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Archive for Saturday, April 9, 2011

Budget showdown didn’t have to happen

April 9, 2011

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This column is being written on Friday, before any announcement about a possible agreement by U.S. Senate and House members on spending cuts in the long-overdue 2011 federal budget.

The infighting, name calling, posturing, threats, phony sob stories and everything else that surrounds the budget-cutting debate illustrates just how political the showdown actually is.

“Political” because the debate didn’t have to happen. The heated arguments about “shutting down the government,” the consequences of a shutdown, government services that would be shuttered, questions about when Congress and the president will get serious about significantly reducing government spending and cutting into the historic and dangerous national debt — all this and more — didn’t have to happen.

Democrats accuse Republicans of wanting to shut down the government while Republicans say Democrats are not serious about making deep and genuine cuts.

Even though Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada calls his Republican colleagues “extremists” and “radicals” and makes emotional pleas from the well of the Senate, he and his Democratic associates do not have an answer for why this budget debate was not held a year ago, when it should have come before the Congress.

A year ago, Democrats controlled the House and Senate and had a Democrat in the White House. They controlled the legislative and executive branches and did nothing.

Why? Democrats are sure to have nice-sounding and what they consider reasonable answers to this question, but it is clear they did not want to have the debate and have to call for cuts in a multitude of government spending programs before the November 2010 elections.

They certainly knew major cuts were needed. They knew government handouts needed to be reduced or eliminated, and they knew this country could not sustain its gigantic, constantly growing debt.

The nation is in an extremely serious fiscal situation, and most every state is facing a huge budget crisis. Governors who have called for substantial reductions in their various budgets are facing massive political protests.

It’s a serious accusation, but it seems clear the Democrats placed more importance on the outcome of the 2010 congressional elections than they did on the importance of taking timely and meaningful actions on the federal budget. They did not want to do anything that might put Democratic candidates in a more vulnerable position with voters who depend on federal assistance for their livelihoods.

Again, they controlled the House, the Senate and the White House, but they postponed the 2011 budget debate until after the election. This political maneuver brought us to the end of this week with everyone saying “the clock is ticking” on a government shutdown. If there is a shutdown, who is to blame? Democrats could have controlled this debate a year ago when they had majorities in both congressional chambers.

Political pundits question how a possible shutdown will affect the 2012 elections and Obama’s chances of re-election.

Today, the government is broke. Our debt and the interest on this debt is rising by the millions and billions of dollars every day and every week. And yet, those in Congress seem incapable of taking action and making even relatively small cuts.

After the 2011 budget, next comes the question of whether or not to raise the national debt limit and then hammer out a 2012 budget.

It would be refreshing if Obama, as well as all members of Congress, would make the welfare and fiscal health of this nation their No. 1 priority rather than playing political games with the 2012 elections taking priority.

It’s a sad situation, and the public should demand, and expect, something better.

Comments

grammaddy 3 years, 8 months ago

Where were all the "fiscal conservatives"during the last 10 years, while this debt was accruing? Obama didn't make this mess by himself.Where were they when Shrub took us into an un-funded war? He sure as hell wasn't busy watching Halliburton.

Robin Jones 3 years, 8 months ago

That horse is dead. Please quit beating it and let it rest in peace. Move forward!

scott3460 3 years, 8 months ago

Black is white, war is peace, ignorance is bliss.......there seems no end to the number of people willing to ignore facts in order to support the positions their chosen media advertisers tell them they need to believe.

notajayhawk 3 years, 8 months ago

"Where were they when Shrub took us into an un-funded war?"

And now we are even deeper in debt and Obama's attacking Libya. But that's okay, right?

Robin Jones 3 years, 8 months ago

Mr. Simons, you are spot on. Great job, as usual!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 8 months ago

I don't think they were that serious about cutting PP funding, or any of the other "kitchen sink" proposals they loaded onto this budget debate.

Those were distractions designed to get as many cuts to the budgets as they could, and removing these additions made them appear slightly more reasonable.

yourworstnightmare 3 years, 8 months ago

What the expiration date on a dead horse? Mr Simons invokes the past repeatedly to criticize the democrats.

Yes, where were the GOP deficit hawks from 2000-2008?

Oh, that's right. They were the party in charge and were supporting two wars of choice and a profligate president who increased spending and cut taxes on the wealthy.

Deficits don't matter, remember?

yourworstnightmare 3 years, 8 months ago

What Mr. Simons ignores is that the GOP and democrats were in agreement about the amount of spending cuts.

What the democrats opposed were GOP attempts to use the deficit as an excuse to disembowel programs that they don't like, such as Planned Parenthood and the EPA.

The GOP just can't help it. This belies the fact that they are much more concerned about culture war issues than the economy, and are only using the current deficit as an excuse to wage their crusade against social issues and programs with which they disagree.

scott3460 3 years, 8 months ago

"The nation is in an extremely serious fiscal situation, and most every state is facing a huge budget crisis. Governors who have called for substantial reductions in their various budgets are facing massive political protests."

Indeed, sir. Because those suffering the brunt of the proposed massive cuts in government services are not happy that those who benefit so substantially from government services have succeeded in their efforts to force this crisis via tax cuts for the wealthy. The protests will only grow as the right wingers' fangs are revealed.

scott3460 3 years, 8 months ago

"It’s a serious accusation, but it seems clear the Democrats placed more importance on the outcome of the 2010 congressional elections than they did on the importance of taking timely and meaningful actions on the federal budget. They did not want to do anything that might put Democratic candidates in a more vulnerable position with voters who depend on federal assistance for their livelihoods."

Ha! as if not taking about destroying Medicaid and Medicare and Social Security benefits the Democrats rather than the republicans.

scott3460 3 years, 8 months ago

What will you do now that Glenn Beck has faied in the marketplace?

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

I think you've done a stellar job of explaining that.

Whenever somebody has such hatred for a large group of people, I can't help but think there's some serious projection going on there.

Perhaps you should consider the possibility that the attributes you hate the most of "Democrats" are attributes that you yourself have, but can't acknowledge having.

yourworstnightmare 3 years, 8 months ago

Mr. Simons, if I were you I would be rather embarrassed by the comments here that support your position.

Well, that is if they could be construed as rationally and logically supporting a position. Thus the root of my embarrassment for you.

Getaroom 3 years, 8 months ago

Talk about the political parties all you want, but until the non-voting American Public wakes up to the fact that it is many of the super wealthy of big business that is running the country and there will be no betterment for the general population of this country because of it. The fix is in and the width and depth of the haves and have nots is growing exponentially. The overarching view point of the Republican Party and some conservatives of the Democratic Party have little or no concern for the "commons" in society. This is an historical perspective held tightly in order to retain power over. I like it that we have a locally owned newspaper, it's becoming rare, but really, do you think any of the Simons family had trouble paying their utilities this month, didn't have enough money for food, couldn't put gas in their cars to get to work, did not have a job to get to, were paid sub living wages for the jobs they have? Millions upon millions of our fellow citizens are either headed in that direction or are already there and if you think it is simply because they are lazy, think again. Some fall into that category but most not. Big Money Corporations: What's yours is theirs and ...... so on! Oligarcy. Look it up and see if you can find any hint of what your futures look like and to some degree, you are already seeing. And those who swallowed as fact and truth the medias constant lies that Obama was a Muslim, Fascist, Kenyan, Socialist? That was all fear mongering distraction to keep you busy so you would not see what is already your worst enemy. Obama is in truth little different than others before him - except that he is black and for some that means scary. The real player in all your fears is the corporate take over of the world. Globalization run wild!! Fantasy, insanity, craziness? Hmmm? You will see this in time because it is on the march every moment - all the time.
The dumbing down of America proliferated by the out of control greed, lack of moral and ethical fiber of the robber barons. This is what the current "free market" looks like. Perhaps this is simply human nature but even so, If you do not like what you see in your life now, it is unlikely to change if you do not do something about it and soon. If you listen to FOX News for all your information and to become educated - you get what you deserve. Branch out. Government shut down fears were and are not only political party alliance issues but are every ones issues. Stop spectating and get active!! dictionary.reference.com/browse/oligarchy

notajayhawk 3 years, 8 months ago

"Talk about the political parties all you want, but until the non-voting American Public wakes up to the fact that it is many of the super wealthy of big business that is running the countryTalk about the political parties all you want, but until the non-voting American Public wakes up to the fact that it is many of the super wealthy of big business that is running the country ... yada ... yada ... yada ... "

Here, let me see if I can sum up your post:

'Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!'

At least you managed to hit all the typical liberal talking points - let's see, elitism? Check. Class jealousy? Check. Blame big business? Check. Claims of racism? Check. Mention Fox News? Check. Yep, looks like you covered everything.

scott3460 3 years, 8 months ago

Looks like you forgot to acknowledge the last and most important one: get active. Understandable, it is the one the right wingers hate and fear the most.

Tristan Moody 3 years, 8 months ago

No comment about the obstructionist republican caucus in the Senate, invoking more than twice as many filibusters as any previous congress, requiring 60 votes to pass anything. The real cause of this is BOTH sides putting party before country. Sen. Mitch McConnell's number one priority, quoted, on the record, was to make sure Obama was to be a one-term president. This, ahead of fixing the economic meltdown, reducing unemployment, national security and all else. When both sides engage in dishonest debate and sham negotiations, the legislature is dysfunctional. It is disingenuous -- indeed, downright stupid -- to claim that the blame for this rests with one party or another. The problem goes much deeper than that, and until congress stops trying to "win" and starts trying to work, this will never get better.

camper 3 years, 8 months ago

For starters, I agree with the concern about our nation's debt. Balancing the budget is going to require pain, and I do not see that there is much political incentive to do something about it, because politicians are in the business of getting re-elected. The editorial blames politicians for this mess (democrats mentioned unfavorably 10 times, republicans mentioned nuetral or favorable 3 times).

But if we are to balance the budget, it is going to be painful. One approach might be to make cuts based on the order of the least pain and detriment to our society:

1) Extending the Bush cuts is not fiscally responsible and most estimates claim it will cost about 3.9 trillion in tax revenue over the next decade. If you are fortunate enough to be netting 500k a year, this increase will probably cost you little more 5 figures. If you make this much money, I'd say this is a good problem to have. 2) Nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan is probably even less painful. Much of this money is going to crooks and corruption in those countries and furthermore much of this money has little impact and these improvement will be destroyed and blown up in the future. The big contractors like Brown and Root and Halibuton may be hurt if we cut this. 3) Military expenditures will cost american jobs, but this is guns and butter, I'd rather see us spending money on butter. 4) Medicare and Social Security. I believe these should retain intact, but I think SS is should me means tested for those who really do not need it. There are a lot of wealthy retired people who have enough income who really do not need this and is merely chump change to them. 5) Health care reform (medicare) can certainly be improved if an emphasis were to be put on basic care and coverage reform. Most of us can maintain health care needs by less expensive measure (including preventative). Some of us have chronic problems and more severe problems. Lets do what we can to make sure they can seek treatment and care for them. 5a) Health insurance reform. So much medicare money goes thru insurance companies (the middleman), that surely there must be a way to minimize this. Call me a Socialist if you will.

As for the Republicans, I'm sure there are many that know what it takes to balance the budget. But mostly what I see is that they took the recent voter uptick to promote things like, immigration, voter ID, and proposing cuts to things like education and that have the least impact on budget reform (not to include job creation) Because this editorial seems to focus on the Democrats, I will say, President Obama as promised has tried to deal with 1, 5, and 5(a) above. I'm disappointed that President Obama has not effectively reduced military expenditures, but I believe he is working against institutions that are gonna take a long time to remediate.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 8 months ago

"Author Thomas Frank wrote in "What's the Matter with Kansas?" that "Koch money flowed through Triad Management Services", an advisory service to conservative donors groups and candidates, for the 1996 Senate campaign of Sam Brownback."

If the country is broke you sound like D.C. NOT fiscal conservatives .... how about some honestly? If the country is so broke why Mr. Simons are you not calling for an end to the military invasion of Iraq,Afghanistan,Pakistan and Yemen?

If the country is so broke why are politicians at city,state and federal levels handing out tax incentives/tax subsidies like there is no tomorrow?

Repubs know if a new administration puts people back to work after their lousy and crooked management the new admin will make one helluva an impression thus keeping the big time crooks out of office for a few more years.

Mr Simons it's all a big lie. All the repubs are interested in is controlling the USA taxpayers by keeping them unemployed. Everyone knows the way to increase revenue and jobs is to put people back to work. Laying off workers has exactly the opposite impact.

camper 3 years, 8 months ago

"We're all screwed because there are way too many sheep on both sides."

Yep. This is the way it looks. Indeed, we are due for a big screw (or correction in economic terms). The big cycle reaches a peak which is un-sustainable, and then it must crash. We certainly have the knowledge and where-with-all to prevent or minimize these downturns, but we lack the political will to do so. And human nature has a role, like Social Darwinism. We consume til there is nothing left to consume. The bubble bursts, and we resume from the resulting rubble.

But because I eschew Darwinism , I still believe the US has the people, the means, the institutions, the freedom and above all, the inteligence to prevent these severe downturns. America is the best place on the planet. And beyond this macro thought, we still have individualism, faith, and god to take of ourselves beyond these larger economic friction which is beyond our control. We can still be true to ourselves and rightfully call BS where we see it.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

Why do you have to believe we're the best place on the planet to feel good about our country?

There are many different places, and many offer different blends of positive and negative attributes.

Mike Ford 3 years, 8 months ago

eight years of amnesia, years upon years of filibustering, pandering to the lowest common denominator of constituency, blurring the line between church and state to the point of religious imperialism, destroying the environment with big coal and big oil, and borrowing the world from china for unnecessary world conflicts and this is Obama's fault? really..... only in a politically stupid country where idiots like Glenn Beck and Michelle Bachmann are championed can a whole constituency be stupid enough to have this much amnesia and be fooled to voting for GOP over such pointless issues as guns, god, and abortion. Please look at the light like a bug about to be electrocuted every time the GOP and the TPers rally around unrealistic cuts and forget Mr. Bush's policies made these cuts necessary. God bless your amnesia and your right to be raging lunatics.

Mike Ford 3 years, 8 months ago

nice try orange chubb. you're a perfect example of ignoring to further an arguement. The Democrats wanted 60 votes so that the dumblicans would have a horse in the race and maybe behave as participants and not filibuster and gridlock kings. Gridlock created by the GOP allowed them to distance themselves from the Bush mess and deceive people like yourself into thinking the Democrats did nothing for the budget issue. I was told by a Lynn Jenkins staffer that people voted for her to do nothing and yet she gets support and you blame the Democrats because of the inactivity of dumblicans and the short attention span of dumblican voters.

scott3460 3 years, 8 months ago

And some wonder why the country is in such bad shape.

Until the wilfiul ignorance of those who have been brainwashed by the right wing propaganda is eliminated, there is little hope for responsible governance.

jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

In order to pass legislation unilaterally, either party needs not only a majority, but a filibuster proof majority.

Otherwise, the mere threat of a filibuster is enough to stop legislation from even being proposed.

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