News / USA

Ideological Rift Drives US Budget Standoff

Congressmen walk down the steps of the House of Representatives as they work throughout the night on a spending bill, on Capitol Hill in Washington (File Photo)
Congressmen walk down the steps of the House of Representatives as they work throughout the night on a spending bill, on Capitol Hill in Washington (File Photo)

Freshman Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas belongs to the Tea Party movement, which professes an almost single-minded determination to scale back the size, scope and cost of the federal government. Last week, Moran gave his first speech on the Senate floor.

Tea Party and budget

Senate Banking Committee member Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas takes part in the committee's hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 15, 2011
Senate Banking Committee member Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas takes part in the committee's hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 15, 2011

"Our government borrows 40 cents of every dollar it spends, and half our national debt is held by foreigners - many who do not share our interests," he said. "Common sense tells us this pattern cannot continue.  Some will say we need to raise taxes to get us out of this mess. But the reality is: we do not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. Experience shows us that money raised by Washington results in more spending in Washington. It is time for our government to change direction and change dramatically."

Democrats reject budget cuts

At the other end of the ideological spectrum is Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who rejects budget cuts in social welfare programs and education.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 10, 2011
Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 10, 2011

"We do have to address the deficit crisis. But we have to address it in a way that is fair and responsible," said Sanders. "The real tax rate for the richest people in this country is the lowest on record. So I ask my Republican friends: why do you want to balance the budget on the backs of low-income children, low-income senior citizens, those that are sick, those that are vulnerable without asking the wealthiest people in this country, who have never had it so good, to put one penny, one penny into deficit reduction?"

Fundamental division

The budget standoff is exposing a fundamental philosophical divide in America, a direct conflict of bedrock beliefs, according to analyst Matthew Dallek of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

"The budget debate has taken the core ideological divisions between the parties and very much brought them to the surface," said Dallek.

Left-of-center Democrats see the federal government as a necessary promoter of economic progress and the common good.  Right-leaning Republicans see the government as a burdensome impediment to private enterprise.  Many legislators sought office for the express purpose of advancing their particular vision of government.  Dallek says sacrificing that vision in budget negotiations is no easy task.

"It is hard to imagine Democrats signing on to any comprehensive budget agreement that does not include some kind of tax increase," added Dallek. "It is also hard for Republicans, given the intensity of their anti-government, anti-tax rhetoric, to imagine them signing on to a deal with significant tax increases."

What do people want?

Complicating matters is the fact that no one likes to see their taxes raised or their government services cut, according to analyst John Fortier of the American Enterprise Institute.

"All of this is some sort of bad medicine," he said. "Higher taxes or lower spending is not something people would favor in the abstract. They would like to have their cake and eat it, too [enjoy benefits without cost]."

Recognizing that neither political party wants to be seen as losing the budget debate, and that neither spending cuts nor tax increases alone will solve America’s mammoth fiscal woes, some are suggesting a combination of both remedies. Former Senator Pete Domenici is a co-chair of a bipartisan budget commission that issued a sweeping reform plan last year. Domenici testified on Capitol Hill this week.

Former New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici makes a statement during the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future meeting on radioactive waste storage, in Washington (File Photo)
Former New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici makes a statement during the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future meeting on radioactive waste storage, in Washington (File Photo)
"Neither revenue increases nor spending cuts alone could extricate us from this [deficit crisis]. Everything must be on the table," he said. "We witnessed in our task force that members were reluctant to agree to policies that they dislike unless they saw those on the other side contributing and making sacrifices in other areas."

Dispute over taxes

But Democrats are refusing to consider deep cuts in domestic spending and Republicans dismiss all talk of raising taxes on any segment of the population. With both sides clinging to hardened ideological positions, negotiations have yet to yield a budget for the remainder of the current fiscal year, much less next year or into the future.

Analyst John Fortier sees the budget debate as a test of America’s democratic process, and its ability to respond to a grave and looming threat.

"It is a test, and the test is difficult because, yes, today the [deficit] numbers are bad, and we can see that we are in a different place fiscally than we ever have been," said Fortier."But it is the future that we are looking at that really is bleak. The commitments we have made 25-30 years down the line are very significant. We do not have the match between what we plan to spend and what we are going to raise [in revenues]."

Budget negotiations have focused on domestic non-security spending, which accounts for less than 15-percent of the federal outlays. Left untouched is the U.S. defense budget - the world’s largest - and programs that provide income and health care to retirees. Without reform, so-called entitlement programs are projected to add trillions of dollars to America’s national debt in coming decades, wiping out any savings in other parts of the budget or additional revenues that might be collected if and when a budget deal is reached.

You May Like

British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign Jihadists More

Audio Hit Song Delivers Ebola Message in Liberia

'Ebola in Town' has danceable beat, while also delivering serious message about avoiding infection More

Video New Technology Gives Surgeons Unprecedented Views of Patients’ Bodies

Technology offers real-time, interactive, medical visualization and is multi-dimensional 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid