A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Friday, January 04, 2013

GOP Doesn't Really Want To Cut The Deficit

The congressional Republicans have been doing a lot of complaining about the deficit and the growing national debt. That complaining is more than a little disingenuous, since they are the ones who created the deficit and started the abnormally large growth in the debt. There was no deficit when President Clinton left office. There was a yearly surplus, and the national debt was slowly being reduced. President Bush and the congressional Republicans changed that -- primarily by starting two unnecessary (and seemingly endless) wars, and instead of slightly raising taxes to pay for them they substantially cut taxes (especially for the rich).

Those two actions together account for more of the deficit than anything else (including the recession), and far more than anything President Obama has done. In fact, the percentage of debt growth under President Obama has been far less than under any modern president (including the Republican icon, Ronald Reagan). But the Republicans don't want any of the blame for our current economic situation (even though most of it rests squarely on their shoulders), so they have tried to shift the blame onto President Obama.

But what's even crazier than their attempt to shift the blame is their prescription for reducing the deficit. First, they want to drastically cut the social programs that help the Americans hurting from the Bush recession. This is wrong on several levels. First, there is not enough discretionary spending (the spending that has created the deficit and debt growth) dedicated to these social programs to make a real difference in the deficit. Second, cutting these programs would take money out of the economy, further reducing demand and causing even more unemployment. Third, it would throw many more people into poverty -- putting an even greater burden on the very programs the GOP wants to cut.

Then they want to cut benefits for Social Security and Medicare. This makes even less sense, since Social Security adds nothing at all to the deficit and the debt -- and even Medicare is largely funded through payroll taxes (not discretionary spending. They could completely eliminate both of these programs (which I'm sure they'd like to do) and it would have little effect on the deficit or the national debt.

There is a part of the discretionary budget that could be cut significantly though -- and cutting there would have a major effect on bringing down (or eliminating) the deficit. It is the defense budget, which is filled with fat and pork that could be cut without affecting our national defense, or the well-being of our troops. As the chart above shows (found at the blog Under The Mountain Bunker), we currently spend nearly half of the world's total military budget and more than the next 10 "big spenders" combined. And the biggest part of that doesn't go to troop salaries, benefits, or equipment. It goes to the corporate-controlled military industrial complex (to fatten the bank accounts of corporate executives).

The budget could be cut considerably by eliminating programs that either don't work or aren't really needed by the military. And more could be cut by delaying some programs (that might prove useful in the future) until the economy is in better shape and most Americans are back to work. Even more money could be cut by drastically cutting the number of military bases this country keeps around the world -- currently numbering more than 800. We don't really need all those bases to defend this country. They are there just to extend American corporate power around the world (which could be done more effectively through peaceful means).

But the Republicans don't want to cut the defense budget. That's a sacred cow for them, and they actually want to increase that spending. But they don't want to spend more to raise wages or benefits for our troops. They want to pump more into the military-industrial complex to help their corporate buddies get richer. The truth is that Republicans don't really want to cut the deficit. They want to use the idea of budget cuts as a political tool for their own benefit (re-election) -- and to damage programs they never really liked (like Social Security and Medicare).

But what do the people want? Do they want to cut programs that help hurting Americans and the elderly, or would they be willing to cut the bloated military budget? A United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll tried to answer that question (see graphic below). That poll showed that the Republicans are out of touch with the desires of most Americans. Here are some numbers:

PROGRAMS THESE PERCENTAGES OF AMERICANS DO NOT WANT TO CUT.
Social Security...............76%
Medicare...............80%
Medicaid...............65%
Food Stamp/Housing Vouchers...............51%
Defense Spending...............35%

PROGRAMS THESE PERCENTAGES OF AMERICANS ARE WILLING TO CUT.
Defense Spending...............60%
Food Stamps/Housing Vouchers...............46%
Medicaid...............33%
Social Security...............22%
Medicare...............18%

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