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Blog: SITREP - April 14th 2013

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Well, although it may be two months after the legal deadline, President Obama has finally submitted his official budget request to Congress. The full document is hundreds of pages, which I'm still working through, but I did want to share a few of the highlights that I know people have been wondering about. First, if followed, the President's budget plan will never result in a balanced budget. If that's important to you, and it certainly is to me, then the President's plan fails the seriousness test in a pretty material way. Second, the President calls for $380 billion in immediate cuts to Medicare and $130 billion in cuts to Social Security COLAs. While some analysts have suggested that President is proposing these things as some sort of olive branch to Republicans, there is something significant that they are missing. As I have said here before, and as I've testified before the Budget Committee, it is critical to me that there be no changes to either Social Security or Medicare that would affect individuals who are 55 and up. The House Budget Proposal met that test. The President's does not. The Trustees of Medicare and Social Security say that the trust funds will run out in eleven years for Medicare and about twenty years for Social Security. In other words, it is possible to prevent both programs from going bust without altering promised benefits for anybody currently on the program or within a decade of retiring. To me, that's pretty important, and if it's possible, then every attempt should be made to live up to that goal. If that's important to you, then the President's budget proposal fails another significant test. The President is also calling for more taxes -- significantly more. Despite violating his middle class tax pledge by raising hundreds of billions in taxes on all Americans through his healthcare law, and then getting hundreds of billions more in tax increases on the wealthy at the end of last year, the President wants more -- another $700 billion at least. I understand that Republicans and Democrats view the wisdom of tax increases differently. But in my opinion, if you're proposing to raise taxes in total by more than a trillion dollars and you still can't figure out a way to balance the budget, then perhaps -- maybe, just maybe -- you might have a spending problem. At least that's how this retired sheriff sees it. I don't expect, as a Republican dealing with a liberal President, that I am going to agree with all (or even most) of his fiscal proposals. But I think what is so discouraging to me is that the President doesn't seem have any kind of commitment to putting forward a serious proposal. A budget that raises taxes, cuts current Social Security, Medicare, and military health benefits and then proposes to spend that money on new stimulus projects and new federal programs so that we never, ever reach a balanced budget is not something I can take seriously. It's unfortunate, but it's the truth. The House-passed proposal manages to balance the budget in ten years without raising more taxes and without taking away Social Security and Medicare benefits from people who are currently in those programs (or within a decade of being enrolled). The difference, of course, is spending. The President has gotten the tax increases he asked for as part of his so-called "balanced approach". But because he's not serious about cutting back on government spending, the reality is that he can't reach a "balanced approach". It's just more tax increases to pay for more spending and as a result, we keep borrowing our way into oblivion. All told, his proposal would cause our current $16 trillion national debt to grow by nearly 50% over the coming decade. That is what the leader of this country proposes we do. In my mind, it's hardly worth trying to talk to this man any more about how to put this country on a sustainable path, because he clearly thinks the path we're already on is sustainable. I don't know how else to explain why he would propose doubling down on it. In any case, as always, I'm interested in hearing your views about all of this. Is balancing the budget something that you think is important? Or are we ok borrowing like we are?


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