Excerpts from The Washington Post
By Robert J. Samuelson
November 20, 2011
“We haven’t had the robust democratic debate about the role of government that lies at the heart of America’s budget stalemate…
“Contrary to much press coverage, the committee’s Republicans opened the door to compromise by abandoning — as they should have — opposition to tax increases. Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania proposed a tax “reform” that would raise income taxes by $250 billion over a decade…
“Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin called Toomey’s proposal a ‘breakthrough’…
“As is known, these ‘entitlements’ are the central cause of long-term budget deficits. From 2005 to 2035, their cost will nearly double as a share of national income, projects the Congressional Budget Office. How big a government do we want? What’s the balance of fairness between young and old? How much should other programs be reduced or taxes raised? Many Democrats duck the fundamental policy questions and reject any benefit cuts.
“Only President Obama can start such a debate. He has the bully pulpit, but he hasn’t used it. Here’s an exchange between ABC White House correspondent Jake Tapper and the president, at a July 15 news conference, that captures Obama’s calculated obscurity...
“Noncommittal gibberish. There is no leadership from the nation’s ‘leader.’ Space precludes running all his rambling response; the excerpt above was about half. Tapper followed up.
“Tapper: ‘And the retirement age?’
“Obama: ‘I’m not going to get into specifics.’
“Well, there you have it. The president won’t talk specifics, but government consists of specifics. The reason we cannot have a large budget deal is that Americans haven’t been prepared for one. The president hasn’t educated them, and so they can’t support what they don’t understand. Left or right, there are no comfortable positions. No one relishes curbing Social Security or Medicare benefits. But without changes, taxes will go way up, the rest of government will shrink dramatically or huge deficits will persist.
“What we could have is a small budget deal. Deficits over the next decade could easily exceed $9 trillion; proposals by Republicans and Democrats might cut this by about $1.5 trillion. Toomey’s concession created a basis for a negotiation, if both sides wanted an agreement. Small successes today could rebuild trust, leading to larger successes tomorrow. Failure will further corrode the public’s already rock-bottom confidence in its political ‘leaders.’”
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Budget and Spending Entitlement Spending