A Closer Look at the Tea Party’s Utopia

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From Benjy Sarlin:

Republican lawmakers are pushing President Obama to put seniors, troops, and bondholders at the front of the line should Congress fail to raise the debt ceiling. The rest? Well, that’s up to him.

….But where will the immediate 44% cut in overall spending needed to avoid default come from instead? Michele Bachmann, who has gone so far as to demand the debt ceiling never be raised, dodged questions on the issue Wednesday by simply repeating her assertion that Social Security and troop pay be left sacrosanct.

Asked by TPM about what areas might need to be cut offset their proposed guarantees, Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY) offered a similar response, repeating that Social Security, Medicare, military pay, and veterans’ benefits should all be off limits. Pressed to name any savings β€” furloughing federal employees, shutting down various agencies β€” that might be preferable, she said her focus was only on calling out Obama’s threats.

Let’s take a brief look at the numbers. The federal government is scheduled to spend about $300 billion in August. Something like $125 billion of that is debt. So if the debt ceiling doesn’t get raised, the government can only spend about $175 billion. Very roughly, here’s spending for the month of August in the areas Nan Hayworth says are off limits:

Social Security = $60 billion
Veterans benefits = $10 billion
Medicare/Medicaid = $70 billion
Interest payments = $20 billion
Military pay = $15 billion

Total = $175 billion

So there you have it. Nan Hayworth is right: we can fund all of these things without raising the debt ceiling. Unfortunately, that’s it. There’s really no other prioritizing necessary. There’s not a single dollar left for any other function of government. Not defense spending, not the FBI, not foreign embassies, not the court system, not prisons, not disaster relief, not unemployment insurance, not the border patrol, not TSA or the FAA, not roadbuilding, not maintenance of any kind, not national parks, and not pensions for retired federal workers. Not anything. And aside from military personnel, every single employee of the federal government will have to be furloughed.

That’s what Nan Hayworth and Michele Bachmann and the rest of the tea party folks apparently want. Quite the small government utopia, isn’t it?

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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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