Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009

From the President’s Speech on the Budget

But that starts by being honest about what’s causing our deficit. You see, most Americans tend to dislike government spending in the abstract, but they like the stuff it buys. Most of us, regardless of party affiliation, believe that we should have a strong military and a strong defense. Most Americans believe we should invest in education and medical research. Most Americans think we should protect commitments like Social Security and Medicare. And without even looking at a poll, my finely honed political skills tell me that almost no one believes they should be paying higher taxes.

Because all this spending is popular with both Republicans and Democrats alike, and because nobody wants to pay higher taxes, politicians are often eager to feed the impression that solving the problem is just a matter of eliminating waste and abuse –that tackling the deficit issue won’t require tough choices. Or they suggest that we can somehow close our entire deficit by eliminating things like foreign aid, even though foreign aid makes up about 1% of our entire budget.

So here’s the truth. Around two-thirds of our budget is spent on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and national security. Programs like unemployment insurance, student loans, veterans’ benefits, and tax credits for working families take up another 20%. What’s left, after interest on the debt, is just 12 percent for everything else. That’s 12 percent for all of our other national priorities like education and clean energy; medical research and transportation; food safety and keeping our air and water clean.

Up until now, the cuts proposed by a lot of folks in Washington have focused almost exclusively on that 12%. But cuts to that 12% alone won’t solve the problem. So any serious plan to tackle our deficit will require us to put everything on the table, and take on excess spending wherever it exists in the budget. A serious plan doesn’t require us to balance our budget overnight – in fact, economists think that with the economy just starting to grow again, we will need a phased-in approach – but it does require tough decisions and support from leaders in both parties. And above all, it will require us to choose a vision of the America we want to see five and ten and twenty years down the road. (text taken from here)

Bolding is mine – and I think it’s an important point.  It’s always fine if someone else has to bear the brunt of the pain (like unionized public employees in Wisconsin), but as people here in Wisconsin are discovering…it’s never just about the “other” and the solutions will not be easy to come by.  Well, unless of course you’re Paul Ryan, but even that requires some sort of fairy to come along and make it all happen the way he dreams it will.

For the record, Mr. President, I disagree on the national defense part.  It’s not that I think we don’t need a national defense.  On the contrary, it’s just that when we spend something like 43% of the world’s defense spending there are ample room for cuts.  Of course, we probably also disagree on what national security looks like, but that’s another discussion for another day.

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