The Budget Battle
Reading David Nance's letter (April 7th issue), I was struck by how dire our fiscal situation has become. Our entitlement spending is unsustainable, and I applaud those in Congress and the voters who are willing to put "everything on the table."
But after going to the Tennessee Tea Party and Benton County Tea Party websites, I couldn't find anything about reducing our defense spending (currently 20 percent of our overall budget). I don't see anything about letting the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent of earners expire. According to CBO estimates, not doing so will increase the deficit $3.9 trillion by 2019. Even some Republicans, including Reagan's budget chief David Stockman and former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, have urged lawmakers to let them expire.
The incontestable fact is that those cuts did not work as promised. With a tech-bubble bust and a dicey military situation brewing in the Middle East, W's first treasury secretary, conservative Republican Paul O'Neill, argued strongly against the initial cuts. He was promptly fired; the cuts are still in place. Where was the economic benefit? Where are the jobs?
I hate taxes as much as anyone, but if we're not willing to attack our debt crisis with "everything on the table," then I'm left with the impression that for many, our budgetary realities are secondary to partisan posturing.
The conservative, prudent thing to do is to couple spending cuts with upping revenues, at least until our fiscal house is in order. I'm here to pledge my support of curbing entitlement spending. Where are the Tea Party members willing to come to the table, heed the advice of conservative economists, and let the Bush tax cuts expire?
Will Ferrell Memphis
The first act of the new Republican-controlled House was to hold America's unemployed hostage until Democrats approved continuing a multi-billion-dollar tax break for our wealthiest 2 percent. Now they are holding the entire country hostage unless an agreement is reached to take away the medical care and Social Security benefits of millions of Americans, again so we can give the money to our richest citizens. When a Democrat is president, all of a sudden the deficit matters. It was ignored while W was running it up. The cost of the war in Iraq alone would have provided health care for every man, woman, and child in the United States for a decade.
Redistributing the wealth of our country has been a top priority for Republicans for decades. Robbing from the poor to add to the coffers of our billionaires has always taken precedence over helping those in our country who actually work for a living, such as our firemen, policemen, and teachers. In Republican-controlled states, we are seeing this attack on the middle class with efforts to destroy bargaining power and retirement benefits. Corporate CEOs are enjoying a 27 percent income increase, so who cares if Grandma has to eat dog food and little Susie dies for lack of medical care? Obviously not the Republicans.
We have a big federal budget issue. I believe that there are three things in our current debate that must be discussed and evaluated.
First, the forecast increase in federal spending since the end of the 2008 fiscal year and 2011 is $851 billion. That is almost a 30 percent increase in 36 months. Revenues — primarily taxes — have declined $350 billion over the same period, leaving a projected 2011 deficit of $1.2 trillion.
There are no doubt good arguments for some portion of the increased spending, but we must question the scale of the increases for some government departments over this period: Agriculture Department, $55 billion; Commerce, $38 billion; Health and Human Services, $234 billion; Treasury, $44 billion. Some departments doubled budgets in 36 months.
Second, the federal budget virtually never decreases. The average increase for every year since 1965 is 8 percent. Something must change, because the current sound-bite fighting over "draconian," "devastating" cuts of $30 billion or $60 billion will result in no significant change in our deficit.
Third, across-the-board cuts are the coward's way out. Every person who has run a business or managed a budget knows that there are truly essential services and functions and there are nice-to-have services and functions. Making the hard choices of what to reduce requires courage. We expect our elected officials to have that courage, to say some federal projects are not truly important to our nation or have not worked. We citizens must weigh in on this discussion.
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