Day: February 23, 2011

A Cure That’s Worse Than the Disease

  In this year’s State of the Union address, President Obama declared deficit reduction to be a critical step to move the country forward. Republicans and Democrats disagree vehemently over how much to cut from the federal budget. Yet neither party seems to have considered that the right amount might be none. It is certainly true that we are living in an era of unprecedented deficits. In each of the last three years the federal government has run a shortfall topping $1 trillion. It is also true that there is widespread agreement across the political spectrum that the deficits must be addressed. As President Obama stated, “Now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable.” Just a day earlier, House Republicans pushed government spending cuts to the top of their legislative agenda. In all this talk about the deficit, one topic has taken a back seat: the economic crisis. Perhaps we’ve become used to it. Or perhaps it is the prevailing view that – calls for civility aside – this divided Congress is unlikely to reach common ground on boosting economic growth. The fact remains that close to one out of every 10 Americans who wants to work can't find a job. Astoundingly, the figure is closer to one in...

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Oh, Those Onerous Environmental Programs

  In this, the age of budget deficits, no political party wants to be caught being the one without any budget cuts to advocate. President Obama handed down a budget that promised to cut troubled programs or programs that had not been able to deliver results, to achieve what one administration official told the Associated Press would amount to “$1.1 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade.” The Republican-controlled House and its Appropriations Committee unsurprisingly had just a few additions to the budget cuts, and the resulting budget has stalled in the Senate. Bloomberg.com reported on February 22 that Democrats are unwilling to accept the cuts on the grounds that they “will harm the economy and the nation’s security.” Republicans have an important bargaining chip: The debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion will need to be raised soon, according to the Treasury Department, and Republicans will not raise it unless cuts are passed. An impasse, to be sure. What’s wrong with the Republican budget cuts? Among the controversial spending cuts lies an environmental time bomb: deep cuts in the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, targeting programs dealing with everything from air pollution to energy efficiency. The president’s budget also included cuts for the EPA, but largely focused on decreasing spending for water programs, leaving pollution and efficiency programs intact. The Appropriations Committee February 14 press release on the House passage of their...

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