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Senator Johanns Weekly Column - The President's Overdue, Underwhelming Budget

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Long gone are the days when citizens worked the land to pay their share to the crown before being allowed to keep anything for themselves. I think we can all agree it's a good thing those days are behind us. But even though Tax Day is in the books, we are still paying the government to cover this year's tax burden.

While April 15 is the national tax payment deadline, April 18 marks Tax Freedom Day, the point at which the total earnings of all Americans since the beginning of the year surpasses the total tax bill for the year. In theory, that's the day when you can start keeping the money you've worked hard to earn. This date only accounts for the government's tax revenue, which has been less than its expenditures in recent years. If you calculate the amount it would take to pay off the year's expected deficit, you'd be paying the government until May 9.

In the budget proposal submitted to Congress by President Obama last week--two months after the legal deadline and after both chambers of Congress already passed their respective spending plans--President Obama is asking for another $ 1.1 trillion in new taxes to go along with the $1.7 trillion he has signed into law since taking office. What's more unfathomable: despite these tax increases, the President's spending plan will never balance. It calls for government spending to exceed tax revenue in perpetuity at a time when our country clearly has a spending problem. To illustrate this spending binge, 2008 government spending was $3 trillion and the national debt at the beginning of that year was $8.9 trillion--still unacceptably high. However, under the President's plan, the government is projected to spend $5.66 trillion annually and the national debt will balloon to $25.4 trillion.

Americans deserve greater accountability of their hard-earned tax dollars--especially if the government is asking for an even bigger allowance. Forcing folks to fork over more money to help pay for the government's reckless spending habit is unacceptable if not insulting.

Despite the President's refusal to admit we have a spending problem, I do want to acknowledge his admission that important programs like Social Security and Medicare are in trouble and must be strengthened. To his credit, he has proposed adjusting the formula used to calculate Social Security and Medicare cost of living adjustments to more accurately reflect inflation rates. But this is only part of the equation. If the President really wants to stimulate the economy, he should reverse his record of increased spending and taxes. More money in the pockets of hard-working Americans means more money exchanging hands on Main Street. He should commit to meaningfully reducing the deficit and forging a path to a balanced budget.

My hope is that the President's recognition of the unsustainable path of our entitlements is only the first step--one that will be followed by additional meaningful proposals and real leadership. There are willing partners eager to get our country back on course if the President chooses to step up to the plate.


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