President Barack Obama sent Congress a $3.73 trillion 2012 budget Monday that is expected to lop $1.1 trillion off the deficits over a decade. Like Goldilocks in the classic fairy tale, some feel the budget proposal is too hard, others believe it is too soft and some say it is just right.
As anyone on a tight budget can attest, figuring out how to do more with less can be immensely frustrating and ultimately lead to some very difficult decisions.
After all, in tough times like these, many of us have been forced to trim the extra frills so long ago that even simple pleasures like going out to eat or seeing a movie seem like luxuries as unaffordable as a trip to the tropics. And once one is down to the bare-bones basics, there aren’t many items left to cut that don’t require significant sacrifice.
Like millions of its citizens, the U.S. government is also struggling to regain firmer financial footing. Faced with a federal deficit experts predict will hit an eye-popping, all-time high of $1.65 trillion this year — yes, that’s trillion with a T; a sum most of us can’t even begin to visualize — President Barack Obama sent Congress a $3.73 trillion 2012 budget Monday that is expected to lop $1.1 trillion off the deficits over a decade.
Senior administration officials say two-thirds of the savings would come from spending reductions, and the remaining third would result from tax revenue increases.
According to the budget plan, by 2017 the deficit would be down to $627 billion, which is an amount that seems much more manageable. However, getting there won’t be painless; Obama himself admits his new budget requires “tough choices and sacrifices.”
For instance, the president’s proposal provides for eliminating or reducing funds for more than 200 programs. Those earmarked for cuts include heating-bill assistance for low-income families, subsidies for wealthy farmers and the Community Development Block Grants.
In addition, Obama is renewing his call to reduce the deductions rich Americans are able to claim for state and local tax payments, charitable contributions and mortgage interest. He also proposes eliminating certain tax breaks for gas, oil and coal companies and reducing Pentagon spending by $78 billion.
However, Obama is proposing spending increases in areas deemed necessary to keep America competitive globally, such as energy efficiency, high-speed rail, education and biomedical research.
Obama’s budget blueprint is by no means set in stone, and judging by early reaction from Capitol Hill, a congressional showdown is already brewing. Like Goldilocks in the classic fairy tale, some feel the budget proposal is too hard, others believe it is too soft and some say it is just right.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell complains the plan “says fulfilling the president’s vision of a future of trains and windmills is more important than a balanced checkbook.” He pledged to release a rival plan in the next few weeks.
Representative Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, had a different take, calling it a “tough-love budget” that “keeps in mind that we need to make smart choices that will create more jobs, lift up middle-class families and keep our economy growing.”
Representative Ed Markey, who sits on the Natural Resources Committee, thinks the cuts go too far. In a statement he said, “These programs aren’t just lines in a budget — they’re lifelines for our most vulnerable, and they must be preserved. We must not balance the budget on the backs of disadvantaged citizens in our communities.”
They all have valid points, which shows how difficult it is to dig the U.S. out of our gaping deficit hole. As much as no one likes it, sacrifices have to be made. Funding has to be cut. Obama’s budget proposal is a good start, but, while at a middle school outside Baltimore, he acknowledged that more needs to be done.
“The only way to truly tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it –– in domestic spending, defense spending, health care spending and spending through tax breaks and loopholes,” Obama said. “So what we’ve done here is make a down payment.”
Likening it to a down payment is an apt analogy. Rebuilding a country’s economy is bound to be a slow process filled with expenses, much as a homeowner is sure to have to shell out money for various home repairs long before the mortgage is paid in full.
But one of the first things homeowners learn is that they must spend the money to fix what is broken in order to see a return on their investment.
City editor Amy Gehrt may be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Pekin Daily Times.