If the latest cuts stick, the two parties will have achieved nearly the full amount of deficit reduction over the next decade that economists and market analysts have promoted. Yet the mix comes with substantial downsides.
It does not add up to the “grand bargain” that the two parties had been seeking, because it leaves virtually untouched the entitlement programs — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — that are responsible for projections of an unsustainably rising federal debt in coming decades.
“This is not a result that deals with our long-term debt problem,” said Vin Weber, a Republican former congressman. “The fact we’ve gotten to a $4 trillion deficit-reduction deal without tackling entitlements is almost a bad thing,” he added, if it lulls the public and the politicians into thinking the problem is solved. ...NYTimes
If we, the American people, have put in place programs that we want to keep in place -- and a stream of polls over the past years have shown that to be the case -- then why continue to threaten to cut them? Research has demonstrated that some people who have, apparently, been persuaded by political arguments telling them that "entitlements" -- Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security -- must be cut are nonetheless part of the majority that believes these programs should be left alone. Hey, it's our money! Leave our choices alone!
Sure, go ahead and look for fraud and waste within those programs and take the necessary actions to make them whole again. But don't accept our money for them and then destroy what we have come to rely on as our safety net when we are ill or old. Take money from other areas on which we are less dependent. Over the years we've given you a long list of areas where we think money is ill spent. From in corporate benefits and loopholes to the overbearing, costly defense industry... you've seen the list over and over again.
We've been watching you. We know some of you just want to cripple the economy in order to cripple programs we taxpayers want and cherish. We've come to understand that you use "national security" to keep your porky spending in place. We listen as people like Vin Weber continue to insist that they're bad for us. We suspect his motives -- sure! -- but the point is not why he wants to punish us.
The point is, a huge majority of Americans want to keep our safety net. We just want you to do less wrangling and concentrate on making those programs work even better, more efficiently, and no less generously when we need them.
Robert Greenstein, the head of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the decline in such spending came even as some discretionary programs, like health care for returning war veterans, would have to rise. “That will squeeze core functions — from education, research and infrastructure to protecting the food and water supply to services for poor children and frail seniors,” he said.
J. Keith Kennedy, a Republican former staff director of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said: “The annual discretionary money is where you make your investments. And you decide every year where do you want to put your money to invest in the future — whether it’s education, or health care or infrastructure or national parks, or sending another rover to Mars.”
For two decades through the 1990s, G. William Hoagland, then the Republican staff director at the Senate Budget Committee, fought with Mr. Kennedy to get the Appropriations Committee to cut discretionary spending. But now, Mr. Hoagland said, “We have squeezed that turnip as far as we’re going to go, and that’s before sequestration. That is the component of the budget which, for all practical purposes, is the seed corn of the future.” ...NYTimes
Indeed. And we decided -- years, decades ago -- where we wanted a significant portion of our then-discretionary spending to go. The money that we devote to "entitlements" is spent to ease all our futures in equal measures. Those commitments became law and in doing so it became mandated spending, a commitment of past Americans past to current and future Americans. Any cuts would have to come from "discretionary spending."
We don't see "entitlements" -- like Social Security and Medicare -- as "seed corn" killers. We see the seed corn killers sitting in Congress in the 21st century, many of them willing to misdirect our seed corn -- today's discretionary spending -- in order to pay off their campaign bills, and assure their uninterrupted careers. We see our seed corn used to provide them with "entitlements" that go far beyond what the average voter can expect, money that could better be spent providing "education, or health care or infrastructure or national parks, or sending another Rover to Mars."
Talk about "seed corn killers"!___
I have another proposition for you.
The President, reelected by a significant majority some months ago, will be unable to govern for two years thanks to the current Congress. What I think we should do is deduct the amount of the President's annual pay from the annual pay of those members of Congress who refuse to do their work.
Depending on how the 2014 election turns out, we can repeat this remedy for 2014-16.
Oh, and by the way, a reminder: Obama is taking 2014 very, very seriously.
Obama has committed to raising money for fellow Democrats, agreed to help recruit viable candidates, and launched a political nonprofit group dedicated to furthering his agenda and that of his congressional allies. The goal is to flip the Republican-held House back to Democratic control, allowing Obama to push forward with a progressive agenda on gun control, immigration, climate change and the economy during his final two years in office, according to congressional Democrats, strategists and others familiar with Obama’s thinking. ...WaPo