Friday, March 20, 2009

Harsh Deficit Figures Pose Problems for Democrats

Via Morning Edition, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will make a new debt projection for the country: $2 trillion in the hole this year.

Of course there will be a sizeable backlash because of this figure. “Runaway government spending,” will be the mantra. “He’s spending us into oblivion,” they’ll say. They’ll point to the budget and say, “we can’t possibly do that! We’re too far in debt!” Yes, this does make things difficult, especially when the right has so entrenched their ideology into the American mindset.

Two things we need to keep in mind. First, between the nearly $800 billion recovery package and the $410 billion omnibus spending bill, we can account for $1.2 trillion. I can’t honestly say that both are figured into the $2 trillion figure, but I don’t think that’s going to stop opponents from bringing up both as an example of out of control spending. Here’s what needs to be understood, both bills could not be avoided and were extremely important. Believe me when I tell you, the opposition understands this, but they would rather be in power than see the country prosper, and will fight any plan coming from the White House, regardless of its merit. But I digress.

Remember, the recovery was needed to inject large amounts of capital into the system and the government is the only entity in this country to throw that kind of money around. And for those of you who argue that private enterprise is the only way to grow the economy, look no further than the good folks at either AIG or GM for an example of how private enterprise has handled their end of the economic bargain. As for the omnibus spending bill, first, the majority of that bill was to keep all things government running. You wouldn’t want our soldiers to stop protecting us? If you receive Social Security, you’d still want to get your check? As for the earmarks, I’ve weighed in on the topic and I’m not so sure that they’re always a bad thing. Yes, they’ve been abused in the past, but from what I saw of the earmarks in this bill, they were for good local projects. Good local projects require jobs, which in turn, helps the economy. In this case, earmarks were little stimulus packages and, in my estimation, were a good thing.

That brings us to the budget that is on the table. According to NPR, House Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says, "We have to recognize that education, a change in energy policy and health care reform are what will turn the economy around, bring money to the Treasury, make us competitive internationally and put the economy on a much more stable footing as we go into the future." That means that we need to spend money on these projects now if we want strength and prosperity in the future. There is so much good in this budget. Things that should have been addressed years ago, new energy policy and health care, for example, have been budgeted and accounted for. I don’t understand how being transparent and accounting for everything the government intends to spend could possibly be a bad thing. For years, the books have been cooked to show far less money than the government actually spent. Now, we have an Administration that identifies every dime and their opponents want to fault him for that? It make no sense to me. Has anybody considered the possibility of coming under budget? I say get the money now, do the most good and do it responsibly.

The next few weeks are going to be ugly and the rhetoric will be intense. To be clear, I’m am not in favor of running up huge debts and believe in responsible spending. However, our country has been left in pretty bad shape and the costs to fix it are going to be huge. The priorities represented in the budget are exactly the priorities we need to focus on if we want to be strong and prosper. I would argue that this kind of spending is responsible spending.

In his Inaugural Address, President Obama said:

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage. What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply.

If you agree with me, then we need to put the word on the street and get the public behind this. It’s time to put an end to the false arguments of the past and start investing in tomorrow’s future. Let’s go to work.

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