The first thing law schools teach litigators is to not ask questions without knowing the answer. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) never went to law school — and it shows in this exchange from Wednesday between himself and Ben Bernanke, the Fed chair, who was testifying on Capitol Hill. Connolly wanted to slap at his Republican colleagues who want spending cuts to bring the budget into balance by getting Bernanke to say that there isn’t enough money in the budget to cut, and that revenue has to be increased to end deficits. Unfortunately, as Liberty Central notes, Connolly got broadsided by Bernanke, who responded that “of course!” the budget could get cut — if Congress would just do it:

CONNOLLY: I’m telling you, they don’t have an open mind. They have publicly expressed that they do not favor — you know, they’re all for deficit reduction as long as anything having to do with revenue is off the table. Can we get to serious deficit reduction — change that trajectory you talked about — if we eliminate half of the ledger sheet?

BERNANKE: Well, theoretically you could if you cut enough, but it would be very difficult to do that.

CONNOLLY: Is there enough spending to be cut?

BERNANKE: Of course! I mean … [laughs]

CONNOLLY: National defense, homeland security?

BERNANKE: That’s your judgment, that’s the Congress’ judgment. That’s not my judgment.

CONNOLLY: Ah. Um … it must be nice to be an economist.

The entire premise of his question is absurd. The budget for FY2010 exceeds $3.8 trillion, which means that we don’t have to eliminate “half the ledger sheet” in order to close a $1.3 trillion deficit.  We only need to eliminate a third of the ledger sheet.  That $3.8 trillion, by the way, is $1.1 trillion more than the last budget from a Republican Congress, FY2007.  If we returned to the FY2007 budget, we’d be almost all of the way there just by eliminating all of the spending increases inserted after Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid took charge of the budgeting process.

The real story of the deficit is that the budget has grown by almost double in the space of 10 years, from $2 trillion in FY2000 to almost $4 trillion today despite inflation being practically nonexistent the entire time.  We’re not in deficits because the American taxpayer doesn’t shove enough money into Washington’s Leviathan maw; we’re in deficit because Washington can’t stop spending more and more money.  Gerry Connolly is a poster boy for that problem.