Here in the US, the libertarian right tells us that we are doomed by a federal debt that will soon wreak havoc on the world's financial system, with much pain to be felt here at home. Perhaps they are correct, but I doubt it. If anything a debt problem will be chronic, not acute and near-term calamity is not likely. Their argument gains traction each year as budget deficits add to the debt, and no new jobs (net) seem to be an ongoing tragedy. Even if you don't buy their arguments, there may be other reasons to at least shift spending, if not both shift spending and reduce deficits. So it is at least time to begin to parse various proposals to cut into deficits and debt.
This week President Obama unveiled his budget. There wasn't much to cheer about, for those who hope to trim back a bit on our public debt. Obama and Co. trotted out the same old "let's whittle away at that small percent of government that has served for years as the politically correct set of "touchables," leaving Defense and Entitlements at minimum in the "untouchable" category. Nobody is buying Obama's offering as much more than political posturing w/r/t deficit reduction. So we'll have to look elsewhere for substantive suggestions.
Recently, Mother Jones' David Corn talked with David Stockman (Ronald Reagan's Budget Director) to get his ideas on tackling the problem, a problem Stockman dealt with, unsuccessfully, way back when. Stockman offered up a few ideas: First, cut military spending by $100 to $150 billion a year. Second, apply a means test to Medicare and Social Security. Third, massively raise taxes. On the third, Stockman suggested a Tobin Tax on financial transactions, adding that it might generate $100 billion annually. He also suggested a value-added tax on consumption.
I would add in a few others. Why not try to get another $100 billion/year from the Medical Industrial Complex? I suspect that if we were to seriously look at "end of life" excessive health care we might find that much there. But if not, we might look at excessive profits in the "Complex", and or excessive insurance costs, etc.
Why not get another big number by beginning to phase-in a gas tax? That way we would be hitting the Energy Industrial Complex, to compliment the hits already proposed to the Military, Finance, and Medical Industrial Complexes.
And we might get a bit by raising the tax, progressively, on America's top 5%.
What else might we tag on? We might as well begin developing lists, while we wait and wait for our politicians to do anything beyond "tax and spend" or "borrow and spend."
Note that Stockman also advocated for a "means test" on Social Security. I have thought this a good idea in times past, but now suspect that it wouldn't be worth the fight. Just raise taxes on the rich, and let them collect their pittance from Social Security.