Monday, January 24, 2011

Spinning the State of the Union Speech and Reality


From a NYTimes.com article about Dem and GOP spins on the not yet given State of the Union speech:

“The public itself seems split, or perhaps confused. Americans overwhelmingly say that in general, they prefer cutting government spending to paying higher taxes, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll published last week. Yet their preference for spending cuts, even in programs that benefit them, dissolves when they are presented with specific options related to Medicare and Social Security, the programs that directly touch millions of lives and are the biggest drivers of the long-term deficit.

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“’To borrow an analogy, cutting the deficit by cutting investments in areas like education, areas like innovation — that’s like trying to reduce the weight of an overloaded aircraft by removing its engine,’ Mr. Obama said …’It’s not a good idea.’

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“Republicans are themselves divided over how much of the budget they can realistically slash. The leadership has already acknowledged that it would be difficult if not impossible to fulfill the $100 billion campaign pledge, and instead has suggested that cuts prorated for the balance of the fiscal year would be more realistic. Tea Party conservatives are pushing the leaders to stick to the $100 billion target. Now the leaders face the task of uniting the rank-and-file around challenging the president.”

Both sides are poised to do the same thing - not much - while blaming the other side.

Obama and the Dems will preach the need to  “invest,” or put it more clearly, continue spending money on things that make their constituents happy.   The GOP will hammer on the need for huge cuts in spending and then not make them, hoping the Tea Party won’t notice and that its corporate constituency will notice that it is business as usual.

The reality of where we find ourselves is that the federal government spent 1.3 trillion dollars more than it took in last year.  The coming fiscal year without cuts will burn about the same amount of borrowed money no matter which side prevails with its rhetoric.

Both sides are looking to borrow maybe $50 to $100 billion less than last year, still spending some 1.2 trillion dollars that the country doesn’t have.  It’s just a matter of who gets the borrowed money at the margin.

4 comments:

Thomas said...

I think the Republicans have written off the "tea party" for the same reason Obama has written off the progressives: where else are they going to go?

As for cutting the budget: most congressmen first and foremost want to be reelected, and the way to win elections is to bring lots of pork home to their districts. Maybe what they need to do is change the way projects are funded; for example, let the Navy decide for themselves what new ships they need, and let them choose the most cost-effective place to build them.

The Curmudgeon said...

If I were the Tea Party PR flack, I'd get a camera. I'd take a picture of the Dirksen Building in downtown Chicago. My caption would be that I know pretty much what goes on in here -- the Seventh Circuit and the District Court for the Northern District both sit here. But my next slide would be of the Kluczynski Building across the street (that's the one with the Calder stabile in the courtyard). But what goes on in here? The next slide would be of the Metcalfe Building at 77 W. Jackson. What goes on in here? The Federal Reserve has it's own building in Chicago at 230 S. LaSalle; I'd show that slide next. (Wikipedia says there's a check processing facility in Chicago as well, near Midway Airport.) Also, in addition to offices in malls near you, the Social Security Administration has it's own giant office building in Chicago, the Harold Washington Social Security Administration Building at 600 W. Madison. That's where you'll find the famous "Batcolumn" sculpture. That'd be my next slide.

When talking about the federal budget, everyone goes right to Social Security and Medicare -- and these are two big line items, surely.

But who's in all these buildings? What are they doing? Is everything that all these people are doing really necessary?

Yes, you can't run deficits forever. And you have to have taxes to pay for government services. But nobody wants to waste money. Until you have a handle on what everybody's doing, though, how can you be sure that you're not wasting money?

It's just like when people talk about cutting local government, everyone immediately starts talking about cuts to police, fire and garbage collection. Like Medicare and Social Security in the federal system, these are the most visible programs in local government.

But these too are not the only programs.

The Curmudgeon said...

P.S. -- Dave, I don't think you'll have to read tomorrow's post... I think the preceding comment may well be the core of tomorrow's post....

Dave said...

Curmudgeon, I was thinking just that as I read your comment. Through in your thoughts on how all this local impact of federal spending skews "who's ox is being gored" thinking.