If you think the budget battle staged in Washington last week was contentious, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. The battles that lie ahead will make last week’s fray pale in comparison.
Last week, the battle was over a relatively paltry few billions of dollars in debt reduction, or more accurately debt prevention. The contests that await Congress in the coming weeks will consider trillions.
First off, the debt ceiling will need to be raised by mid-May. When Congress starts negotiating about that we’ll see last week’s fireworks turn into a maelstrom. Then, there’s the 2012 budget. Negotiations for that document will begin sometime this summer.
Congressman Paul Ryan, (R,Wis.) last week released a budget that would reduce the federal budget by a massive $6 trillion during the next 10 years. And you thought a mere $40 billion in budget cuts last week caused an uproar among politicians. Ryan’s budget requires 120 times that amount of budget cuts. Are you ready for the political rancor that those negotiations will spark?
Meanwhile, Congress Thursday passed the budget proposed last week that will fund the government through the rest of the current fiscal year. The legislation cuts $38.5 billion from future program funding. While it is a step in the right direction, it is a baby step. What we need are giant strides. Lots of them. Remember, the United States will borrow that amount over the course of the next 10 days to stay solvent.
Obviously, making meaningful budget cuts is beyond politicians’ ability. Here’s an idea for them: Pass a balanced budget amendment. The only way to stop spending more than we take in is to make it the law of the land. Then, politicians could all blame the amendment for the cuts we must make as a nation in order to regain a sustainable future.
Currently, the United States borrows around $4 billion per day to keep the bills paid. Common sense says it cannot continue without causing drastic consequences to our nation’s economy. There is no doubt that cuts will have to occur to all programs once thought vital or necessary such as defense, Medicare, Medicaid- and yes, even the farm bill.
Congress will begin writing the next farm bill soon and will undoubtedly look to trim expenses there as well. With high crop prices, politicians increasingly see the direct payments, of about $5 billion per year, as unnecessary. In the words of Sen. Mike Johanns (R, Neb.), direct payments have "a target on them."
According to government data, the direct payments make up about a third of the $15 billion in total farm subsidies last year. So, direct payments may not be the only cutbacks in agriculture’s future.
Being equitable in budget cutbacks will be crucial in maintaining fairness across the board and it will definitely be a challenge. Those who shoulder a greater portion of the budget reductions than others have a legitimate gripe. Why not have a 10 percent cutback on all government budget line items? That way, all recipients of government payouts carry the same burden.
We need solutions to take on the gigantic anchor of debt that currently hobbles our country and we need them very soon. The current budget cutbacks that have Washington in an uproar do nothing to address the $14+ trillion we already owe. Someday, our creditors may want to get repaid (which would cause real fright in Washington.)
So, the next time someone says, “Hey, we can’t cut that program,” ask them how much deeper in debt they would like to see the country go? We all must share the responsibility in getting our nation’s spending under control.
I hope our politicians get the message.