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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs