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A real balanced budget means nothing is sacred - Comments (6) View Comments
Carole McWilliams - 6/10/2010
The hot new campaign topic for conservative politicians seems to be a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution.
I don’t have a problem with balanced budgets. But I have a problem with the standard Republican approach to achieving them.
Newt Gingrich and Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman recently touted (in a Denver Post column) the benefits of balanced budgets during the 1990s – when Democratic arch-fiend Bill Clinton was president, by the way, and when the dot.com boom was in full swing.
We had budget surpluses at the end of Clinton’s second term, until George W. Bush and Congressional Republicans undid them.
Gingrich and Coffman said annual federal spending increases in the ‘90s were the lowest since the 1920s.
Maybe that’s because we weren’t fighting the two wars George W. started in his first term. Okay, so the first one in Afghanistan was in response to the al Qaida terrorist attacks on 9-11. If Bush had stuck with that instead of getting us into a second war, maybe we wouldn’t still be fighting both.
Things were so good in the ‘90s, Gingrich and Coffman say, that 2.5 million families left the welfare roles. Maybe that’s because they were forced off by the welfare reform bill Clinton signed, in 1996 I think. It doesn’t mean those families were suddenly better off.
It’s inherent during recessions for federal deficits to increase, because more people need government safety net programs while tax revenues are falling. Federal stimulus money has kept state safety net programs from imploding.
Theoretically the deficit spending is repaid when the economy gets better. The problem now is that no one knows when (or even if) that will happen.
I think we’re all worried about the ever increasing federal debt, including us godless socialist liberals (i.e. anyone who isn’t extreme right wing conservative).
But Gingrich and Coffman, like most Republicans, want to balance the budget solely with spending cuts. So all those people who have called on government safety net programs would be left to sink or swim. Many of these people are in desperate need through no fault of their own.
Gingrich and Coffman want to “reward” savings and investments, which most likely is code for more tax cuts for the rich.
These two Republican stalwarts neglect to mention that federal taxes were increased during the 1990s, maybe one of the reasons the government had surpluses at the end of Clinton’s second term.
Even the sainted Ronald Raygun was willing to increase taxes in the 1980s when it became apparent that previous tax cuts coupled with big increases in military spending had caused the debt to increase (surprise!).
Everything needs to be on the table as well for spending cuts, if we are serious about balancing the budget. That includes military spending. It’s time to say we can’t afford to spend more on this than every other nation combined!
Congress needs to get serious about fixing long-term funding for Social Security. We know what the fixes are. Any of them will anger some voting block, so it doesn’t get done.
And it seems many Republicans would rather privatize Social Security than fix it. If they had their way, the same thing could happen to your Social Security as happened to the value of your 401K last year. And there’ll be no bailout for you, Bunky. Every man for himself. It’s the American Way.
Maybe a balanced budget amendment is a good idea. It’s certainly better than some of the other stuff Republicans have tried to get attached to our Constitution in recent years.
But if they actually are serious about balanced budgets and cutting the federal debt, everything has to be on the table, including Republican (as well as Democratic) sacred cows.
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