Americans need to grow up about the deficit

The independent and non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has predicted a budget deficit that, in monetary terms, is the worst in the nation’s history. The deficit will reach a record of nearly $1.5 trillion in 2011. (As a percentage of gross domestic product — 9.8 percent — the deficit will be slighter smaller than the record.) It’s time for our elected leaders to get serious about reducing the sea of red ink without cutting spending too quickly and pushing the still-sputtering economy back into recession.
As the first essential part of the exercise, Republicans need to admit that the record-high deficit was exacerbated by extending the Bush tax cuts. Strange as it is, our political dialogue over the deficit is handicapped by the fact that one of the two major parties refuses to admit the rules of basic arithmetic.
President Bush and the GOP-dominated Congress arranged for their massive tax cuts to have a sunset clause after ten years. They did that because the CBO usually makes decade-long estimates. Bush knew his tax cuts would cause the deficit to explode after a decade. From the WSJ:

The federal budget deficit will reach a record of nearly $1.5 trillion in 2011 due to the weak economy, higher spending and fresh tax cuts, congressional budget analysts said, in a stark warning that will drive the growing battle over government spending and taxation.

As the next step, Democrats and Republicans need to come to terms with a combination of tax cuts and spending increases that will put the nation on a longterm path to economic stability. Most mainstream economists agree that it will take both.

As for spending cuts, even Republicans don’t have their act together on that front. For all their electioneering around taming spending, many of their proposals for cutting seemed aimed at programs that liberals like. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank has described the ultra-conservative Republican Study Committee’s list of spending cuts as a new front in the culture war. Nor is a gimmick like the balanced-budget amendment going to solve the problem.

While GOP leaders such as Paul Ryan, head of the House Budget Committee, insist that all spending, including military spending, has to be on the table, several Republicans don’t want to cut the Pentagon. They don’t even want to go along with the cuts proposed by Sec Def Robert Gates, although the Pentagon accounts for roughly 20 percent of federal spending. From The NYT:

To hear the Republican leadership tell it, the once-sacred Pentagon budget, protected by the party for generations, is suddenly on the table. But a closer look shows that even as Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, insist on the need for military cuts, divisions have opened among Republicans about whether, and how much, to chop Pentagon spending that comes to more than a half trillion dollars a year.

Those differences were on display Wednesday on Capitol Hill, where the traditional Republican who now leads the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Howard P. McKeon, fought back against proposed cuts in the Pentagon budget even as fledgling committee members supported by the Tea Party said that the nation’s debts amounted to a national security risk.

Nor do Republicans plan to cut agricultural subsidies, though profits from the farming sector are soaring. Those funds, after all, flow into conservative districts. From Politico:

As eager as they are for a fight with the White House, Republican budget cutters have a problem in their own back pasture: what to do about a system of farm subsidies that’s still pumping billions into GOP districts at a time of record income for producers.

Net cash farm income for 2010 is projected to finish near $92.5 billion — a 41 percent increase even after subtracting payments from the government. Yet conservatives are almost tongue-tied, as seen last week with the Republican Study Committee’s proposal to eliminate relatively modest subsidies for an organic food growers program without mentioning the nearly $5 billion in much larger government direct payments to farm country — including to the home districts of many of the RSC’s members.

And, most important, voters have to grow up about the causes of the long-term deficit. It is fueled not by foreign aid or “waste, fraud and abuse” but by spending on entitlement programs, especially Medicare. But Americans are under the impression that chipping away at programs that don’t affect them will bring the budget under control. From a new CNN poll:

But it seems that most Americans would prefer that the biggest government spending programs are off the table. The survey indicates that more than seven in ten Americans say that deficit reduction is less important than preventing cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education programs and veterans’ benefits. At least six in ten feel the same way about unemployment benefits and roads and mass transit. . .
“According to the OMB data, the three items that a majority of the public is willing to cut – federal pensions, welfare, and foreign aid – may account for about 13 to 15 percent of total federal outlays in 2010. That appears to leave about 85 percent of the federal budget off-limits in the public’s mind,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Add in defense spending and the programs that the public may be willing to cut goes up to roughly a third of the total budget, with about two-thirds still off the table.”

That public attitude is going to make curbing the deficit a very risky exercise.

— by Cynthia Tucker

454 comments Add your comment

dougmo2

January 27th, 2011
8:27 am

CT, name one democrat that ACTUALLY wants to cut spending? Can’t think of one? Me neither.

BTW- The GOP doesn’ have a Sarah Palin problem, liberals do. How dare a educated beautiful woman be a conservative. Sorta like an educated black male being a conservative isn’t it? Oh the horror

dougmo2

January 27th, 2011
8:28 am

BTW – First

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

January 27th, 2011
8:28 am

Good morning, both parties are responsible for the deficit. Period. That’s why the Tea Party is gaining strength.

Rufus

January 27th, 2011
8:29 am

C.T. its apparent your precious Obozo is perfect in your own mind.

Dave

January 27th, 2011
8:30 am

I didn’t even read the article, but I can still summarize it:

It was Bush’s deficit, so it’s okay that Obama continues to spend money.
Here is some copypasta and some worthless commentary from the “author”.

How is someone stupid enough to pay you to do this Cynthia?

Courtney

January 27th, 2011
8:30 am

TAX AND SPEND? Original idea! That has what Obama has done for two years and has lead us to disaster. How is this writer still employed?

HDB

January 27th, 2011
8:30 am

Freezing current government spending is the first thing that needs to be done…then run a cost-benefit analysis to see where effective cuts can be done. Shift spending to fund the national requirements….raise taxes to FY2000 levels….reduce spending after cost-benefit analysis shows where to cut!!

Eliminate farm subsidies, close corporate tax loopholes…..that makes Corporate America pay their appropriate share!!

Economy repaired!!!

Dingy

January 27th, 2011
8:31 am

cynthia, I know sarah palin, and you lady are no sarah palin!

Scout

January 27th, 2011
8:31 am

WHAT? You a liberal of liberals want to cut spending?

Are you o.k.?

Scout

January 27th, 2011
8:32 am

Snowstorm Shatters NYC, Philadelphia Records…
Commute from hell in DC: 12 hours to get home from work…
Obama stuck in traffic…

I wonder if El Jefe discussed Global Warming with his staff during the commute to the White House ?

HDB

January 27th, 2011
8:34 am

dougmo2
January 27th, 2011
8:27 am
BTW- Liberals don’t have a Sarah Palin/Michele Bachmann problem, the GOP does. How dare an uneducated, ignorant woman be a conservative, unknowledgable about history….and quits on her state. Sorta like an educated, articulate black male being President, isn’t it?

Fixed your statement……

DC

January 27th, 2011
8:35 am

I wonder why CT didn’t include the chart showing the annual federal deficit year by year…..oh, I remember now, because it’s obvious how HUGE the deficits of the last two years are compared to any year before them, including the dreaded Bush years. And which party was in control of congress and the Pres over the past two years?

The Nerve

January 27th, 2011
8:35 am

“…..the record-high deficit was exacerbated by extending the Bush tax cuts.”

As those on here like to say…………….There’s your sign.

Nothing more to see here people. Move along.

David S

January 27th, 2011
8:36 am

The Federal Reserve facilitated the deficit spending and the Federal Government, both Democrats and Republicans (except those like Ron Paul who have always voted no on every appropriations bill) are responsible.

This began in 1913 and has continued virtually with no slowdown (Warren Harding’s administration wasn’t bad) since then. The horrible entitlement programs (basically unsustainable wealth transfer programs) of Social Security and Medicare (and now the atrocious drug benefit program) had the worst impacts of all. They were sold through lies and deceipt and still today people continue to believe the lies that surrounded then at their founding.

Of course at the root of the problem is the american public who has bought into the unamerican lie promoted by the Progressive movement of the late 1800’s that government is the solution to all problems and that government knows better how to handled every aspect of your life than you do. Once america embraced that belief, allowed their incomes to be stolen through the income tax of 1913 and the Federal Reserve of 1913, the current situation was virtually assured.

That is why those of us who favor freedom, individual liberty, and the like are so focussed on educating americans as to their true history and the true nature of government and economics.

james

January 27th, 2011
8:36 am

Kind of hate to do this but thought the blog to be well written and thought out and bi partisan. thank you

Peadawg

January 27th, 2011
8:37 am

“Americans need to grow up about the deficit” – Wasn’t this the same or very similar headline for a blog a few weeks ago? Can’t come up with anything new, Cynthia? Also, Obama didn’t mention anything about Bush or what he inherited in his SOTU address…couldn’t you follow the same route?

First, I don’t even know what farm subsidies are…could someone explain please? :) And YES Medicare, Social Security, Medicare Part D, Food Stamps, Pentagon ALL need to be on the table and cut big time. Get our soldiers out of countries they have no business being in.

dumb

January 27th, 2011
8:37 am

Palin is educated?

dumb

January 27th, 2011
8:39 am

farm subsidies is communism

dumb

January 27th, 2011
8:40 am

or is it socialism?

dumb

January 27th, 2011
8:41 am

no wait, it’s liberal facism

Fuzzy Math

January 27th, 2011
8:42 am

Ms. Tucker is using some fuzzy math.

How can a tax cut ever cause a deficit? It’s mathematically impossible.

Only spending causes deficits.

John Ellison

January 27th, 2011
8:42 am

Special interests have a stranglehold on the elected officials at all levels of government in this country, democrats and republicans. The news media is guilty as well. Where are the elected officials and news media that can look at the country’s problems objectively and offer solutions that will benefit the average American?

Rufus

January 27th, 2011
8:44 am

James, I hate to tell you this but C.T.has never wrote anything that was bi partisan.

andygrdzki

January 27th, 2011
8:44 am

I see that the Democratic Leadership full supports reductions as in below from MSNBC.
From NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell
Dismissing President Barack Obama’s opposition to earmarks as “an applause line,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told NBC News on Wednesday that the president should “back off” and let lawmakers continue to direct spending to their home districts.
Asked during a one-on-one interview with NBC whether Obama was wrong to promise a veto on any bill that contains earmarks, Reid quickly replied, “of course.”
“This is an applause line,” Reid said. “It’s an effort by the White House to get more power. They’ve got enough power as it is.”
Reid, along with other lawmakers who support earmarking, argues that eliminating the practice simply puts more discretion in the hands of executive branch officials who have authority to fund projects. “I have a Constitutional obligation to do congressionally directed spending,” he said. “I know much more about what should be done in Elko [or] Las Vegas, Nevada, than some bureaucrat does back here.”
Hum….. Business as usual for the Democrats…..

Dave

January 27th, 2011
8:45 am

Normally, I have issue with many of your posts being that I sit just right of center, but this one was very good. You really hit the important issues: ALL Bush tax cuts need to go, Defense needs to be trimmed along with other spending and entitlements need to be tweaked so their budgets line up properly with their revenues. Problem is neither Repubs or Dems will let ALL tax cuts expire. You are right on Repubs against defense cuts and farming(which irritates me) and Dems consider entitlements sacred cows, but they need to be reformed before they bankrupt the country and the people that need them suddenly have NO entitlements. The people of this country are going to have to be willing to sacrifice a little to preserve our country as we know it, unfortunately I’m not sure people today are willing to make what historically speaking is really a small sacrifice for the greater good of our country.

Good Grief

January 27th, 2011
8:45 am

CT – One thing I hear from liberals a lot is that conservatives don’t want to cut the military spending in our budget. As a conservative, may I make a suggestion for cutting military spending? (I’m going to anyway.) I look at it like this: do we really need all those troops still stationed in Germany? Britain? That alone would have to shrink some of the military spending. Then we have to convince Senators and Representatives that there are just some pieces of technology that are outdated and unneeded. Cutting those programs would save us even more. Have you noticed that I haven’t said anything about raising taxes yet?

And you have to note that the CBO is only allowed to factor in certain variables. There are a lot of things they cannot take into account when projecting their numbers. I always cringe when someone brings up a CBO projection as if it were gospel.

The left and the right are both equally responsible for getting us into this mess. The root cause of this disaster wasn’t the election of George W. Bush. It goes back into the Clinton, Bush 41, Reagan, Carter days. It truly is a big picture issue.

Monroe Burbank

January 27th, 2011
8:48 am

If Sarah Palin is “educated”, so was George W. Bush.

St. Theresa

January 27th, 2011
8:53 am

The deficit is NOT a problem. 1.5 trill is only 300 billion in 1970 money, morons.

That’s just not enough to worry about. We’re fine. The real American problem are the total stunt-wankers who think that you can say, “Cut Spending” and get elected to office. You can’t. The phrase, “Cut Spending” is meaningless. It has no place in the national dialogue. You may as well pray4rain.

That voters are total morons is not news. That voters feel entitled to entitlements is not news. What IS news is that Americans have forgotten the worst administration in our history, nay, in the history of the world, Part Duh, in the person of the son-of-the-Rainman idiot by the name of George Cheney Bush.

I mean, what a total schmoe-hawk he was/is/will be. He ruined the entire globe. He did.

Just by being himself.

Any conservative who doesn’t get down on his knees and beg forgiveness and apologize4bush is a traitor and should be exiled to Afghanistan, where he/she should be put to good use by clearing minefields with their feet.

word

Good Grief

January 27th, 2011
8:53 am

Is this going to be the extent of the liberal argument today: that conservatives are “uneducated?” That’s a pretty weak argument.

Redneck Convert (R--and proud of it)

January 27th, 2011
8:54 am

Well, I still say the godly Republicans had the right idea. Just put anything, like the two wars, that costs alot off-budget. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Defense—off the budget it goes. That way, the budget is balanced and we got no problems at all.

No charge for the advise. Have a good day everybody.

gooble gobble

January 27th, 2011
8:56 am

Funny how there are no CT supporters on this blog yet. I suppose I would still be in bed too if I was living on the Obama entitlement train.

Rufus

January 27th, 2011
8:57 am

St. Theresa, where have you been the last two years?

Get me Rex Kramer

January 27th, 2011
8:57 am

I agree with you 100% about Bush having much of the blame on the deficit. Tax cuts were not the problem, but too much spending. Obama has touted his bi-partisan debt commision, but will not even come close to implementing their recommended changes. Green energy is extremely costly, which is why the private sector has not gone that route. Whatever the federal government spends there, won’t give us near the return on investment to make it a wise use of funds. Ask T. Boone Pickens how the wind thing worked out.

granny godzilla

January 27th, 2011
8:58 am

Ms. Tucker

Well said.

carolyn

January 27th, 2011
8:59 am

Farm subsidies to corporate farms should be done away with. Also, why can we not give businesses tax incentives to relocate in the US and hire US citizens instead of tax incentives for moving offshore? Also, subsidies and tax breaks to oil companies should be eliminated.

Rufus

January 27th, 2011
9:01 am

gooble gobble, I think one just woke up, she must be expecting her entitlement check today !

Peadawg

January 27th, 2011
9:01 am

“Also, subsidies and tax breaks to oil companies should be eliminated.” – AMEN! With gas $3 a gallon they seem to be doing JUST fine.

dougmo2

January 27th, 2011
9:03 am

BTW- The Acturary of Medicare testified that Obozocare WILL NOT give people the ability to choose their own doctors and WILL NOT bring down the deficit.

Why didn’t he testfy during the hearings for passage?
Because the democrats didn’t want him too, that’s why.

granny godzilla

January 27th, 2011
9:03 am

carolyn

a bill to do just that was blocked by all the GOP and 2 or 3 blue dogs late last year….

please call your reps and ask them to try aagain!

The Leg Lamp is a "major award" much like CT's Pulitzer and Obama's Nobel.

January 27th, 2011
9:04 am

Are you buying what Obama’s shoveling.

“OBAMA SEES THE LIGHT, NOW TURNS TO THE RIGHT…”

“REAGAN IS THE ‘ROLE MODEL’… ”

Hey wait a minute…..maybe this is one of those “shovel ready jobs” he boasted about so often.
Based

Some Dude

January 27th, 2011
9:05 am

Who cares about tax-cuts. Cuts do not create debt. Spending money creates debt. I’m sick of this stupid arguement that lowering taxes causes debt. The government ought not be spending the money so much that it needs to tax so much to begin with. They ought to cut taxes to near zero and really shake up the God d@mned government. STOP spending what you do not have. Otherwise shut up and start letting people max out their personal debt as well and let the whole nation go to h3ll.

Owl

January 27th, 2011
9:06 am

Obama is embracing Reagan now- keep up CT.
Time to defend Voodoo Economics!
This may throw you off you pattern because that global warmimg cut and paste drivel is up next.

Joe the Plutocrat

January 27th, 2011
9:06 am

short answer (looks like I beat jconservative) to “Who caused the deficit”? every POTUS and his enabling Congress since Wilson. or, for you Randian, free market, private sector types, the Federal Reserve Bank in cahoots with Wall Street. but hey, “deficits don’t matter”, right? just print more money and squeeze the taxpayers. you folks need to start accepting the difference between The Constitution and the government, or more specifically, the way the Constitution (business plan) and the government (influence brokers) is viewed by business (large corporations, not mom and pop entreprenuers) and more importantly, politicians (their own private club). so, as always, the answer to the question is; “the Plutocracy” because in a Plutocracy, it’s not a “deficit” it’s “revenue”. just depends on which balance sheet you put the number (plutocracy, or taxpayers).

Rufus

January 27th, 2011
9:06 am

Gas at $ 3.00 a gallon ? Gosh I thought high gas prices were G.W.’s fault a few years ago, does that mean Obama is responsible for higher gas prices now ?

Bob

January 27th, 2011
9:08 am

Why is it that repubs need to admit that the Bush cuts added to the deficit ? Obama and dems just voted to extend them, do they have to admit that the extension of those cuts added to the deficit ?

Kamchak's gerbil

January 27th, 2011
9:08 am

CT – Are you in favor of entitlements to those able to work but choose not to?

Peadawg

January 27th, 2011
9:09 am

“does that mean Obama is responsible for higher gas prices now ?” – Yup!

Jim Peterson

January 27th, 2011
9:09 am

In a related story Colonial Sanders wants to know who has been killing the chickens! He had no idea they were being killed!

Good Grief

January 27th, 2011
9:11 am

There seems to be this belief that spending habits remain the same, regardless of the amount of money someone has saved, be it in the mayonnaise jar in the backyard or in the bank account. I know when my job went to less that 20 hours a week, I changed the way I was spending money. When I had more money, I could spend more money. If we apply that logic to tax cuts, when you allow people to keep more of their hard-earned money, they will spend more. Local sales taxes generate more revenue, thus more revenue for the federal government. But Iguess that math doesn’t work in CT’s world.

DannyX

January 27th, 2011
9:13 am

Reagan is far from Obama’s role model. Reagan was a liberal, Obama is much more conservative.

Reagan is the the Grandfather of the Deficit.
Reagan built up the Democrat Party base by giving amnesty to millions of ILLEGALS
Reagan expanded Medicare entitlements
Reagan signed in new taxes.
Reagan created another big government cabinet level layer to the government.

Reagan was a Californian for gosh sakes. He helped start California’s budget disaster. A CALIFORNIAN!

Obama is no where near the liberal your great Ronald Reagan was.