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

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track 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.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid