Jobs first, deficit second

Tea Party budget cuts are too much at this time

Don’t try to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park anytime soon. Or get a passport. Or file a Social Security claim or obtain a Social Security card. Or apply for Medicare.

These are just some of the services that could disappear if the federal government shuts down, as seemed likely when the CN&R went to press. Congressional Democrats and Republicans have been unable to agree on the remainder of this year’s budget, with the Republicans wanting program cuts totaling $61 billion and the Democrats reluctantly willing to compromise at $33 billion.

The issue is jobs versus the deficit. At a time when the economy is showing signs of growth and the unemployment rate is dropping, it’s foolish to make cuts that would throw as many as 700,000 people out of work (according to a recent report by the financial advisory firm Moody’s) and shave 1.5 to 2 percentage points off economic growth during the second and third quarters of this year (according to Goldman Sachs).

But House Republicans, especially the crop of new Tea Party members, insist that cutting the deficit is paramount. They originally wanted to cut $100 billion, a number they picked out of the blue, but lately have settled at $61 billion, where they’re not budging.

The parties needed to reach an agreement by Tuesday (or very soon afterward) in order to get a bill through Congress before the government runs out of money on Friday. It didn’t happen, and President Obama has refused to accept another stopgap bill to extend the deadline for a week. Decrying House Republicans’ “my way or the highway” approach, the president said, quite accurately, that Democrats “have more than met the Republicans halfway at this point.”

We agree with those who say the deficit must be brought down. But right now the economy is still too fragile to absorb massive government spending cuts. What we need now are jobs, and the House Republicans, in their obsessive pursuit of unreasonable budget cuts, are making job creation more difficult.