The government is facing a financial crisis. No doubt about it. But pointing fingers, and ignoring historical realities, isn’t going to solve any of the problems.
The Republicans are complaining loudly that President Obama is “responsible” for significant increases in the national debt. However, in trying to blame the Democrats, and in trying to make a political issue out of the federal deficit, they conveniently ignore several important facts.
The budget deficits occurring during the administration of President Obama exist because the tax cuts implemented by George Bush reduced federal revenues too much.
Unemployment resulting from the financial crisis in the administration of George Bush resulted in massive reductions in federal tax revenues.
President Obama has been stuck with enormous unfunded spending programs established by George Bush.
No president since Franklin Roosevelt has taken office under worse circumstances. But Phil Roe and the Republicans are more interested in blaming President Obama than in solving the problem.
THE REPUBLICAN ARGUMENT IS SHORT-SIGHTED
The Republicans are constantly talking about the burden that increasing our national debt will place on our children and grandchildren. But Republican policies are designed to impose a far greater burden on our children and grandchildren than will result from our national debt alone.
The size of the national debt won’t mean anything if our children and grandchildren don’t have a quality education and cannot get a job.
The size of the national debt won’t mean anything if an increasing percentage of our population remains homeless and our children malnourished.
The size of the national debt won’t mean anything if our children and grandchildren don’t have access to high-quality health care and we all lack adequate police and fire protection and emergency responders.
Cutting funding for education, job training, housing assistance, childhood nutrition programs and police and fire protection will result in far more problems in the future than an increased national debt.
When the Republicans complain about the debt that the country will be leaving for the next generation, there is one important thing they omit. They haven’t told the people what their budget plan means for future generations.
There is a moral, as well as a fiscal, dimension to managing the federal budget. The Republicans have chosen to ignore this.
WE CAN CUT SPENDING AND ADDRESS OUR SOCIAL NEEDS
Phil Roe wants to reduce the debt by eliminating all programs — one by one –that he, and the Republicans, don’t like. This is an irresponsible approach to debt reduction.
Over the years, Congress (both Republican-controlled and Democrat-controlled) has established dozens of different programs that address the same or similar programs. For example, according to a study by the Government Accounting Office, we have:
• 50 different programs for the homeless administered by eight different agencies.
• 23 different programs for housing aid administered by four different agencies.
• 26 different programs for food and nutrition aid administered by six different agencies.
• 44 different programs for job training administered by nine different agencies.
Similarly, a report by the Senate Committee on Government Affairs found:
• 27 different programs for teen pregnancy.
• 130 programs for at-risk youth.
• 17 programs for the prevention of substance abuse.
• 342 programs for economic development.
• 17 agencies that monitor international trade agreements.
• 10 agencies that are involved in export promotion.
And a report of the White House Task Force for Disadvantaged Youth identified 300 programs for disadvantaged youth in 12 agencies.
Instead of examining these programs one-by-one, we need to examine them all together — and examine them in terms of the common problem they were intended to address.
Then we need to:
Consolidate programs and reduce the bureaucracy while directing more of the allocated funds to solving real problems.
Reform programs to build on activities that have proven to be effective and refocus programs to focus on changing (or changed) needs.
Remove the politics from programs. We need to stop letting Congress define what can and cannot be done to achieve program objectives. Instead, we need to promote independence and innovation at the operational level by giving local agencies flexibility to address local needs with methods to reflect the unique character of local communities.
Restructure programs to make them results oriented by ending the practice of evaluating programs based on what they are doing and start evaluating programs based on the results they are achieving.
Phil Roe and the Republican leaders are only looking at program costs and the budget deficit. They are pursuing a “slash and burn” approach to reducing spending. This is not a responsible way to manage the budget.
We do need to reduce the federal deficit and national debt. But we need to do it in a responsible way. And we can to that if we elect a responsible representative.
Comments or questions are welcome.
Comments or questions are welcome.