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SPOTLIGHT
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Reducing the debt

Published on -5/8/2012, 9:14 AM

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Remember the congressional supercommittee that couldn’t agree on $1.2 trillion worth of deficit-reduction last year despite having extraordinary power to do so? That group’s failure set up across-the-board cuts to take effect in early 2013, split evenly between defense and non-defense spending. Only a few programs were supposed to be exempt from the decreases: Social Security, Medicaid, and programs designed to help low-income Americans. Medicare cuts also were supposed to be limited.

This week, a movement is afoot to exempt defense spending from the deal as well. Congress is signalling a desire to keep troop levels intact and moderinzation efforts moving forward. House Republicans are proposing a defense budget of $642 billion for next year, which is $3.7 billion higher than President Barack Obama’s military budget and $8.3 billion higher than the amount Congress agreed to last year. Part of the increase is for an Air Force unmanned drone the Pentagon wanted to mothball. The latest total also rejects any more domestic base closings.

The same congressional bloc has suggestions where future spending can be reduced. Not surprisingly, the decreases are to social programs. Medicaid, food stamps, prevention efforts such as cancer screenings and immunizations, Meals on Wheels, child welfare, day care for both children and adults, help for the disabled, adoption assistance, transportation help for the elderly and disabled, and child tax credits all would take a beating. Disappearing would be the funding for a new consumer protection bureau and a new mortgage assistance program aimed at helping people modify their home loans.

The cuts would be added to decreases set for January 2013.

Already passed along party lines in the House Budget Committee, the full House will vote on the bill Thursday. If it passes there, the Democratic-controlled Senate likely would defeat it.

Why anybody in Congress would want to be on the record for proposing to do so much harm to our nation’s most defenseless — while simultaneously demanding more spending than even the military itself has requested — is beyond us.

America’s growing debt problem is a result of too much military spending, unaffordable tax cuts and the unemployment crisis. Poor people didn’t get us into this mess. Nor should they be looked to for a solution. Elected officials attempting to do so simply are displaying their ineptness at leadership.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry
plowry@dailynews.net
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