Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011 | 2:06 a.m.
The plan President Barack Obama released Monday takes a reasonable approach toward the nation’s budget, making significant cuts aimed at reducing the federal deficit. The White House says the plan would cut more than $1 trillion from the federal deficit over the next decade.
But Obama’s budget isn’t just about cuts. It also includes plans to spur federal spending on education, technology and infrastructure, all areas that will help the nation economically now and into the future. Investments in all those areas, particularly education, will help the nation compete in the world economy.
His plan garnered a knee-jerk reaction from Republicans in Congress who said it didn’t cut enough. Obama said the budget was just a “down payment” on future deficit reduction efforts. His proposal wisely tries a balanced approach, which will help the nation. In a news conference Tuesday, Obama said he was looking toward the future.
“My job is to make sure that we’re focused over the long term: Where is it that we need to go?” Obama said. “And the most important thing I can do as president is make sure that we’re living within our means, getting a budget that is sustainable, investing in the future and growing the economy.”
Obama once again emphasized that reducing the deficit is vital, referring to the work of a blue-ribbon commission that issued its report last year. He noted that although he didn’t agree with all of the commission’s recommendations, he said it “changed the conversation” by providing a framework of ideas.
“My hope is that what’s different this time is we have an adult conversation where everybody says, ‘Here’s what’s important and here’s how we’re going to pay for it,’ ” he said.
For the country to move ahead, there will need to be serious discussions about reforming entitlement programs, as well as other government services, and that will mean tough decisions. Social Security and government health care programs, such as Medicare, account for more than 40 percent of federal spending. Defense spending and veterans’ benefits make up more than 20 percent of the budget.
Are Republicans ready to have an adult conversation on those topics? It doesn’t appear so, judging from a plan House Republicans released Friday. Their proposal for the current fiscal year, which ends in September, would make draconian cuts to many important government programs, particularly services for the nation’s poor and vulnerable.
Pushed by the Tea Party, House Republicans have taken a hard-line approach and appear intent on using the economic downturn as a way to carry out their ideological views. But if they really were serious about fiscal responsibility, they would have opposed extending the Bush-era tax cuts last year to the wealthiest of Americans instead of making them the linchpin to a budget deal.
It’s time for Republicans to get real. People need help, and they should be working with the president for the good of all Americans. Of course there will be disagreements, but there are certainly sensible ways to rein in spending and cut the deficit, as the president has demonstrated.