Cutting the fat and the bone

I’ve been infuriated by the “progress” made by the Congressional Super Committee as of late. As everyone who listens to any form of news has heard, the November 23 deadline is quickly approaching to cut 1.2 trillion dollars (that’s “trillion” with a “t”) from the spending budget over the next 10 years.  If this 12-member committee fails to reach an agreement, then the debt-ceiling-raising-agreed-upon sequestration will occur which will automatically cut $600 billion from defense spending and $600 billion from domestic spending over 10 years.

It looks like they are going to fail.

So, what do the Republicans start to do? Why, talk about re-writing the split so that there are no cut s to defense, of course!

Here’s the thing, no one wants to see defense budgets cut on either side of the aisle, but there’s a pretty decent majority of Americans who don’t want to see those domestic programs cut either.  On the defense side, we’re looking at having to cancel next generation bombers, the new littoral class submarines, European missle defense shield and one leg of the nuclear defense triad.  Domestic cuts would see programs in public health, disease prevention, renewable energy and the environment slashed beyond feasibility.

These cuts have been called draconian, terrible and destructive.  Know why?  Because they are!  They are supposed to be!  That was the stick to try and get the mule to come to an agreement with the elephant.  That’s what Republicans demanded in exchange for raising the debt ceiling last summer.  You can’t go back and say that you want to re-engineer the cuts because you’re no longer happy with the split that you called for.

The core of the issue is a fundamental difference in how the two parties see the US getting out of the current recession (which will surely be called a depression by future historians).  Democrats believe that government spending to create new jobs as well as increasing taxes on segments of the population (read: rich people through closing tax loop holes and higher rates on things like capital gains) will get the gears of progress oiled up and running.  This will lead to short term deficits that will be paid for by said increased revenues as well as the larger tax base that is generated later on as the economy progresses.  The Republicans, on the other hand, believe that it can all be done through spending cuts.  They will not even consider tax increases in any form, be it the closing of high-income loopholes, corporate tax breaks, or raising rates on items like capital gains, despite the fact that closing high-income tax code loopholes alone would generate $1.2 trillion. WAIT! Does that number sound familiar?  They won’t do this, however, because Grover Norquist has nearly every Republican by the short and curlies due to their having signed his pledge NEVER to raise taxes in any form.  Should a Republican violate this pledge, they will almost certainly not win re-election as the Americans for Tax Reform will come down on them full force.

Although Republicans like to believe that cutting taxes for the rich leads to job growth, the trickle down effect has never really been validated in the real-world.  You can check the poster-child of Trickle Down Economics, Ronald Regan, and his record: tax increases 11 times in 8 years.  Regan saw that cutting taxes and spending can go too far.  At some point, you have to pay the bills.  You can only cut so much.  Rolling Stone is far more thorough than I can be.

I’ve thought to liken our current economic problem to this metaphor. Let’s say that you’re morbidly obese; something I’m sure most of my readers won’t have to imagine.  Your doctor says, “You have to lose weight immediately or you’re going to die.”  You go on a crash diet; water, lettuce, tomatoes and kidney beans. You stop going out with friends because of the temptation to indulge. You come home directly after work because going out means that you might miss your scheduled salad time. Things are starting to turn around.  Then your doctor asks, “Have you considered exercising as well?  Not only will it help you burn calories, but it will also strengthen your muscles, give you more energy and allow you to eat more of the things that you enjoy.”  “No,” you reply, “I think I’ll just keep cutting the calories.”

Can you get to a healthy weight by cutting out everything you enjoy alone? Sure, but who wants to live that way?

Can we get to a balanced budget by continuing to slash spending? Sure, but what kind of country will we be when we’re done?


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