Before the elections last fall the Republican Party made a big deal of trimming at least $100 billion from the budget for fiscal year 2011. Many new members of Congress rode that horse into office. In office, one of the first acts of Congress, with President Obama's blessing, was to cut federal revenue $250 billion (a rough estimate of the revenue lost by extending the expiring tax cuts for the wealthy.). In the end, they trimmed a paltry $38 billion (actually only $28 million in new cuts) from fiscal 2011, merrily hacking away with a special-interest Republican axe. That's okay, these are tough times; I wish they'd cut more, despite the directions of the cuts. You can find a good summary of the cuts here. Congress effectively ignored the easy $100 billion in "wasteful, ineffective, and unnecessary" defense spending identified by Defense Secretary Gates. They ignored the large subsidies to the oil companies, agriculture (Yes, we still subsidize tobacco!), pharmaceuticals, and banks (Yes, we're still bailing out banks!), to name just a few feeders on the federal funds hemorrhage.
So here's my score for President Obama and Congress, first quarter of 2011: $250 billion - $38 billion = $212 billion additional deficit $$$. The grade I give them for the first quarter is 'F.' Gosh, don't they deserve lower than that? These are serious times.
They've made a good start on blowing the second quarter. Both Obama and the House Republicans have identified Social Security and Medicare as their next battle over reducing the deficit. Never mind that both of these so-called entitlement programs are funded by taxes that are separate from the rest of government and both are presently paying their own way and will for at least the next ten years. Nearly $3 trillion of the SS fund are invested in federal bonds (read invested in the national debt). Medicare isn't doing as well, but that's because Bush and a Republican congress added an expensive and unfunded mail-order drug program that subsidized pharmaceuticals and forbade Medicare to bargain for lower prices. It's also because health care expenses are out-pacing the quality of care. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Obama's health care reform will help resolve some of that.
So we have a little time on those two 'entitlement' programs. Our leaders should tackle the immediate problem, that of spending more running the government than they receive in revenue. So far this year, our leaders' efforts resemble those of an individual who suffers from out-of-control credit card debt. Ever tried paying down the principal on a card debt by reducing a few of your charges? It won't work. Unexpected costs happen. The only sure and timely way to get rid of the debt is to start paying more on the principal. Our nation's leaders have faced and met challenges like this in the past and likely will again in the future unless we fail. I know raising taxes or adding a surtax is nasty and hard, but do we really want to lay this debt on our grandchildren? Come on President Obama and Congress, it's time to 'man' up and earn your pay. We don't have time to wait for another election.
(Since they aren't lj friends of mine, I'm emailing copies of this to the President and to my Congressmen.)