Is America’s Fiscal Future Safe in These Hands?

As part of the Budget Control Act passed this month, a twelve-member Join Committee on Deficit Reduction has been charged with recommending at least $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction over the next decade.  They have until November 23 to make their recommendations.

The committee’s recommendations will then be put to a simple up-or-down vote by Congress, with no amendments, filibusters, etc. allowed.  The recommendations have to be passed by December 23 otherwise a $1.2 trillion package of automatic spending cuts would come into effect.

Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction

The Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction.  Top row are members of the House of Representatives: Co-chair Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Dave Camp (R-MI), Fred Upton (R-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jim Clyburn (D-SC), Xavier Becerra (D-CA).  Bottom row are members of the Senate: Co-chair Patty Murray (D-WA), John Kerry (D-MA), Max Baucus (D-GA), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Rob Portman (R-OH).

First question on my mind: Do these twelve congresspeople sufficiently represent America?  They are overwhelmingly white (83% vs. about 66% in the general population) and male (92% vs. 50% in the general population).  Now, I realize that a committee of twelve national politicians will not necessary mirror the United States population, nor do they need to.  But it seems that when we talk about “sacrifices” in the budget, these sacrifices are disproportionately borne by women, children, and people of color. 

The public schools in the wealthy suburbs seem to face fewer cutbacks than the inner city schools.  The unemployed factory worker seems to run out of resources long before the unemployed hedge fund manager.  And considering that you have to be at least 25 years old to run for the House of Representatives, is anyone looking out for the interests of the infants and children who will end up inheriting the results of any deficit reduction legislation?

Second question on my mind: With the committee evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, what is the likelihood that they will actually reach a compromise?  The six members of the House of Representatives are up for election in just over a year, so they will be careful not to rile their base. 

Of the six Senators, one of the Republicans (Kyl) has announced he will retire at the end of his term.  The other two Republicans were just elected in 2010 so they have time to repair any damage with their base that comes from compromising or, from a Tea Partier’s view, selling out.  Among the Democrats, Murray was just elected in 2010 and the other two Democrats do not face re-election until 2014.

Is there some hope that at least one Senator will cross over the line on the “no new revenues” position so that a balanced approach of spending cuts and revenue increases can be found?  While I’d like to hope that the Senators can rise above partisanship and make some sound decisions, nothing I’ve seen recently gives me any reason for optimism.

Additional Reading: article about key budget, spending, and tax votes of the committee members.


0 thoughts on “Is America’s Fiscal Future Safe in These Hands?

  1. I disagree that public schools in relatively wealthy suburbs face fewer cuts than inner city schools. That’s not at all true where I live. What is true: the parents in the relatively wealthy suburbs are better able to cushion the blow by spending more money out of pocket on the school and on extra activities outside of school.

  2. I think that the disproportionate representation will most certainly impact the decisions that are made in terms of spending cuts, without a doubt. They are representing their party, not necessarily the constituents in their districts, and will tow the party line. I don’t hold out much hope either; any way you cut it it’s going to be a fiasco.

  3. Some of the same questions I had. I’m putting my hope on the “between a rock and a hard place” atmosphere ao that they will have to look at cuts. Will any of them cut the pension/medical benefits for elected representatives in the house and senate? Hmm.

  4. @LoBornlytesThoughtPalace – That’s the thought that crossed my mind.  Since politicians seem only concerned about getting re-elected, maybe our policy should be simply NOT to re-elect anyone.  You get one term; don’t screw it up!@ordinarybutloud – Interesting perspective; you may be right.  I based my statement about schools on conversations I’ve had with several teachers I know.  The same may not hold true in your area.@girlForgetful – That’s probably the heart of the matter: congressional districts are so gerrymandered that most of them are safe for incumbents.  Seats that are more competitive also tend to elect more moderate representatives.@murisopsis – I always have to laugh that all of the congresspeople who vote against “socialized medicine” are of course beneficiaries of government-run healthcare.  It’s good enough for them but not for the rest of us?@secade – The thing that makes me most worried is that polls show that while most Americans say they want compromise, when asked about their specific representatives, they say that their representatives should stick to their guns and stand up for their principles.  A huge disconnect.

  5. @ordinarybutloud – There is nothing wrong with money. It is free speech and is protected by the first amendment.Whatever laws get passed to limit money in politics are circumvented and this produces worse corruption then if the system were just left alone. The McCain-Feingold campaign finance law for example, just empowered incumbents and made it very difficult for newcomers to enter the arena.The problem is the career politician. All perks, benefits and perquisites need to be eliminated so that only people who want to serve go into office. As it stands now, all laws are written by staff and the actual politician spends his time figuring out how to scam more money instead of figure what is good for the country.It’s disgusting. And I think if more people were aware of this there would be an uprising.

  6. Also, there is nothing balanced about raising taxes. The real problem is a bunch of crooks spending and borrowing the country into oblivion. Why should any group of private citizens be forced to pay for political corruption?Additionally, the way to increase revenues to the Treasury is to CUT taxes. This is because the economy runs on the wealth produced in the private sector.Taxation depletes the money in the private sector and sends it to corrupt politicians in the government.Further, taxing the rich will simply drive their money making enterprises off shore and leave an unemployment wasteland. That is exactly what is happening now under O’Bama and the Democrats.The economic catastrophe that we are now experiencing is the result of Democrat policies enacted from 2007 – 2011.

  7. I am not sure what to think. I am concerned that no decision reached by a committee will ever make it past both houses. Our future or fear of our future has become a political game all the way. I am not sure there is any real concern about the average citizen who is trying to make a living.

  8. @Fatcat723 – That’s an interesting point.  The average citizen is trying to get a job, pay the bills, get the children raised, etc.  This game of economic ping pong (or economic chicken, perhaps more accurately) seems almost incomprehensible by comparison.

  9. @christao408 – Defense is only 4% of GDP and Constitutionally mandated.O’Bama and the Democrats have run our debt up to 100% of GDP. The argument that defense spending is breaking the budgets simply is not true.All other social programs are based on confiscating the earnings of one group of people and giving them to other groups of people who did not earn them. That, by definition is stealing. And stealing is oppression.And unlike defense which is Constitutionally mandated, stealing is not.Stop the stealing, stop the oppression and you will see justice return to federal budgeting.

  10. @LoBornlytesThoughtPalace – According to the Congressional Budget Office, Defense discretionary spending was 20% of 2010 total spending.  Regardless of the percentage of GDP, it is a very large portion of the actual money we are spending, which as you know is significantly higher than the amount of money we are taking in.

  11. @christao408 – Defense spending has nothing whatsoever to do with the spending and debt problem that O’Bama and the Democrats caused.Cutting defense, like raising taxes, is simply a way to finance political corruption at the expense of our national security.The way to raise revenues to the Treasury is to cut taxes. Cutting taxes leaves more money available in the private sector to create jobs. The government can’t create jobs because it does not produce wealth.The only way the government acquires money is by taxing, borrowing and printing money.Raising taxes even further would be devastating to the economy and would simply feed the government corruption monster.

  12. @christao408 – From O’Bama’s own figures:Defense spending: $600BTotal Federal Expenditures: $1.5T$6.0 x 10^10 / $1.5 x 10^12 = 4%I was mistaken about GDP. I meant as a percentage of the budget. O’Bama has killed US GDP. 2011 GDP is equal to 2007 GDP. Expecting us to sacrifice our national defense and pay for such ineptitude with tax increases simply doesn’t make any sense.LINK: – see graph at the bottom of the page.

  13. @LoBornlytesThoughtPalace – Wow, it looks like Warren Buffet doesn’t quite agree with you on the issue of raising taxes.  He suggested in an op-ed piece Sunday that households earning more than $1 million see an immediate increase in taxes on amounts in excess of $1 million and that there be an additional increase on income over $10 million annually.  I have to say that when the exceedingly rich are taxed at a lower rate than people in the middle class, that’s not very healthy for the country.

  14. @christao408 – Warren Buffet should write the government a check for 5 or 6 billion dollars each year then. It’s always great recommending the funding of government corruption with other people’s money.My stance is based upon economic and political principles. Billionaires like Buffet will never be touched by taxes on the “rich”.

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