Monday, November 15, 2010

Lame Ducks, Cat Food - and Your Opportunity To Determine The Budget

During the time most members of Congress were out begging and schmoozing for their jobs during Campaign 2010, others in Washington kept working - including the Budget Deficit Commission, often pejoratively called on the internet the "Catfood Commission". We tend to agree that if the recommendations of the commission's chairman were to be followed to the letter, that far too many poor and working class Americans might be forced to eat cat food just to stay alive. Still, the general findings of the commission - as compromised and questionable as its makeup may be - are the same as what we've been saying for many years now.

That is, if America wants to deal with its budget problems, we need to collect more revenue AND make some significant changes.

The "Lame Duck" session of the 11th Congress returns to Washington, DC today - and both budget cuts and taxes are foremost on their agenda.

They also face the release of the report by the Deficit Commission, appointed by President Obama to make recommendations to Congress, after Republicans in Congress refused to appoint a commission themselves. We've studied what we can about what the details the committee has released so far - and it appears their efforts weren't completely worthless.

We've previously pointed out the President's 2011 budget proposal and noted how - when you crop out non-mandatory spending - only about 1/4 of the Federal budget can really be cut, the biggest portion of that being what's been reserved for the military.

The commission came to a similar conclusion about the military budget that we have, recommending that it be slashed deeply. As President Eisenhower warned half a century ago, America's military/industrial complex has an expensive habit of continuing to fight past wars, one that we can no longer afford. Those who believe that more military spending always increases our safety should be reminded, a dozen insane fanatics with 79¢ box cutters weren't stopped by a military that spends more on its budget than every other country on Earth combined.

Not all of the Commission's recommendations were worthy. They also recommended cutting Social Security and Medicare commitments severely - an idea pushed by some Congresspersons on the committee. While we agree that there are things in the budget that could and should be cut, reneging on commitments to those who've already paid in to the system - or blue-collar workers, who often need Social Security and Medicare long before they're 65 - are not cuts we'd universally recommend.

Because so many people - including our staff - believe they know how to cut the Federal budget and how America should raise revenues, The New York Times has now created an online tool where readers can choose what taxes they'd raise and which programs they would cut.

We invite you to do the same, and share your results with us today, by e-mail, by posting on our Facebook page or our blog.
We only ask one caveat of your attempt: Do it WITHOUT decimating any one class - poor, working class, or rich.

Good luck. Have fun. And remember - if we can do it, why can't Congress? We'll check back with your answers - and our own - soon.

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