Remember when Republicans were saying: government should act like American households when it comes to its budget? It was a great line. Short, easy to understand, and appealed to the GOP base (aka Tea Baggers) which allowed them to get excited. It then culminated with the recent shellacking this past election. The household analogy was used time and time again even though it was false. While it would be great to be able to print our own money (or if money grew on trees), we gave that right to the federal government when we ratified the Constitution.
But because elections have consequences, the two parties will be fighting to show who is most fiscally conservative. Obama announced today that he will be issuing a two year pay freeze that will save the federal government two billion during current fiscal year, twenty-eight billion over next five years, and sixty billion over ten years. While it sounds good on paper, it's really a political move. It's worth pointing out that it won't really be known how much is being saved until President Obama is out of office. And it's no accident. That way the White House can keep citing those numbers as a way to say the deficit is being reduced. Also, the pay of federal employees isn't the problem, it's the benefits they get that is driving costs up. That's why Defense Secretary Robert Gates is looking at ways to raise funds for the militaries Tricare. Of course, the new health care law will help maintain some of those costs, but apparently most of the new GOP governors won't enact the policy in their states.
This pay freeze announcement comes on the same day that several liberal think tanks are unveiling plans that are trying to tackle the federal deficit, all of which cut programs by federal agencies. In the meantime, government bureaucrats are always lobbying to keep their programs running. Think of it as an annual review where you have to tell your boss what you did this past year. You have to go through everything to show what you did while having to worry about keeping your job. Government agencies worry about the same thing, except it's all the time. They will give grand presentations, trips, gifts, and anything else that is legal to make sure they get the funding they think they need. While Obama doesn't have a J. Edgar Hoover problem, he still needs to make sure his employees are happy.
And do I even need to go into the special interest lobbyists like Jack Abramoff? There are plenty of those guys too. But whether you know it or not, you too have someone lobbying for you. For instance, do you want to save the environment? There are plenty of environmental groups out there who talk to members of Congress and their staff every day. Just look up The Environmental Defense Fund and read about how the Environmental Protection Agency was created.
One of the most contentious issues when it comes to the budget is taxes. No one likes them, and if a politician ever talks about them, he/she better say they will be lowered. But if you want a balanced budget someone's gotta pay for it.
The White House is right on this one, extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class and let them expire for the rich. When people earning over a million dollars get a tax cut, they don't spend the money, and it does nothing for the economy. What makes raising taxes even more volatile this year is that state governments have had to raise their taxes over the last four years. So if Congress does nothing, the people who need help the most will be giving more than they can. Middle and working class Americans need the break and will spend it on the items they need to live, which will also help the economy. They deserve the extension.
It is baffling me how many Republican candidates are considering running for President in 2012. Just today John Bolton (who has never run for public office before) is thinking about running for President. Political Action Committees are already in the first couple of primary states for Mitt Romney, and Sarah Palin will probably run as an average Joe just to make a few more million. In the meantime, decisions need to be made, and the people who actually have to balance their budget are hurting the most.