A Solid Fiscal-Cliff Plan

As Republicans and Democrats continue to bicker about spending and taxes, the Onion has stepped in with an excellent plan for averting a fiscal crisis:

STEP ONE: Eliminate school breakfast and lunch programs, Medicaid, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, Medicare, PBS, New Mexico, elk, the Coast Guard, and all dams.

And, our favorite, Step Three:

STEP THREE: Eliminate federal prison system by converting U.S. territory of Guam into an unsupervised penal colony known as “The Gauntlet.”

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  1. Steve Nations says:

    Step Four: Create a reality TV show called “The Gauntlet” and sell the rights to the highest bidder for a gazillion dollars.

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  2. Rick says:

    My favorite is step 8
    ” Increase special interest loopholes and tax deductions for The Onion.”

    It epitomizes a very common complaint whenever the discussion gets down to details. Cut everywhere except when it affects me.

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  3. Eric M. Jones. says:

    When I was growing up the New York Times, Walter Cronkite had a grip on the truth. Now the Onion and John Stewart are the voice of sanity. It used to be that quoting “Government Figures” would settle any bar bet….now, not so much.

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  4. Pat Smith says:

    I have never understood the lunch programs. My nearest major metropolitan area reports 86% free lunches in their district. First, I have a hard time believing 86% of parents would let their children go hungry. Secondly, if we’re going to have such an accessible program, why not make it 100%? That is, I suspect feeding the remaining 14% is cheaper than all the paperwork and administration the program.

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    • Joe Dokes says:


      I think you underestimate the level of poverty in this country. As individuals we tend to think everyone is like us, they’re not. If school lunches were eliminated most parents would make the sacrifices necessary to ensure that their child was well fed. As a parent I would sacrifice my own health to ensure that my child was well fed. That being said, I had friends growing up who would have gone hungry if not for the free lunch and breakfast offered by these programs.

      Yes there is waste in government and the school lunch program could be improved, but contrary to popular opinion the vast majority of children who receive the program are truly in need. Finally, it would be against federal law to allow all students to get a free lunch, as the law requires proof of need. Thus, while it might be ‘cheaper’ to offer free lunch for all on some high poverty campuses, federal law forbids it.


      Joe Dokes

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    • David Leppik says:

      That varies a lot across states. I don’t know what state you’re from, but a quick Google search came up with data for several states ( http://www.google.com/search?q=percent+of+students+on+free+and+reduced+lunch ). The program is implemented differently in every state, so they don’t have consolidated data. 86% is certainly not the norm for all school districts across the country. Here’s data for a similar program in Minnesota: ( http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/bystate/Map.aspx?state=MN&loct=5&ind=1771&dtm=2&tf=867 ) So making it 100% would not be cost effective.

      Why we have it is simple: children are the most likely to be in poverty, and therefore least likely to be able to afford a healthy meal. (Not that school lunch is the most healthy, but it’s gotten better this year with new federal guidelines; veggies and whole grains are on the menu, as any child can tell you.)

      Children are also especially vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition– and those effects can last a lifetime. Children whose parents can’t afford healthy food– or three meals a day, for that matter– are at greater risk than their parents may understand. What’s more, unlike other assistance, it’s nearly impossible for the money spent on this program to be spent on other things.

      Well-nourished children have higher IQs, pay attention in class better, and grow into healthier adults. When you consider the life long difference between being a taxpayer and being on public assistance or prison, it’s not hard to justify the cost of this program. When you consider that a few of those students just need a little help to become inventors or entrepreneurs, the program is a fantastic investment.

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      • Harris says:

        You say that offering free lunch to everyone would not be cost effective because there are many people who do not need it. These people probably would prefer to eat a tastier and more nutritious home-packed meal anyway.

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    • Jason says:

      Let me echo some of the other responses and add some information. Yes, many schools and districts have free/reduced lunch rates over 80%. This is due to 1) the fact that massive numbers of children live in poverty in this country – poverty and children are linked for many reasons; and, 2) segregation still exists, though it is more economic than racial – so, poorer kids attend one school and wealthier kids attend another.

      Regarding making the program 100% to reduce paperwork – this already exists. (Or at least it did) when I was a teacher about ten years ago, our school switched to 100% to improve efficiency. I don’t recall what the threshold was. It is probably a state-level rule.

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    • Bunny Faber says:


      I agree with Pat – make it free for all children and fire the paper pushers. There is no value added there anyway, and think of the pension savings.

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  5. JSN says:

    I don’t think the Onion is very good at fact checking. The populations of Iowa and Minnesota are less than 3% of the US population including adults. However it might not be a bad idea to send all teenagers to Guam.

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  6. Nick says:

    Step one is actually pretty standard rhetoric for Ron Paul-ites;

    Here is a link where Paul advocates eliminating Medicare and Medicaid:

    Here is him on eliminating the EPA:

    Here is him voting against the CPSC’s online database:

    Here is his son proposing to slash CPSC funding:

    For libertarians, there is little in Step one, besides the obvious joke bits (New Mexico, elk, all dams) that they would actually disagree with.

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    • Felix says:

      As opposed to the Democrats and Republicans, who only offer to slow down the rate of increase, with very little practical difference between them.

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    • Taken to an extreme . . . says:

      Note that a really ultra-libertarian economist would point out it is precisely compulsory schooling itself that is one of the major and severest restrictions on the ability of youth to find the types of employment that would enable them to supply themselves with the income they need to feed themselves (that and, of course, child labor laws.) By compelling school attendance for twelve years, governments unfairly favor older workers, presumably so that they can get paid higher wages. In the process of institutionalizing children, governments train children not always to become productive cirizens, but frequently to become as wards of the state, to accept a dependent role, and look to the government for sustenance and support. Little wonder that many later become re-institutionalized into the government’s prison system.

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    • Not a joke . . . says:

      It is no joke that New Mexico, elk and many dams (if not “all”) are beneficiaries of government largess.

      New Mexico is in the top decile of per capita net government spending. http://www.abqjournal.com/main/2011/08/09/politics/federal-dollars-flow-strong-deep-in-nm.html

      But for elk (also grizzlies, whistling swans and free range bison), there would be little need for the many dollars spent to manage the habitats critical for their survival in the National Parks (2.2 million acres in Yellowstone Park alone), and who knows what percentage of the $2+ billion US Park Service budget.

      Many of the current 84,000 dams and levees in the country are in disrepair and unsafe. Eliminating them would currently free up $11 million in federal spending being paid out through the National Dame Safety program. Furthermore, would stop requests for an additional $1 billion each for future funding of both an expanded National Dam Safety program, but also a separate National Leveee Safety program.

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      • rick says:

        I’m not sure about the number of dams since you didn’t cite but in order to eliminate a dam you have to dismantle it safely. This costs a bunch of money to do safely. You can’t just blow it up. There are downstream effects on people and property to consider.

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  7. lcriv says:

    I think the best solution to the fiscal cliff is to increase taxes to placate the democrats, but then offer businesses the ability to avoid the tax increase or perhaps an additional portion of their taxes for hiring new workers in the coming year by permitting a tax credit for new hires (this should placate the GOP). The way out of this mess is to get people employed. By businesses hiring more workers it will stimulate demand. At the same time it will take workers off the welfare rolls, and those workers will also pay taxes. I can find some issues with this, but I think this plan is a lot better than the current face off of raise taxes and cut spending, which does not deal with the recessionary pressures at all. Perhaps we need to do all of the above, but the current debate flies in the face of Keynesian economics. We all know politicians are Keynesian till it comes to saving in the good times and setting aside rainy day funds.

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