Why Are We Only Talking about Spending Cuts?

With Congress poised to send President Obama another continuing resolution (CR) temporarily keeping the federal government open, Senate Democrats, in conjunction with the administration, have just three weeks to negotiate with House Republicans over a funding bill for the rest of fiscal year (FY) 2011. The negotiations will concentrate on spending cuts made by the Republican House, but they shouldn't.

All the GOP cares about is jobs, jobs, jobs!

Fiscal responsibility is more than just cutting spending; it's making tough choices to allocate scarce resources, and those choices don't happen in a vacuum. Chuck Marr over the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) makes this case well, putting House Republican's shortsighted and inarticulate spending cuts into stark context:

In December, congressional Republicans demanded that Congress enact a two-year extension of President Bush’s tax cuts for people making over $250,000 – which will cost about the same amount as their proposed cuts to non-security discretionary spending for this year – as part of the year-end tax and unemployment insurance agreement.

Right. So once Congress agreed to shortchange federal coffers to benefit the wealthy, House Republicans, in the name of "fiscal responsibility," came back demanding severe cuts to government programs that help vulnerable Americans because we're broke.

So why aren't we talking about more than just spending cuts? Last week, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) raised just such a concern, arguing that congressional leaders need to expand their negotiations over deficit-reduction to include more than just the one-eighth of the budget that non-security discretionary spending represents.

Bring up the issue of taxes, though, and conservatives quickly balk, pointing to the results of the midterm elections, and claiming the wave of freshmen Republicans were sent to Washington to cut spending, not to raise taxes. The problem is, they're wrong.

Stan Collender of Capital Gains and Games notes a key aspect of several recent polls on the public's attitude toward budget cuts and tax increases:

[T]he mantra we’re hearing that revenue increases are unacceptable is completely contradicted by the 59 percent of respondents who supported repealing a cornerstone of the tax deal put in place in December — an extension of tax cuts for households earning more than $250,000 per year.

Collender also points out that the public overwhelmingly supports many of the programs House Republicans have targeted with their cuts.

Congress needs to expand its FY 2011 budget debate, because, as Marr highlights, giving $130,000 per year to a hedge fund manager while taking away college and secondary after-school funding from low- and middle-income families is the least responsible use of our tax dollars.

Image by Flickr user SpeakerBoehner used under a Creative Commons license.

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