News / USA

Budget Debate Continues to Define US Politics

President Barack Obama listens to House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, second from right, during a bipartisan meeting with House and Senate leadership in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, April 13, 2011
President Barack Obama listens to House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, second from right, during a bipartisan meeting with House and Senate leadership in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, April 13, 2011

In the United States, the political struggle over how to reduce mounting federal budget deficits and the national debt took a new turn on Wednesday as President Barack Obama offered his plan to trim trillions of dollars during the next several years.  Congressional Republicans have already offered a competing deficit reduction plan that is more focused on budget cuts, and it is expected that the debate over how to reduce the size of government will remain front and center well into next year's presidential election campaign.  

Under President Obama's approach, the national debt would be reduced through a combination of spending cuts, tax increases on the wealthy and a modest effort to reduce costs of the government-run health care program for the elderly known as Medicare.

"To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms," said President Obama.  "We will all need to make sacrifices.  But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in.  And as long as I'm president, we won't."

The Obama plan would cut $4 trillion from projected budget deficits during the next 12 years.

Congressional Republicans have drafted their own deficit reduction blueprint that would trim the national debt by more than $5 trillion during the next 10 years.  But there are major differences in how the plans would reduce the debt.

The Republican proposal focuses more on spending cuts and would seriously alter the Medicare program to make individuals more financially responsible for their health care expenses as they grow older.

Another major difference is on the issue of taxes.  President Obama would let Bush-era tax cuts for wealthy Americans expire, while Republicans say they will not agree to new tax increases.

"We can't tax the very people that we expect to reinvest in our economy and to create jobs.  Washington has a spending problem, not a revenue problem," said Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner.

Republicans, Democrats and President Obama managed to avert a government shutdown last week and came to an agreement on additional spending cuts for the 2011 federal budget that amount to $38.5 billion.

But the battle over the 2012 budget and beyond involves efforts to cut trillions of dollars from the national debt, which now totals more than $14 trillion.

Political experts say the vastly different approaches of the two major political parties to cutting the budget deficit will be on display in the months ahead and will continue to reflect a clash of worldviews on the role and scope of the central government.

John Fortier monitors U.S. politics at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.  He spoke on VOA's "Encounter" program.

"Republicans, especially the newly-elected Republicans [in Congress], wanting to show that smaller government and less spending is what they came to Washington to do," said Fortier.  "And for Democrats to say, 'Look, we believe in a fairer America with social programs that are necessary and these cuts have gone too far,' there are a lot of specifics in this, but in a way it is a big argument over what the big direction of America is."

The growing budget debate stems from last November's U.S. congressional midterm elections in which Republicans retook control of the House and made gains in the Senate, in large part because of voter concerns over government spending.

But translating those concerns into actual budget-cutting action can be difficult, says Reid Wilson, editor of the National Journal Hotline political newsletter, who spoke recently on the CSPAN public affairs television network.

"Everybody wants to cut spending," said Wilson.  "Everybody wants to cut the budget.  But if you name a specific program, they are almost entirely against cutting that specific thing - whether it is Medicaid [the health care program for the poor and disabled], whether it is Medicare, whether it is defense spending."

That will apply especially to the debate over changing the Medicare program.  Medicare is politically popular with older Americans who historically have resisted changes in benefits and who have demonstrated an eagerness to vote when they feel the program is under threat.

The domestic political battle over the budget is being closely watched abroad, says Brookings Institution political analyst William Galston.

"The United States plays a central role not just militarily and diplomatically, but economically," noted Galston.  "If we regain our balance economically, that is good news for the world economy."

A new USA Today/Gallup public opinion poll found that Americans oppose major changes to Medicare by a two to one margin.  The poll also found that most voters approve of the recent deal on the 2011 federal budget, but that they are divided over how to proceed with further cuts in the years ahead.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs