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The budget can be made simple but not easy

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Posted: Thursday, September 6, 2012 10:16 pm

Journalist David Wessel appears to have done the impossible. In his new book, he made the federal budget understandable.

He’s the Wall Street Journal’s economics editor. His book is “Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget.” In an Internet interview, he said that people “… think we spend way more on foreign aid and food stamps than we really do. A lot of people who are on Medicare and Social Security don't think they're on a government program.”

But they are.

Wessel thinks the federal budget has three main problems: health care, military spending and taxes.

1) How do we reduce spending on health-care? It was less than a tenth of the federal budget in 1960; it’s about a quarter now and will soon be a third.

2) Should we reduce defense spending? Terrorism is a problem all over the world, but the $700 billion we spent last year was more than the next 17 largest defense budgets of the rest of the world’s nations.

3) Do we raise taxes? If so, how much and on whom?

These are not easy problems, but if we get them right, Wessel says the rest is easy.

What do you think?

What do Barack Obama and Mitt Romney think?