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Deficit panel can’t fix budget alone

Post by Kim Bradford on Feb. 20, 2010 at 12:39 pm with 2 Comments »
February 20, 2010 12:39 pm

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

President Obama says his federal deficit commission is designed to “rise above partisanship.” We’d be more hopeful if the panel also came with a guarantee of political courage.

Partisanship isn’t what killed a more promising proposal to address the government’s budget problems last month. It was timidity.
The Senate’s roll call on establishing a deficit commission with the power to send recommendations to Congress for an up-or-down vote was, in fact, decidedly bipartisan: 22 Democrats, 23 Republicans and one independent voted nay.

Lawmakers on both sides know the national debt isn’t going away with the recession, and they don’t want to have to fess up to the hard choices that face the country.

The return of economic growth will certainly ease the near-term deficits, but entitlement spending – Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – is simply unsustainable.

By 2020, the national debt is projected to be 77 percent of the overall economy, the highest level since 1950. Averting a debt-fueled crisis will require deep cuts or significant tax increases – or perhaps both.

Obama himself has not offered a blueprint for closing the long-term budget gap. He’s giving his deficit commission until Dec. 1 to figure out how to better balance spending and tax collections within five years.

Headed by two veterans of bipartisan budget deals – former Republican Sen. Alan K. Simpson and former Clinton chief of staff Erskine B. Bowles – the commission has potential to get the country talking constructively about the deficit and to provide some political cover for lawmakers.

But will those lawmakers summon the political will to act? On Thursday, Obama said “everything is on the table” – suggesting he might be willing to back down from some of his own campaign promises. But Republican leaders promptly rejected consideration of any option that involves higher taxes.

Obama’s own party is also showing little enthusiasm. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reluctantly said she’d bring recommendations to a floor vote – but only if the Senate did so first. Such tepid commitment at the outset doesn’t bode well for the panel’s success.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. – one of the authors of the original plan that vested greater powers with the deficit commission – told reporters: “We already have a commission to confront our debt. It’s called the United States Congress. If members of Congress aren’t up to that task, we don’t need a new commission; we need a new Congress.”

The budget will get fixed eventually. The only question is whether voters have to elect some new backbone to get the job done.

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Leave a comment Comments → 2
  1. slasmith says:

    I hear a lot of people talking about the deficit but the real problem is debt. Until we have a plan that lets us pay down our debt we will be slaves to the interest. It is as if our elected representatives have taken out an interest only morgtage on our country and we all know how that turned out in our housing market.

  2. The recession ain’t going away until almost 24,500,000-U.S. actual unemployed ( get jobs restored with wages, benefits (healtcare, vacation, sick-leave), and pensions just like federal, state, and local government employees do today.

    Absent return of good wage earning ‘Taxpayers’ tomorrow; it follows, unemployment will continue to increase as the remaining U.S. for-profit industrial and service employees continue to race-to-the-bottom their living standard—but will be wage competetive with foreign WTO world wage earners that don’t have high-wages, benefits, or pensions today.

    We can all thank our government(s) past trade decisions, agreements, and legislative actions that has caused the U.S. economic collapse we see today.

    Some people still reference this U.S. economic withdrawal just a simple “recession” where U.S. economic power is less and ‘ChIndia’ is becoming the replacement world economic power for U.S. today.

    Take a look at our U.S. debt and you might just reason; for example, those countries with the most money are the real winners today and tomorrow. All we have is more unemployed former ‘Taxpayers’ and the remaining job wage earners wages can not even keep pace with the cost of simple health care expenses or insurance.

    So, where and why did all the jobs go away yesterday and continue going away today? I see no relationship to banks, loans, and home mortgages defaults if the U.S. ‘Taxpayers’ wages including benefit keep-pace with a better U.S. prosperous economy tomorrow with more jobs necessary to export more value added goods and services to foreign buyers everywhere. But, that is what our former U.S. industrial and services business did that sold goods and technology to foreign buyers at U.S. retail costs yesterday.

    Taxes and more federal debt spending will not solve what is missing within the U.S. today; for instance, jobs, ‘Taxpayers’, increasing wages, increasing job benefits, more manufacturing and trade exports, and how to re-pay massive federal and state debt(s) that continue to grow each day.

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