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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid