Futile and unjust deficit-reduction proposals
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Congress is in the process of trying to correct the excesses of the past 30 years with budget reduction measures which are neither adequate nor fair. Our enormous national debt problem started in the 1980s, when the Reagan Administration cut taxes while increasing government spending fifty percent, the combined effect of which was to double the national debt to $4 trillion. The profligacy of the Bush Administration added another $4 trillion to the national debt by again cutting taxes while getting us into two wars, and adding prescription drug coverage to Medicare (also without adequate funding). This increased federal spending from less than $2 trillion/year to nearly $3 trillion/year. Spending in the past two years under the Obama Administration, a large portion of which was an attempt to resurrect a nearly failed economy, has increased the national debt by still another $4 trillion. The only years in which we have had a balanced budget were during President Clinton’s second term due to spending cuts and increasing taxes on the wealthy (incidentally without damage to the economy, which continued to grow).
Congressional Republicans have now come up with a totally inadequate deficit-reduction proposal, cutting a mere about 61 billion dollars out of a 1-plus trillion dollar budget deficit by the following draconian job-killing cuts in funding for: public and college education, job-training, maternal and child health needs including assistance for blind and disabled children, law enforcement, air traffic control, community development block grants and community health centers, scientific research, family planning, the environment and conservation, and home heating assistance for the poor. And they would totally eliminate funding for Americorp, National Public Radio, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
But they insist upon saving the tax cuts for the wealthy, and the subsidy of the wasteful and misguided counterproductive corn-ethanol fuel program which is causing a huge rise in corn prices, driving up the price of all other grains. This is increasing food costs in our country (including all grain products and foods derived from them, like meat, bread, and soft drinks, to name but a few). The people in Third World countries are threatened with mass starvation as the price of grains, which make up the major part of their diet, becomes more than they can afford – all so higher profits can flow to the beneficiaries of the powerful ethanol lobby.
The measures proposed by the Congressional Republicans have two major flaws: They will produce nothing more than a token reduction in federal budget deficits, and they put the burden of that reduction almost exclusively on the backs of the poor, while the wealthy continue to get all of their benefits.
Trimming even $100 billion out of a deficit exceeding a trillion dollars is like going hunting for elk and coming back with a squirrel and a couple rabbits. The budget cannot be balanced without serious adjustments in Social Security and Medicare entitlements and trimming huge amounts of fat out of military spending (because those are where all the big money is), and increasing taxes on those who can afford it. This will require sacrifices which will not be popular with the American public, so both parties will continue to duck the truth and avoid proposing the sacrifices that will have to be made to solve our financial crisis. Only if both parties join together and call upon all of the American people (especially retirees like myself, who are overburdening the system with overly-generous entitlement benefits that are no longer sustainable) to accept necessary sacrifices, will it be possible for our country to recover from the excesses of the past three decades.
– Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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