My View: Lawmakers sticking it to our children
March 26, 2013
Ah, such pious caring for our children and yet how many ways our lawmakers plan to stick it to them. Regardless of who prevails, it is inevitable our kids will feel some pain. Differing budgets passed by the Republican-dominated House and the Democratic-tilted Senate last week make that clear.
The GOP’s approach as outlined in their budget makes it more difficult for many to succeed personally in the future, while it blocks any proposals to check the rising cost of health care, the main driver of future debt.
The Democrats, too, stick it to our children, though it can be argued it is a kinder, gentler approach that may not reduce the debt as much but it at least gives the next generations a fighting chance to improve their personal lots.
The GOP’s single-minded goal is to make sure those who follow us are not impoverished by a federal government’s debt load. Around that one argument they have rationalized a resolution to continue the recent across-the-board sequester budget cuts and included them in their budget. They propose to continue cuts of 8 percent from funding of what future generations will need to succeed: education, infrastructure, and research, and food and nutrition programs for the poor. The House’s budget also protects the rich and corporate powerful from any higher taxes or cutting loopholes. Their budget was quickly voted down in the Senate.
Any possible reconciliation between the two or the role the White House plans to play will be known soon.
It is not that debt reduction is an unworthy goal. The hang-ups are timing, how much is necessary, and how it is done. Republican believe we should act as if it is a wolf at our doorsteps today to save the generations following them from being stuck with a choking debt. So, is the wolf of debt really at our doorstep? Not now, but it could be by 2030. Both liberal economists and more conservative ones agree on that, but how damaging it would be to economic growth is debatable.
However, if events, natural or concocted, slow our growth, that projection could change for the worse. Both the Congressional Budget Office and the Simpson-Bowles Debt Commission warned against cutting spending while the economy is still recovering from the Great Recession because it would slow growth and increase unemployment. The GOP is doing just what the experts warned against, setting it in stone just when it could be harmful.
How and how much are bones of contention. Democrats promote investments in education and infrastructure and the preservation of entitlements as we know them. They still resist changing the formula for Social Security raises ,though. For them, reducing the deficit less than the GOP proposes and increasing revenues at the expense of the wealthy would fund their agenda.
The Senate Democrat’s budget version is also not realistic because Medicare costs are the driver of increasing debt, squeezing out spending on education, infrastructure, and research and development. To reduce Medicare costs, the GOP House approved a plan for future seniors to buy vouchers so they can purchase more expensive private insurance on their own with no guarantee the vouchers will keep pace with the cost of care.
The Democrat budget keeps Obamacare because it is the only proposal on the table that significantly tackles the cost of health care itself. Medicare will need more than general health care systemic savings. Restricting benefits per income level are still on the table.
At least Obamacare reduces use of expensive emergency rooms, provides preventative care for all, pays providers per outcome instead of per procedure, and streamlines records to reduce unnecessary tests. The GOP budget would repeal Obamacare and let health care costs for our kids continue to soar unchecked.