Notably missing from President Obama's proposed 2012 budget, released Monday, are cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. And while Republicans predictably criticized the proposed budget for its "unsustainable" level of spending, what they didn't offer were any useful suggestions for attacking the real source of deficits.
The fact remains that we're not raising enough taxes to cover spending for "sacred" programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and defense spending. But neither side is addressing this issue in a meaningful way.
President Obama's budget calls for trimming $1.1 trillion of spending over the next decade, yet that also happens to be the projected deficit for just one year -- 2012. Obama's own blue-ribbon deficit commission recommended cuts of $4 trillion, stating that progress on budget deficits can't be made without tackling the programs mentioned above.
President Obama's budget did slightly trim defense spending by $78 billion over the next decade, averaging well under $10 billion per year -- but this would hardly make a dent in the budget deficit. And his budget called for increasing Medicare payments to doctors, a band-aid that's sorely needed to keep doctors from abandoning Medicare patients.
But let's get back to the bigger picture: Why did both President Obama and the Republicans agree to tax cuts late last year when we're running record deficits? Both sides continue to be held hostage to the mistaken notion that we can continually tax cut our way to fiscal health.
Most people I know are willing to accept tax increases or cuts in their own entitlements -- including Medicare and Social Security. We're willing to do our part to help our country. In fact, I often hear people say, "I don't care too much about which taxes you increase or which programs you cut -- just fix the problem."
A vocal minority will complain that they "paid" for their Social Security and Medicare benefits, so it's unfair to reduce their benefits. While it's debatable that you "paid" for your benefits, that's really beside the point. Most people I talk with feel that spending is out of control and they're ready to support responsible leadership with a plan that shares the pain between tax increases and spending cuts.
President Obama's blue-ribbon deficit commission had the courage to tackle the real problems mentioned above. It had the courage to propose cuts to Medicare and Social Security. I'd like to see President Obama and Republicans re-reading this bi-partisan report and taking those suggestions to heart.
The most annoying thing to me -- and the people I talk with -- is that politicians from both parties seem to place a higher priority on getting elected in 2012 than on fixing our real budget deficit problems. They're acting like they are more loyal to their political parties than to our country. And that's a sad thing to say.
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