Non-defense, non-entitlement spending is also rife with programs that have no compelling justification and frequently do substantial harm: the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, NASA, earmarks, the Post Office, Amtrak, foreign aid, agricultural subsidies, the Small Business Administration, drug prohibition, and more. Even for expenditure that is defensible in moderation (e.g., transportation and education), many specific projects are wasteful (the Big Dig, high-speed rail, No Child Left Behind).

Entitlement spending is also excessive relative to reasonable cost-benefit considerations. A minimal government safety net that provides insurance against the worst-case scenarios for unlucky individuals is one thing; the current generosity of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, which by themselves threaten to bust the entire budget in coming decades, is another. The introduction of higher deductibles, increased eligibility ages, and less generous indexing are all desirable from a cost-benefit perspective and essential if the United States is to avoid a fiscal meltdown.