Stephanie's Political Arena

Critiques and Perspectives on National Politics and More

A Budget Balancing Act

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Having fully recovered from those “Super Bowl-sized” hangovers (way to go Packers!) and the additional nausea stemming from a horrible half-time show, tax-paying Americans are now gearing up for another fun-filled tax season… while Uncle Sam continues to struggle with paying the bills… as well as most of those same tax-paying Americans…  It’s actually possible that nausea just returned…

As the economy remains relatively weak with limited growth potential under the current debt burdens, President Obama introduced his 2012 Budget this week.  “Built around the simple idea that we have to live within our means so we can invest in the future,” the document calls for more than $1 trillion in deficit reduction intended to shrink the current deficit down to 3 percent of the economy by the middle of the decade.  It also includes a five-year, non-security spending freeze intended to reduce the deficit by another $400 billion and seeks to cut $78 billion from the Pentagon’s budget, among many more proposed measures, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

For the moment, I’m going to let the family military blood boil through in expressing how insane it would be to propose such a large cut, or any kind of cut for that matter, in defense spending – especially given the events taking place in nations such as Egypt and the potential domino effect on other regions around the world.  It had been argued that if things grew completely out of control in Egypt, the U.S. would be limited in offering additional support given how “over-stretched” our military is already with ongoing missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Yet, severe cuts are proposed for this critical portion of the federal budget.  We also cannot forget about the ongoing threat posed by “leaders” such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong Il for which our military must be prepared to confront.  There’s no question that “times are tough” economically and fiscally for the U.S., but they also remain uncertain and even volatile on the international stage.  In this kind of environment, we cannot afford any weaknesses within our national security.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) created a user-friendly multimedia chart to help better understand the make-up of the federal budget.  As noted within the OMB chart, the federally-funded health care programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, children’s health insurance, and health research account for 22.62 percent of the budget, followed closely by Social Security at 20.04 percent of the budget.  Rounding out the top three spending priorities is National Defense, which is 19.27 percent of the budget. 

Additional details into the blueprint of the President’s budget are provided by OMB within an overview summary that places particular emphasis on education and innovation; and limited information on how to reform the largest portion of the budget: entitlement spending in the form of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Having worked in the public sector for several years, one of the biggest issues that always arises with the latter two programs is the cost-shifting.  Because of the low reimbursements provided to physicians for their services, hospitals are forced to shift the outstanding balances owed by patients on Medicare and Medicaid to patients who are not enrolled in these programs; thus, increasing the cost of their healthcare.

Not only for the sake of addressing healthcare costs, but for the sake of restoring our nation’s fiscal health, Congressman Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, told Mike Allen of Politico, “The drivers of our debt are the entitlement programs… and the sooner we act to reform and save these programs, the better off everybody’s going to be.”  He went on to criticize President Obama’s budget in stating that it “accelerates our debt crisis” and will ultimately lead to “European-style kinds of rescue operations [including] painful cuts to seniors and tax increases,” alluding to the financial dilemmas that have plagued countries such as Ireland and Greece over the past year.  Congressman Ryan indicated the Budget Committee will produce an alternative to President Obama’s budget sometime in April.

In the meantime, the Congressional Budget Office has a number of related documents summarizing the economic forecast beyond the 2012 federal budget.  This includes a budget table consisting of projected deficits and surpluses through 2021 based on the current 2012 budget draft introduced by President Obama, which has the U.S. heading toward a $7 trillion deficit by 2021…

Graphic from aneconomyofmeaning.wordpress.com

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