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Posts Tagged ‘Spending’

Entitlement reform key to U.S. future

February 27th, 2013

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This piece was originally published in Politico.

As the sequester blame game hits fever pitch this week, Republicans’ stance on taxes is simply indefensible, falling hundreds of billions short of even their own prior positions. But as Democrats, we also share a large portion of responsibility for the coming cuts to domestic discretionary spending, as the party has decided in both action and rhetoric that meaningful fixes to the major entitlement programs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are off-limits.

Think about it. Over the past three years, from debt ceiling deals to the supercommittee and the fiscal cliff, social insurance programs have escaped virtually unscathed while every other category of spending took some hit and revenue grew. And because of the sheer enormousness of the Big 3 entitlements, Democrats face a serious new crisis that is closer to home and will linger long past the sequester: There is now barely a farthing left in the budget for any new investments.

Over the past century, Democrats can boast two major economic legacies. The first is the safety net programs of the New Deal and the Great Society — successful programs that lifted the elderly and vulnerable out of poverty. The second is the New Frontier investment programs defined and expanded under President John F. Kennedy. These investments in science, space, defense, education, as well as highways, rails, ports and medical breakthroughs helped power the U.S. economy during the latter half of the 20th century.

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Post fiscal cliff: The fix is in

January 2nd, 2013

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We’ve been trying to deal with the national debt in this country for 30 years now. The fiscal cliff is just the latest failed gimmick. We’ve had more failed gimmicks than professional wrestling.

Failed? Yes, because the whole idea of the fiscal cliff was to force the federal government to put in place a long-term reduction of the national debt. And look what happened. Instead of reducing the national debt, the deal passed by Congress late Tuesday night will add $4 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

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Preserving security by curbing Pentagon spending

December 13th, 2012

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This piece was originally featured on The Hill.

Two widely respected Pentagon leaders have issued two sets of warnings about grave risks to our national security. The problem: both claims are dire but seem diametrically opposed. However, they can be reconciled if the President and congressional negotiators resolve the apparent tension in ways that both protect our national security and help to restore our economic strength.

The first warning comes from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who has said that the cuts to the Pentagon budget that would result from sequestration would be “devastating.” He warned that such cuts could “hollow out the force.”

The second is from Admiral Mike Mullen, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has repeatedly warned that “the greatest threat to our national security is our debt.” He started making that claim during his tenure in the Pentagon and has repeated it often since his retirement last year. His point is that the U.S. is running unsustainable ratios of debt-to-GDP, and our weakened economy has impacted our ability to influence and move global events. The Department of Defense, which consumes about half of all discretionary federal spending, must face some fairly large budget cuts. Read the rest of this entry »

Look to ’94 Crime Bill to Solve Budget Crisis

June 16th, 2011

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This piece was originally published in The Hill.

The FBI reported that crime took another dip last year. That came as a surprise, because conventional wisdom held that crime rates track the economy: fewer jobs, more crime.

But the decline in the crime rate is not a one year blip. In the last fifteen years, the number of murders in America declined by one-third, assaults by one-fourth, and car thefts by one-half.[i]

Is there a lesson here for the budget debate? Just as the budget is the dominant, intractable, insoluble problem today, so was crime in the 1990s. Just as a major deal on an anti-crime package seemed improbable then, a major deal on the budget seems a pipedream today.

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GOP acts out revenge fantasy

February 22nd, 2011

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This piece was originally published in Politico.

The orgy of budget cutting on the House floor last week was not about the deficit. It was about ideology.

The House Republican majority acted out a revenge fantasy against President Barack Obama and the Democrats in retaliation for what they see as the left-wing ideological aggression of the last two years. They are the counterrevolution.

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Now that we’re focused on debt, let’s make some difficult choices

September 28th, 2010

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This piece was originally published in The Hill.

It took America 193 years to run up its first trillion dollars of debt; it took us 10 months to run up our most recent.

For much of the 20th century, the United States was a production giant. We produced much of the world’s goods; we led in innovation; our service sector exploded; our middle class became the envy of the world and we became the most powerful economy on earth.  Slowly, however, we became a consumption giant. We now power the world’s economy as much by what we consume as what we make. We’ve become, in the words of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), “the kid with the cake mustache on his face.”

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