Across the budget divide

With Republicans in la-la land, President Obama’s proposal is best we’ll get

For whatever reason, “tea party” Republicans in the House are insisting on cutting $100 billion from the federal budget. It’s an arbitrary figure they seemingly plucked from the air, but they’re having trouble coming up with enough cuts to reach it. Right now they’re at $61 billion.

Their problem is that they’re unwilling or unprepared to do anything about the biggest expense areas, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare entitlements and defense. That leaves them cutting from programs that polls show most Americans support.

For example, they would end all funding for NPR, PBS and other public media; cut $1 billion from the highly successful Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) that provides supplemental nutrition to pregnant mothers, infants and young children; cut all funding for nuclear nonproliferation efforts; and even cut $578 million from the IRS enforcement budget, a penny-wise, pound-foolish move if ever there was one.

In contrast, President Obama’s proposed budget manages to cut spending by a projected $1.1 trillion over the next 10 years, thereby allaying fears of a runaway debt crisis, while also preserving important government services. It also trims the defense budget slightly, by $78 billion over five years, but there it doesn’t go far enough. It’s time to realize that the world has changed, the Cold War is over, and spending excessively on military force makes us less secure, not more.

Ultimately, reducing the deficit is going to require dealing with rising health-care costs, an aging population and insufficient revenues. As long as Republicans are unwilling to work with the president on these issues, his budget is about as good as we’ll get.