social Security payments to people on high incomes, raising the age of Medicare eligibility to 70, and reducing troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This was a really fun game. Thank you, New York Times.

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CATEGORIES: Fiscal Policy

COMMENTS (10 to date)
Mike Mathea writes:

Arnold, my intermediate macro students will thanks you for this. Looks like a great assignment to be completed before Thanksgiving.

steve writes:

I trust you read the fine print. Picking the Social Security at age 70 option requires that you change your job to farm laborer.


Rick Stewart writes:

Why should there be any government sanctioned retirement age?

Why can't people simply save as much money as they need, to retire when they wish to retire?

I have a friend who started working when he was 32, worked for about 8 years, and retired. He is now 58 and lives on less than $10,000/year, in his own condominium, with his own truck, buying his own health insurance, etc. [yes, he was a wage slave]

I retired before I was 50, because I always knew I wanted to and saved my money so I could. [yes, I was a wage slave]

In the case of someone, possibly the rare farm laborer, who becomes unable to work at anything (not just at farm laborering), we can have a welfare system that accommodates his/her survival.

Meanwhile my 91 year old mother can stop cashing her Social Security check and spend her savings instead.

Joseph K writes:

I think the point of the game was to show that cutting the huge deficit is hard and that certain trade-offs are essential, but I had the same reaction as you: "This is easy! What are they whining about?" Even with the limited number of options provided and without raising taxes, balancing the budget is about as easy as a person saying: "You know what? I'm a little over budget. I think I'll stop going to five star restaurants every day for lunch and dinner and cook at home a few days a week, and maybe I'll stop flying to Europe every weekend and only go there about two or three times a year."

kurt writes:

I couldn't solve the puzzle because there was no option to remove the federal supplements to Medicare/Medicaid. The only "tax increase" I picked was to abolish the tax break on employer-provided health care. Why didn't the NYTimes include an option to cancel Obamacare?!

Hyena writes:

This one is okay. I liked the original rounds of it, with lots more policy options available.

What would be really nice is if the Times was saving your preferences constantly. I would really like to see what people who use the budget calculators decided to cut.

For me, the easiest cuts are to the military, farm subsidies and Social Security.

Paul writes:

It's easy to cut the deficit if you are the CEO or a king. The real problem is how to stop the inherent growth of government. It's not just the spending, it's the regulations and inefficient services like police and judicial services that are the real threat to freedom.

Lord writes:

It is easy. I did it with 54% spending reductions. The secret is to ignore the small things. I didn't touch domestic or military other than to reduce troops in the mideast, didn't touch Social Security other then to raise the cap to 90%. Medicare cap and tax employer health benefits to reduce healthcare growth, letting tax cuts expire and adopting Obamas proposals. Of course actually getting those capable of paying more to do so is impossible, but so is this. It's the big things that are difficult not the little ones. The medicare cap is fantasy but even the commission used that one. But it is remarkably easy if the deficit is actually the goal, which it is not.

Phil S. writes:

@Rick Stewart: the problem is time consistency. If we go fully private and allow full choice of retirement age, then some percentage will blow all of their retirement account well before death but well after they are too old to be able to work enough to support themselves. Then, society either has to deal with impoverished, destitute elderly people. If we don't carry them, then society seems heartless, and if we do, then all the more people will blow their accounts early. Any replacement for SS has to have that feature of protecting people from their own bad decisions if we as a society are going to be left holding their bag.

Noah Yetter writes:

As I posted over on MR, I'm disappointed there was no option to repeal the (unconstitutional) Controlled Substances Act and abolish the (unconstitutional) DEA and FDA. Along with doing away entirely with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (which are also unconstitutional).

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