News / USA

Budget Battle Engulfs Washington

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, center, talks with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., left, and the committee's ranking Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, center, talks with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., left, and the committee's ranking Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011.
Michael Bowman

While some U.S. legislators seek to slash this year's federal spending amid a $1.6 trillion deficit, a fierce battle over future expenditures has only just begun. That battle has yet to address programs that provide income and health care to retirees - the costs of which will soar in coming decades.

Meanwhile, a new study shows Americans eager to see the nation's finances improve, but resistant to cuts in government services or higher taxes to accomplish that goal.

The budget battle engulfing Washington can be thought of in three parts: current domestic non-security spending, future domestic non-security spending, and so-called entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. Although legislators of both parties and the White House are positioning themselves in all three arenas, it is current spending that is grabbing today’s headlines.

Republicans want to drastically slash what the federal government spends this year. Democrats and the White House do not. With the government’s authorization to spend set to expire in coming days, the very real possibility of a federal shut-down looms unless a deal can be struck.

At the same time, lawmakers are tasked with mapping out next year’s funding. President Barack Obama began the discussion this week by submitting his 2012 budget to Congress that proposes a five-year spending freeze and limiting or ending tax breaks for the wealthy and major corporations.

Republicans, like Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, were not impressed. "Over the last couple of years, the president and Congress have been spending like drunken sailors. Spending as a percentage of our economy is at levels we have not seen since World War II," he said.

Tempers flared when the president’s budget director, Jacob Lew, testified on Capitol Hill this week. Republican Representative Tom Price accused Lew and the administration of avoiding an open and honest discussion about the nation’s fiscal imbalances.

Price: "When does that discussion begin?"
Lew: "Congressman, if you look at what was going on ..."
Price: "Mr. Director, when does that discussion begin?"
Lew: "I am happy to answer that question if you give me a moment."
Price: "You are not answering the question. You haven’t answered ..."
Lew: "The president put down a budget that we think takes the first and very important step of showing how we get to a sustainable deficit by the middle of the decade."

The president’s call for a spending freeze does not go far enough for Republicans, but goes too far for many progressive Democrats. Oregon Congressman Peter Defazio says spending restraint alone will not balance the budget. "You can’t get there simply by cutting. So let’s get real," he said.

Domestic non-security, non-entitlement spending accounts for less than 15 percent of federal expenditures. Members of both parties, as well as the Obama administration, agree that America’s long term fiscal health will continue to be imperiled until revenue shortfalls for programs like Medicare are corrected.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said, "Over time, you are going to see our commitments on entitlements start to eat away a much more dramatic share of GDP [U.S. gross domestic product] over time, and that is untenable, unsustainable."

But Republicans are slamming the president for failing to include entitlement reform proposals in his budget. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Mr. Obama of ignoring the advice of his own deficit commission, which recommended an overhaul of federal spending commitments to the aged and disadvantaged. "We are still waiting for the president to lead. One thing I can tell you: there will be no entitlement reform without presidential leadership," he said.

Administration officials say entitlement reform proposals will be forthcoming, once revenue shortfalls in other parts of the budget are addressed. Meanwhile, Democrats accuse Republicans of fiscal hypocrisy, noting that America had a budget surplus under a previous Democratic president - Bill Clinton - that was turned into a deficit under his Republican successor, George W. Bush.

U.S. politicians are responding to a mixed and contradictory message from the American people, according to Michael Dimock of the Pew Research Center, which issued a study this week on public attitudes towards government spending and debt.

"Cutting domestic spending gets a lot of support these days in the abstract. But when you get down to the individual line items [in the budget], people recognize the benefits of those programs, and often tend to prefer increased spending in a lot of these areas over decreased spending," he said.

Polling conducted by the Pew Research Center suggests Americans want to see shared sacrifice when it comes to budget cuts, and a mixed approach overall to close the budget gap. "The vast majority of Americans say it is going to take a combination of both tax increases and spending cuts to really address the deficit, and that crossed party lines," he said.

An appetite for a mixed approach would seem to favor President Obama’s budget plan. Yet the American people just elected a Republican-led House of Representatives, and boosted Republican numbers in the Senate. The vast majority of new Republicans made campaign promises to drastically cut federal spending and steadfastly oppose any tax hikes. So far, they are holding firm on those pledges.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs