Now that Congress and the president have released their budgets, the question in Washington becomes: “Now what?” It seems we have reached another impasse on how to move forward and actually pass one.
President Barack Obama’s hand-picked Treasury secretary, Jacob J. Lew, once described budgets a “tapestry” that reflects the “hopes and dreams of a nation.” With that in mind, it’s important that Congress and the president look at reconciling any framework going forward through the lens of what Americans want to see.
It’s no secret that jobs and the economy remain the top priority of the overwhelming majority of Americans. But the best way to get there is by cutting spending and ringing in a new era of fiscal responsibility in Washington.
On April 15, 2009, Obama offered a short Tax Day speech in which he sought to reassure taxpayers about how Washington was spending their money. He promised that tax relief and fiscal discipline would help get the ailing economy moving.
“Americans are making hard choices in their budgets, and we’ve got to tighten our belts in Washington as well,” the president said. He promised to reduce the deficit, eliminate government programs “that don’t work” and cut unnecessary spending.
Looking back, that promise looks like an exercise in wishful thinking. Four years later, the economy is still struggling with high unemployment and sluggish growth most Americans are paying higher taxes, and the government continues its trend of unchecked growth. Fiscal discipline in Washington remains a distant goal as the national debt tops $16.7 trillion.
The focus in Congress should be bridging the gaps in their respective budgets, keeping in mind that a budget that reduces spending and restores fiscal responsibility to Washington will instill confidence in the very entrepreneurs and business owners we need to get the economy going.
The president’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2014 includes $3.77 trillion in total spending, which is more than both congressional Republicans and Democrats have proposed. The president calls for “a balanced approach to deficit reduction,” but that’s mostly a smokescreen for higher taxes and more spending.
His budget raises taxes by $580 billion by eliminating deductions and proposes $230 billion in cuts to entitlement spending. Importantly, the spending “cuts” in the president’s budget would mostly amount to slower growth in overall spending, rather than actual reductions. Yet Obama’s budget would still leave us with a $744 billion budget deficit this year, with ever-mounting debt. In five years’ time, the national debt would reach $21.7 trillion under the president’s plan.
Meanwhile, the first budget released by Senate Democrats in four years was not balanced, included no real cuts to spending and nearly $1 trillion in additional taxes. Why give Washington another dollar until they prove they can spend the first one wisely?
How does that compare to the policy preferences of U.S. taxpayers? In mid-April, Public Notice polled Americans to learn more about their views on taxes, spending and the economy. Contrary to the president’s repeated claims that higher taxes and more “investment” are the keys to growth, we found that Americans want just the opposite: lower taxes and less government spending.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.