Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
Repeatedly, Sarah Palin, Ruth McClung and other Mama Grizzlies offered the schmaltzy recommendation that we “sit around the kitchen table like a family” and work together to balance the US budget. Unfortunately, the right wing Mama Grizzlies were just as bad at math as Papa Grizzlies like John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). While preaching fiscal responsibility, they promoted big ticket spending– like continuing all of the Bush era tax cuts.
Basically, the plan that the Republican touted in the Pledge to America back in Septenber just doesn’t add up. They want to repeal healthcare reform and make all of the Bush II’s tax cuts (especially those for the ultra rich) permanent PLUS cut government and cut the deficit. On the NPR’s Diane Rehm Show, one commentator said that even if the Republicans take government spending back to Reagan era levels + cut more, we would still be no where near a balanced budget.
So, that Mom and Pop Grizzly talk was just smoke and mirrors to get elected. Now what do we do to eliminate the US budget deficit?
Recently, two big stories in the news lately have been: what to do (if anything) with the Bush era tax cuts that will sunset at the end of 2010 and the release of the Bowles-Simpson bipartisan budget committee’s recommendations to cut the federal deficit.
There has been quite a bit of outcry against the Cat Food Commission (as Bowles-Simpson has been dubed). They recommend eliminating the mortgage interest deduction, child tax credit, and the earned income tax credit– which benefit the middle class– plus they want to lower tax rates, tinker with Social Security, and eliminate social safety nets.
In my opinion, the commission lacks credibility since it left big ticket items– like the Bush Era tax cuts and military spending– untouched.
So, here we are around the kitchen table with politicians who are afraid to make the tough choices– as usual! Now what’s a person to do? Our elected officials– on both sides of the aisle— can’t figure this out. Well, the New York Times has come to the rescue. Last Saturday, they posted an interactive budget-balancing tool: Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget. Check it out. It took me about 3 minutes to come up with a budget surplus by 2015 (and I let the middle class keep its Bush Era tax cuts).
So, what’s the big deal? The big deal, of course, is all of those corporate strings attached to our lawmakers.
Intuitively, to balance the budget the way a family would you would start with luxury items or things you don’t need (like the wars). Since Bush II and the Republicans (Yes, McConnell and Boehner plus our own John McCain, Jon Kyl and the rest of the right wing drunken sailors) took a few key fiscally irresponsible steps to create the budget deficit, let’s start by rolling those unfunded pet projects back to the Clinton Era (when we had a budget surplus). Here are my recommendations:
Let all of the Bush Era tax cuts sunset. Ed Schultz has been touting this idea on his radio show, and I agree with him. I was seriously disappointed when President Obama hinted that he may cave on his original suggestion (which he has been pushing for months)– continue the middle class tax cuts but let the tax cuts for the rich sunset. Schultz’s point is that the lame duck Democrats don’t have to do anything. Let the Republicans continue to fight for the ultra-rich while pretending to be fiscally responsible. (Their recent pledge to eliminate earmarks for a year would save a tiny fraction compared to Bush II’s tax cuts, and earmarks bring jobs to rural America.) I’m with Ed. If we truly want to bring down the deficit, then let all of the tax cuts end. This would provide a $226 billion savings by 2015 ($54 billion in savings from eliminating tax cuts for the wealthy + $172 billion in savings from eliminating tax cuts for the rest of us), according to the NY Times. (Personally, if the richest 1% of Americans, the big corporations, and the US Chamber of Commerce can secretly donate billions to elect lawmakers to protect their interests, they can afford higher taxes.)
Stop both wars. The Times interactive tool doesn’t give this option, but it does allow you to pick and choose ways to reduce military spending.
Allow the US to negotiate prescription drug prices for Medicare and Medicaid and eliminate Medicare Advantage. These are both HUGE corporate giveaways that Bush II and the Republicans built into the unfunded Medicare Part D prescription bill several years ago. Up until “Obamacare” eliminated these corporate giveaways, the US is the only country that did not get a quantity price break on prescription drugs. The Republicans and Tea Partiers– puppets of the corporatists– campaigned on repeal of healthcare reform. Among other parts of healthcare reform, these 2 initiatives save money.
The NY Times also provides several other spending cuts and tax increases that can help balance the budget– items that have been proposed in the past but didn’t fly for one reason or another– but I think if we started with these unfunded Bush Era initiatives we would be well on our way to getting our fiscal house in order– as it was under President Clinton.
Once and for all, as a nation, we should: