You want a smaller government? Okay, suppose we just fire every single federal employee, including the entire U.S. military. Wouldn't that wipe out the federal deficit?
Nope. Not even close, according to Wall Street Journal columnist and author of Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget, David Wessel.
The federal deficit is the amount by which the total cost to run the government exceeds the total taken in through taxes and other sources of revenue.
Just for the record, while the federal deficit in 2011 was the lowest since 2008, it was still about $1.1 trillion and is projected to top $1 trillion again in 2012. The federal deficit is also approximately the amount by which the national debt - now about $16.4 trillion - increases each year.
Appearing on the Oct. 25, 2012 edition of PBS Newshour, host Paul Solman asked Mr. Wessel if simply firing every employee from top to bottom wouldn't solve the deficit problem.
"Even if we fired every single federal employee, from the person who's watering Michelle Obama's tomatoes to the woman who's sitting in some silo in North Dakota with her finger on the button to launch a missile if need be, if we got rid of all of them, we would have saved a lot of money, but it would have only made a small dent in the deficit," said Wessel.
In fact, noted Wessel firing every federal employee, including every member of every branch of the military would save about $435 billion a year in pay and benefits. Hardly even a healthy bite out of a trillion dollar deficit.
"The point is that most of the money the federal government collects doesn't go to pay bureaucrats," said Wessel. "It goes right back out again in the form of benefits or state and local government grants or contracts."
And then, came the bad news. "If we are going to restrain spending, someone is going to get less money from the federal government," he added... ominously.