Neither party has shown any willingness to start tackling the long term deficit issues facing our country.
The most recent illustration of this, spun all tightly into a well-packaged bit of public relations, is the list of proposals put forth by the Republican Budget Study Committee last week.
They know that the vast majority of our deficit problems come from military, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending. These programs are not mentioned a single time in their two page list of spending they’d like to cut.
Not surprisingly, I’m not for cuts as steep as theirs, but in general, they are right that we need to start paring down discretionary spending with targeted cuts and a hard cap on growth until the deficit comes back into the realm of sanity. It also makes a lot of sense to enact a pay freeze for federal workers until the economy recovers, although five years seems overboard.
There are a few outlandish ideas in the mix though. It’s just plain silly to put in place a rule that would impose a cap on discretionary spending through 2021. That’s right, ten years. Nobody knows what is going to happen in the next few years, much less the next decade. Putting a cap like that in place just doesn’t make sense. It also doesn’t make any sense to defund Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, unless they’d like to see housing prices plummet yet again, putting our fragile — but growing — economy into yet another tailspin.
What they get right is that some of these cuts are the kind we are just going to have to learn to live with if we are going to trim the budget like it needs to be trimmed to bring our fiscal house in order. Years of spending more than we’ve brought in are making the choices we have left more painful, and if we don’t start making hard choices now, the choices left to us will get even more difficult.
Whether you agree with these specific cuts, or any of the 55 smaller cuts they list, it is plain to see that a significant portion of this is a very political play to throw a bone to the budget hawks among their rank and file, without proposing cuts in any programs that have any significant support among their base.
These cuts are more than chump change to be sure, and certain constituencies would certainly feel the pain of the loss of these spending programs, but I think it is only accurate to call cuts deep, as they are asking from Obama in exchange for the debt ceiling to be increased, if they have a noticeable impact on our long term deficit problems. To do that would require proposed cuts in popular social welfare programs and the military, and/or increases in revenue to make up for the gigantic shortfalls that are on their way, whether you like it or not, in coming years. Neither party has taken the lead on this, and until one or both does so, all of this talk of “deep cuts” is merely window dressing on a home with a crumbling foundation.
Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates. He is currently collaborating with other centrist independent and moderate bloggers on a news aggregation and social networking site, and is always looking for ways to help the independent groundswell as more and more people become disaffected with the two major parties.