Tuesday, September 2, 2014

American public no help in budget battle

From page A6 | May 02, 2013 |

The issue: The people talk a good game but they don’t want the personal impacts

Finally, there are three proposed federal budgets on the table for Congress to choose among, modify, combine features from or simply reject.

Right now, the betting in Washington is that the lawmakers will go for the last option and the government will limp through fiscal 2014 with a patchwork of temporary spending bills.

TO SIMPLIFY, the House Republican budget counts on steep and politically improbable spending cuts; the Senate Democratic budget includes modest tax increases, anathema to the GOP; and President Barack Obama’s budget mixes modest tax increases and spending cuts, managing to offend both Republicans and his own party.

There will be an opportunity to battle this out later in the summer when the federal debt ceiling — the amount the government can legally borrow — must be raised. But Republican attempts to use that as leverage against the Obama administration backfired last time, when the GOP-inspired delay in raising the ceiling dinged Uncle Sam’s credit rating.

There’s little appetite on either side for another such fight. Instead, the lawmakers will devote a great deal of time and creative thinking to finding ways around the across-the-board cuts in federal spending — the dreaded 10-year sequester — as the public begins to feel their effects.

Obama’s budget would end the sequester, replacing it with $1.8 trillion in tax hikes and spending cuts. But the president faces the same deadlock that has killed previous deals: The Republicans are flatly opposed to new tax revenues, and the Democrats are increasingly opposed to any money-saving changes, like recalculating the formula for determining benefit hikes in their signature entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicare.

THERE IS AN additional roadblock to a settlement, one that is rarely mentioned — the American public. The Associated Press cites a CBS poll that found most Americans want to cut spending and raise taxes to reduce the deficit but 80 percent are opposed to cuts in Social Security and Medicare and two-thirds are unwilling to have their own taxes raised to reduce the deficit.

Moreover, a Pew Research poll cited by the AP asked which was more important: reducing the national debt or keeping Social Security and Medicare as they are now. Protecting the benefits won, 53 percent to 36 percent.

With guidance like that, it’s no wonder our lawmakers seem confused.





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