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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states 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.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid