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“What We Cut is Much More Important Than How Much We Cut”

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With the potential for a government shutdown “medium to high right now” in the words of one long-time scholar of government, one might conclude that Democrats and Republicans are arguing over a lot of money, and, certainly, tens of billions of dollars would be a whole lot of money for you or me. But in terms of the overall federal budget, the debate has bogged down over what really is a miniscule amount.

How, then, are we facing the possibility of the first federal shutdown in 15 years? The answer is, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently explained, about more than dollars and cents. He is absolutely right when he says, “It’s about principles and priorities. What we cut is much more important than how much we cut.” This isn’t just about “waste, fraud and abuse.” I’ve written before that if it were, Congress simply could enact the recent recommendations of the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office on how to streamline federal operations, and call it a day.

Of course, the ongoing budget battle is anything but nonpartisan. What’s going on here is a contest between two very different ideas of what the federal government should be doing. Republicans want to cut deeply at programs ranging from healthcare, to education, and the environment. Democrats, for instance, have proposed saving $20 billion right on the spot by eliminating federal tax giveaways to big oil companies that are already posting record profits anyway. Apparently, however, Republicans would rather keep that kind of corporate welfare and instead target the health clinics, schools, and other functions that middle-class Americans rely upon every day. In fact, as Washington budget analyst Michael Linden points out, the House Republican budget plan targets everyone but the rich. Many liberals and Democrats are just as eager as conservative Republicans to tame the federal deficit. It’s a matter of how to do it the right way.

I’ve also written before about Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, who as a member of President Obama’s deficit-reduction commission, put forward her own plan to deal with the country’s red ink. Schakowsky, however, wants to trim the deficit without “further eroding the middle class in America.”

Many of us see this as a question of basic fairness. The Republican budget cuts would hurt Americans like senior citizens, veterans, students and others — none of whom helped to cause the 2008 financial crisis, received bailouts, or caused the recession to occur. Sen. Reid correctly notes, “Punishing innocent bystanders like seniors, women, veterans and students will not lead us to recovery,” 

Not to mention the fact that Republicans began screaming about the deficit only after they secured an extension of tax cuts late last year for the sorts of millionaires and billionaires who did get the bailouts. Those tax cuts, of course, are paid for with deficit spending. Now that millionaires and billionaires got their tax cuts and other federal goodies, why is it that now the rest of us are expected to pay for them? Sen. Bernie Sanders says, “It is insane that we give tax breaks to the very richest people in the country who are doing phenomenally well and we sock it to the middle class and working families seeing a decline in their standard of living. This is Robin Hood in reverse,”

So don’t believe it when the Republicans complain about out-of-control spending or high budget deficits. This fight is about nothing more than basic fairness.

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About Scott Nance

  • http://tmackorg.com/ Tommy Mack

    The other problem is that the new players in this scene are all posture and pretense. I wish I had coined this, but Deep down inside, these Republicans are shallow.

    It is fair to say, as you do, that the issue is fairness. In part it is, or would be, if there was a real debate. Republicans own the debate and struggle for consensus as the video kills it. Who are the disabled veterans or retirees under 65 among them?

    Scott, you have covered political shenanigans before. At what point do these representatives stop breathing their own ether, really begin to think about what they are doing, where they are and what is at stake beyond their rhetoric?

    Tommy

  • Clavos

    Once again I say:

    We could save billions annually, just by closing down the USPS.

    I am not a Republican.

    And I’m not a Democrat.

  • Baronius

    Reid said that what we cut is more important than how much we cut, after standing up in defense of federally-funded cowboy poetry. Does anyone think that the Senate is going to find $1.6T that’s less essential than cowboy poetry?

  • http://tmackorg.com/ Tommy Mack

    Yippee ki yay
    Sure makes my day

    Tommy

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    And if you care one whit about business, closing down the USPS would be a foolish thing to do. Why? You and I and everyone else hates junk mail, but business loves it because it WORKS…

    …and there is NOBODY out there who can deliver non-package mail anywhere near as cheaply as the USPS does. YES, FedEx and UPS can compete with packages, but have you noticed that – except for express mail – they haven’t even whispered that they’d like to try to compete with the USPS on letter delivery? They know better, because they KNOW that there is absolutely no way that a business could succeed with the mandate of delivering mail to EVERY address in America, six days a week, as cheaply as the USPS does.

    You’re a businessman – try working out a business plan on how to make money doing what the USPS does, as cheaply as they do…

    …and THEN consider the FACT that what the USPS does with the much-hated junk mail is CRUCIAL to countless businesses large and small across the country.

    But this is what conservatives do – instead of looking at something, keeping what’s right with that thing, and simply fixing only what’s wrong with that thing, they want to just get rid of the whole doggone thing. I’ve seen conservatives want to get rid of Medicare, the USPS, the EPA, the DOE, and whatever else strikes their fancy.

  • http://personalwebreviews.ca Ian

    This isn’t really just about money.

    The Republicans keep tying the budget to issues like abortion.

    They are using the threat of a shut-down to once again attempt to inflict their fundamentalist Christian views on the nation.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    A recent poll indicated that the USPS is by far America’s favorite government entity…even though it’s officially not taxpayer-funded any more. According to Rasmussen, the generally conservative-leaning pollster:

    Most Americans continue to give the USPS high marks as they have for several years. Sixty-four percent (64%) rate its performance as good or excellent, consistent with previous findings. Just 11% say the Postal Service is doing a poor job.

    Earlier this week, Rachel Maddow quoted a 2010 Pew poll that was more than 80% favorable for the postal service.

    The USPS is a favorite conservative punching bag, but the public apparently doesn’t agree.

  • Cannonshop

    #7 Could this be because the Postal Service actually provides…y’know… a SERVICE…that is accessable to most citizens, and it has largely been self-funding rather than requiring new and exciting taxes extracted from completely unrelated sources (sin taxes) to operate?

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    I’m sure that’s exactly why. But Clavos might argue that those 64% or 83% of Americans are misinformed.

  • Clavos

    …have you noticed that – except for express mail – they haven’t even whispered that they’d like to try to compete with the USPS on letter delivery?

    That’s because the USPS is now both company’s biggest client; they both do the bulk of the hauling of both first class and standard (junk) mail, the USPS mostly only hauls “the last mile,” as it’s called.

    But these days, not even the USPS can”…succeed with the mandate of delivering mail to EVERY address in America, six days a week, as cheaply as the USPS does…” It is losing $billions a year and has been for more than a decade, and it has proposed and is begging to be allowed to reduce its days of service by not delivering on Wednesdays.

    And Fedex and UPS don’t say anything (out loud) about the first and standard class mail because the USPS is protected by law in their monopoly of those classes, but the two private carriers ARE both quietly working behind the scenes in Washington to get their hands on that business, and from what is rumored, making good progress.

    The USPS has become a huge drag on the federal budget and on the US economy, and Frederick Smith knows that and has his eye on that franchise.

  • Clavos

    it has largely been self-funding rather than requiring new and exciting taxes extracted from completely unrelated sources (sin taxes) to operate?

    Actually it isn’t self funding, Cannon, and I’m surprised you don’t know that; it’s actually been losing billions a year for years now, and I bet you can guess who makes up the shortfall every year…

    Google it, or better yet read my article.

  • Clavos

    But Clavos might argue that those 64% or 83% of Americans are misinformed.

    No, I wouldn’t. They enjoy the service, and because a stamp is cheap, they think the service is inexpensive too.

    But it’s not.

  • Elizabeth

    How about we cut all congressmen/women and representatives pay? They make roughly $150k+ while USPS workers like my father make only $50-60k per year! How in the hell is that fair? Oh, and I suppose you’ll love having the IRS take your homes from you if your bills aren’t mailed to you correct? Who does that for you? OH YEAH! USPS!