Monday, February 7, 2011

Playing "Chicken" With The Deficit

Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Defense.  “The Big four”.  Any serious discussion about cutting the deficit must include substantive changes in these four areas.  Any budgetary recommendations that do not include measurable changes in these four areas, to quote Deficit Committee Chair Allan Simpson, are a “squirrel’s belch in a typhoon.”
The Republicans offered their solutions last week.  To be kind, their recommendations were embarrassing.  They offered $35 billion dollars in cuts that and didn’t get within a country mile of “The Big Four.”  Typically, their cuts focused on social programs that are essential to the poor and middle class.
The Obama administration is preparing its budget recommendations which are expected to be released next week.  Will they include substantive changes in “The Big Four”?  Those in the know are keeping that information close to the vest.
The fact is that both parties are playing a game of “chicken” with the deficit.  Republicans didn’t touch “The Big Four” because they are waiting for the Obama administration to do the heavy lifting.  Then Republicans will rip Democrats for “cheating our seniors”, “keeping us less safe” and “not supporting our troops” while privately thanking the heavens that Democrats made the cuts that everyone knew were necessary.
Democrats will probably ignore at least three of “The Big Four”.  They may offer some reductions in defense spending because Americans as a whole are fed up with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; whether or not they will have the courage to tackle the other three remains to be seen.
Who will blink first?  At some point one party or another will have to for the simple fact is we cannot sustain our current levels of spending in these four areas.  We will go bankrupt.  No one is arguing that point.  Who will have the courage to seriously address the problem remains to be seen.  Given the country’s current financial woes there seems to be no time like the present.
 We need out leaders to do the right thing.  We need them to make the tough decisions not just the politically safe ones.  Do our current political leaders have the courage to make those decisions? We shall see.   


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