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A divided right and the 2011 budget

One of the most important and difficult aspects of running the government is deciding how to allocate funds for each fiscal year. That is why the current congressional debate on the 2012 Federal Budget has been† getting so much attention in the past week. The House of Representatives, now under the new management of Speaker John Boehner and the Republican party, has revealed its plan to cut $61 billion from the federal budget, cuts that would affect every aspect in of the way our government operates. Not only that, but the stopgap measure that is currently financing the government will come to an end on March 4. If some point of agreement is not reached between† Democrats and Republicans, or if a temporary extension is not approved on the current budget, federal agencies would be forced to shut down shortly thereafter.

Among other things, the current House plan includes cutting $18 million from the Pentagon budget, an interesting choice for a party that prides itself as one that supports the military. But the Pentagon is not the only agency getting short-changed, Republicans have their sights set on cutting funding for Planned Parenthood and Americorps. Along with cutting programs like PBS, NPR and Pell Grants that help Americans in need receive an undergraduate education, the Republican party is also adding a measure that would prevent the feds from blocking Arizona’s new immigration law. Through all these deep cuts, Republicans run the risk of cutting programs their constituents actually like, and by this I mean “Sesame Street.”

Even so, I understand the desire for the newly elected Republican members of the House to want to immediately start fulfilling campaign promises to their constituents, but there is a far more intelligent way of doing so. Representative Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, said that this plan “is about putting America back to work,” but in reality these cuts are just a fascade to hide Republican policy under the guise of saving the economy. The plan is even raising the eyebrows of some House Republicans who think it was put together too quickly and too thoughtlessly. This same power play was used by Republicans in 1995 during the Clinton administration and it backfired; the resulting government shutdown was blamed entirely on the Republicans. It is ironic though that Republicans would want to cut spending now, when during the eight years of the Bush administration they were silent. This sudden change in their policy towards federal spending when a Democratic president is in office makes the Republicans seem childish and fresh out of the ideas to “put the country back on track” that they claimed to have during the elections in November.

Part of the problem that makes a consensus between both parties even more difficult are the new “freshmen” Representatives that were elected in November. These men and women are pushing for cuts even larger than the Republican leadership intended, creating a schism in the party. Sure, the Republicans owe a lot of last years success to the members of the Tea Party that were voted into office, but with their new majority comes a price. Republicans need to look at themselves in the mirror and ask if power is worth that price. If it is, they are gambling the future and respectability of their party on a movement that is backed by fringe players, including Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. If House Republicans are okay with allowing the ideas of these individuals to have a powerful voice in our government, then they risk letting their message, and their policies, to be hijacked by the far right.

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One Response to “A divided right and the 2011 budget”

  1. Mike Crowe says:

    I respectfully disagree with Mr. Burkhart’s analysis of the Republican budgetary decisions. Firstly, he ignores the biggest budgetary number: $14 Trillion in debt. Washington has no money.

    Second, Republicans lost both houses in the 2006 elections. From 2003 to 2007, Bush deficits declined every year. Then came Nancy Pelosi and the Dems in 2007. Since we know that the Congress has Constitutional control of purse strings, it would be appropriate for Mr. Burkhart to share the Democrats’ participation in our rising debt.

    Pelosi proclaimed pay-go plan to demonstrate budgetary constraint, but Dems proceeded to spend $1.40 for every tax dollar sent to DC. Bush did not resist the big spending so he indeed deserves some blame.

    Mr. Burhart, we have too many takers in society. We live with too many Americans with their hand out demanding producers fill it with their hard-earned money. Obama’s Stimulus spending targeted labor unions and state employees and I refer you to the “Milwaukee Journal Sentinal” which confirms that 75% of the $701 Million in stimulus to Wisconsin went to union-based jobs and pensions. The stimulus had nothing to do with saving private sector jobs.

    There is no money to support outrageous retirement pensions, health benefits, not to mention free health care and free education for illegals, subsidies to millionaire farmers, social security for wealthy Americans, Medicaid and Medicare. We cannot print enough money either.

    Have you looked at the percentage cut in an annual Federal budget of 3.5 Trillion that $61 Billion represents? Republicans have not even cleared the runway in cutting spending!

    The tragedy is Obama has no plan to cut spending. He offers no leadership on budgetary constraint. He promised to cut the budget deficit by half in his first term. But his words and promises don’t matter when no one holds him accountable.

    You may impugn Beck, Limbaugh and Palin, but I expect that from acolytes of Saul Alinsky. I believe the proposed cuts are worth any political price because America is worth saving.

    We know that taxpayers have skin in the game as they pay about 50% of their income in taxes. The question is, do those who live off them have skin in the game?


    Mike Crowe