I'm sure you will recall Marshall McLuhan's famous dictum: "The medium is the message." I personally found this principle applies to the Professor's challenge so completely that I assume it must have been intentional. To wit: I found that mere ideology is practically useless when it comes to making the hard choices occasioned by the application of simple mathematics to the Federal Budget. Thus, it was the exercise itself, rather than the solution, which furnishes the message.
Now I'm about as close to a bleeding heart, tree hugging liberal as you will ever find. But after savaging the military budget, raising taxes and providing amnesty for 11 million illegal immigrants - all easy pills for liberals to swallow - I still found myself about 900 billion dollars short. To close this gap, I had to eliminate all sorts of social spending near and dear to my heart.
And that is exactly the point. I believe as citizens and taxpayers we all live in dreamworlds which on the surface are radically different but at their cores are fundamentally the same. It seems we are all willing to carp and criticize, defend our cherished ideals and attack anyone who disagrees. But we do this in isolated bits and pieces - without stopping to consider the dreadful questions posed by simply doing the math. Let me give you an example.
Your work in progress, that is, the application of percentages to projected tax revenues to arrive at a formula for spending - allows you to maintain the persona of a fiscal conservative without having to perform any actual work. This same approach has been tried before, in the form of balanced budget legislation - and it never works. It never works because when it comes time to actually apply the legislation in the form of meaningful spending cuts or tax increases, neither conservatives nor liberals are ever willing to back up an inch on their respective ideologies. Then, they walk away from each legislative session with their reputations intact and government in shambles.
Its all the same to me if we move on to other issues. Heck, my reputation as a liberal is pretty much in the toilet now since my own budget solution advocated doing away entirely with the stimulus package and cutting social security by a whopping 200 bil, not to mention cuts in subsidized housing and community development. Worst of all, I couldn't come up with a dime for health care reform or cap and trade. Mercy sakes...