President Obama has proposed a new Federal budget for next year, and as you would expect, the Republicans immediately denounced it. The budget calls for freezing Federal spending at current levels, while decreasing spending in some areas and raising it in others, such as education and the high speed rail building project.
Both the President and the Republican leaders have called for serious efforts to get spending under control. We are rolling in debt, and right now, according to the National Debt Clock, with the estimated population of the United States being 310,046,900, each citizen’s share of this debt is $45,617.99. That’s right, in order to pay off the country’s debt, each one of us would have to pony up over $45,000. I guess we better call one of those radio or TV commercials that offer debt relief if you owe over $10,000.
But as serious as our esteemed leaders say they are about the issue, they continue to talk a good game and then take actions totally not in accordance with their words. We were promised by politicians on both sides of the aisle that this was the year they started making serious inroads into controlling spending, so that in the future drastic measures won’t be needed.
My friends, the joke is on us. They are still playing word games, trying to convince us they are taking action, when they continue to push the can down the road.
The President and Congress have increased spending drastically over the past several years. So to freeze it now is to freeze it at a level where the expenditures far exceed the revenue. In fact, we have been borrowing 40 percent of what we spend. That’s right, only 60 percent of the spending is actually paid for, while 40 percent is borrowed. And all we do is keep paying interest on the amount borrowed over the years; we never actually pay down the principle.
On top of the proposal to freeze the budget at its current level, the only cuts either party talks about is to discretionary spending, which is a paltry 12.5 percent of the budget. Even an elementary school math student can tell you that you can’t do any serious saving if you only touch that small a portion of the total.
The rest of the budget is entitlements and defense. This is where we’re going to have to solve the problem. President Obama formed a bipartisan commission after he was elected to make suggestions in that regard. They put out a serious report on what was needed. Both Republicans and Democrats ran from it like it was the plague, due the fact that it raised the retirement age, raised taxes, means-tested entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security, and called for all kinds of other politically risky things.
While the President hasn’t provided the leadership we had hoped for, the Republicans are being even more ridiculous. A plan they unveiled included cutting Head Start, community development grants, food stamps and other programs that help the poorest people, but they went to the mat to fight for tax cuts for the richest 2 percent of Americans in a move that cost the Federal government $400 billion over the next 10 years. I suppose you have to give them credit for that… they’ve certainly got a lot of balls to make that proposal.
The other thing they have been doing is criticizing the President for not “leading” the way to a more rational, serious budget plan. Yet, they aren’t helping any with their hair-brained schemes either. The Republicans talk about the past election being an affirmation of their message that government is too large. They talk about how they were unified against the President and follow their small-government principles. But now they want Obama to take the lead?
Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has been encouraging secret talks to work on a deficit plan. “If we’re going to do anything serious about entitlements, we’re not going to negotiate it in public,” McConnell said in a recent interview. What are we, children? They have to talk in secret because they are afraid to say what needs to be said, and make serious proposals, because it might affect their re-election chances? I hardly call that leadership. At least Obama can make a case for some of his proposed spending increases. He calls for expanding Internet access across the country, even in poorer and rural areas, and for high speed rail that will make our businesses more competitive. These are things that won’t have any short term benefits that will help him while he’s in office; they are forward thinking ideas that will help our country and economy prosper years from now. Meanwhile, the Republicans call for cutting programs, and cutting taxes. And cutting programs, and cutting taxes. And repeat the mantra over and over.
None of this is going to work. They need to change the entitlement laws. Am I in favor of doing something that will affect me when I reach the age of Social Security? Of course it doesn’t make me happy, but I realize we are in a bad situation that threatens the future of our country, and something needs to be done. The job of our leaders is to make people see that and do what is necessary. They are failing miserably.
I would like to propose a unique solution. The government should figure out how much revenue is projected to come in next year. Then they should set out their priorities, and decide where it should be spent. Kind of like people have to do in their regular lives. You spend what you can afford. The Federal government can borrow for big items, like a regular person would with a mortgage. But for normal, everyday living expenses, the spending needs to match the revenue. It’s common sense. Instead, they decide what they want to spend, and then order it to be spent. Not enough funds? Just keep borrowing, by the time the bill comes somebody else will be in charge!