Currently the funding of government is operating under a stop-gap measure passed during the lame-duck session of the 111th Congress, which is set to expire on March 4. On Tuesday, January 25, the House under a Republican majority passed a resolution 256-165 -- seventeen Democrats crossed the aisle to vote with the Republicans on this matter -- that instructs the Chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to set the budget at 2008 spending levels, or lower
This prompted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) unusually early announcement that a vote on funding the government for the rest of Fiscal Year 2011 will be on or around February 14.
The Congressional Budget Office’s newest report indicates that America’s debt is far worse than originally projected. Just last fall a reduction of the deficit had been predicted by the CBO which was based on existing laws and an assumption that the Bush-era tax cuts would be allowed to expire. However, the CBO's latest report on the budget and the economy states that: "For 2011 ... the federal budget will show a deficit of close to $1.5 trillion, or 9.8 percent of GDP." See the "Federal Deficit" graph on the left to see just how unprecedented the $1.5 trillion deficits for 2009-11 are.
Several bills have already been introduced that involve large-scale cutting. The mainstream media has lightly focused on a few of them, more for the purposes of discrediting the bill’s authors and their proposals, than anything. First out of the block but yet to be officially introduced in the House is Michelle Bachmann’s (R-Minn.). Bachmann’s measure would cut $425 billion in FY 2011 and annually thereafter. She would eliminate the Department of Education for an instant $31 billion in savings, repeal the unspent stimulus saving $60 billion, repeal the Food Safety Act, eliminate many subsidies and grants, reduce government travel and vehicle expenditures, and even cut defense spending, something that is viewed by American empire-builders as sacrosanct.
Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) S. 162 would cut $500 billion from the deficit in 2011. S. 162 has already been approved by committee and has been placed on a calendar of business, so it can be brought up for a vote whenever Senate party leadership decides to. S. 162 is uniquely specific in that it lists spending cuts by department. For example he suggests cutting $26.5 billion from Health and Human Services, an overall decrease of 26 percent, with a 62 percent reduction in funding for the FDA, a 28 percent reduction for the CDC, 37 percent reduction for the National Institutes of Health, etc. Paul’s measure would eliminate the Department of Energy, and decrease spending for the Department of Education by 83 percent, the Interior Department by 78 percent, the Justice Department by 28 percent, the Transportation Department by 49 percent, and on and on. It’s a great read.
The Spending Reduction Act of 2011 introduced by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in the House and Sen. Jim De Miint (R-S.C.) is actually the work of the Republican Study Committee. This piece of legislation has held tightly to reducing spending only by $80 billion for the remainder of FY2011 and $2.29 trillion over the ten years 2012-2121. It too, has some nice features in it; eliminating funding for PBS, National Endowment for the Arts, Amtrak, Community Development Fund, Title X Family Planning, and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Collecting the unpaid taxes of federal employees along with prohibiting taxpayer funded union activities by federal employees would save $2.2 billion over ten years.
This situation is unprecedented. Never before has the deficit been so high, and never before has Congress felt so much pressure from the electorate. The outcome of this budget battle will most certainly reveal the strength, or weakness, of the new Congress in fulfilling the voters’ November mandate, and also set the tone for the rest of the legislative year.
Contact your Senators and Representative and let them know the only acceptable and honorable thing to do for the country is to abandon the practice of conciliatory and token gestures and make deep and permanent cuts in spending. Get them to support only those measures that have large-scale cuts in spending. With current deficits running at the $1.5 trillion level, Congress needs to cut spending by at least many hundreds of billions per year. Otherwise they would only be perpetuating the deficit and debt problems.