It is more than a bit distressing that I feel the need to communicate on this topic barely two months into the 112th Congress, but it would seem that Congress is not yet terribly serious about deficit reduction. One would think the message sent in November couldn’t have been more clear, but it would appear it has either already been forgotten, or has somehow become garbled since the election.
I fully understand that the Republicans only hold a majority in the House and as such getting budget cuts through the Senate and the Oval Office represent a significant challenge. In my opinion, President Obama has shown zero leadership in this regard, with his proposed $6.5 billion in cuts against a seriously inflated baseline. It would appear that once again he has abdicated his leadership role to the House.
However, now that the Republican party is in control of the House there is an opportunity to demonstrate that you are serious about reducing spending and the deficit, about reducing the size and intrusiveness of the Federal government. This was a major part of the Republican platform in 2010 and was a major reason for the historic turnover in the House of Representatives, in many cases with freshman members intent on executing on that platform. Yet now I find that execution to be sorely lacking, not because those freshmen have lost interest or become less vocal, but because House leadership apparently doesn’t have a willingness to make the more difficult political decisions. $61 billion is barely a down payment on the level of spending reductions we need to see at the Federal level and doesn’t even touch the entitlements that nearly everyone acknowledges are the biggest fiscal challenge we face as a country. The GAO report issued last week provided a map to $100-200 billion of low hanging fruit. The Deficit Recution Commission report was barely acknowledged by the President and both houses of Congress, despite bipartisan support but with a pathetic shortage of votes. Our federal deficit in the month of February alone was more than four times the House proposal. I expect a stronger commitment from the party that wants to lay claim to fiscal responsibility.
There is little doubt that neither the House proposal nor that of the President will get through the Senate, and I do understand that ultimately a resolution or bill needs to be negotiated that will receive more than lip service from President Obama. But in my view, if the President and the Democrats in Congress aren’t serious about getting our fiscal house in order, the Republicans need to at least demonstrate that they are. If that message continues to be sent, it will be up to the Democrats to join you in the effort or shut down Washington. I urge you to support stronger budget proposals for both the balance of this fiscal year and the 2012 year, as well as bills that will deal, once and for all, with the mess that is Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and, now, Obamacare. I would hope the fiscal future of our country is worth the potential cost in political capital.