Selection of certain statistics from the latest Budget report allows those in the political arena to make two wildly opposing arguments. There is a case to be made for the urgent need for another round of spending designed for growth and job creation. There is just as strong a case for drastic reductions in government expenditure, slowing America’s descent into unsustainable debt.
Entries in Congressional Budget Office (4)
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke talks on Tuesday about the "fiscal cliff"
America's politicians are wrestling with a basic problem --- raise taxes or cut welfare spending --- and the interested and influential advocacy groups are unlikely to be accommodating. Thought organisations supporting Obama are shouting loudest now there is little doubt that, once Republicans have come to terms with their electoral defeat, conservatives will push back hard. This is a game which is only beginning and in which the President and members of Congress are far from the only players.
Next Thursday, the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction --- the so-called Super Committee --- begins in earnest its search for $1.5 trillion or more in cuts to the national debt over the next ten years. Its first item, “Overview: Revenue Options and Reforming the Tax Code", will look at ways that the code can be simplified through the elimination of many tax "breaks" currently enjoyed by both individuals and corporations. No surprise there: proposals for tax reform, of varying scales, have been included in every deficit reduction plan that has appeared since the publication of the Bowles-Simpson report in January, and both sides of the political divide have made noises over the past year that they are willing to consider changes in the way Americans are taxed to help stabilise the debt.
But that is as optimistic, for those who actually want to see the committee achieve its goal, as it gets these days in Washington. Already, the two political parties are staking the same rhetorical and ideological positions on revenues that soured the debt-ceiling negotiations back in July, talks that resulted in historic nationwide disapproval of politicians in Congress.
Obama's demeanour does little to suggest he takes the problem as seriously as the authors of the Congressional Budget Office report. He is flunking his responsibility to take the initiative in explaining to the public the magnitude of the issues at stake. When he talks corporate jets not entitlement spending reform, he only makes it harder for those voices in Congress who are struggling to lead responsibly to be heard. If the president does not appear to be taking them seriously --- to my knowledge, President Obama has not once publicly acknowledged or encouraged the efforts of Sen. Conrad to build some sort of bipartisan consensus on the deficit, why should anyone else?