Like Arnold and some of his commenters, I found it way easier than I thought it would be to cut the federal budget on the New York Times' interactive site.
After I was done, the Times announced that I had solved the deficit. How did I do so? Entirely with budget cuts, with one exception. On spending, I took all the budget cuts offered, and the most radical version of each, except that I didn't cut Social Security benefits for people with higher incomes. I probably should have. The only exception is that I did increase taxes by having the favorable tax treatment of employers' contributions to employees' health insurance phase out gradually.
And Eureka! By 2015, I had eliminated a projected deficit of $418 billion and changed it into a surplus of $41 billion. By 2030, I had eliminated a projected deficit of $1,355 billion and changed it to a surplus of $329 billion. And these really were relatively small changes: cutting government pay by 5 percent (I've been advocating cutting it by 10 percent), just reducing the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan by 2013 (in an antiwar speech I gave yesterday, I advocated getting the U.S. government out of Iraq and Afghanistan), ending a few agencies, cutting aid to state governments by a small percent, etc. What it really shows is just how massive the federal government is.
Here's a prediction: if the New York Times keeps this game up on its site, a whole lot of people are going to be more sympathetic to cutting government and more optimistic that it can be done. One of my objections to Tea Partiers is how uninformed some of them are about the numbers. Now, thanks to the New York Times, they don't have to be.