All of us know how easy it is to spend -- if we have the money. But we also know how painful it is to cut spending when we don't have money.
For a long time -- despite high taxes -- our federal government has been spending far too much, a lot of it for essentials, but a lot of it for nonessentials, too. Now the chickens have come home to roost in the form of a $14.3 trillion national debt. We pay taxes to cover some of our spending. But we have to borrow money to fund the rest -- and that means hundreds of billions of dollars in interest payments every year.
So as you may be aware, Congress plans to appoint a 12-member panel -- six Democrats and six Republicans, divided between representatives and senators -- to make some financial choices that the full Congress has been unable to make.
The panel has the important but unenviable job of reducing federal deficits by $1.5 trillion or so over the next 10 years.
One immediate reaction many of us as taxpayers might have is, "I wish I were on that committee, because I would love to be able to tell Congress where to cut $1.5 trillion!"
But if you were a representative or senator on the 12-member panel -- and were accountable to the public -- you would find that cutting much spending would produce an outcry from many voters, and from a lot of special interests. Lawmakers' unwillingness to face that music over a long period of years is why we are in the financial trouble we are in!
Well, the special deficit reduction committee is supposed to produce its plan by Thanksgiving. Then if Congress rejects the panel's recommendations, an automatic $1.2 trillion in spending cuts will go into effect a little over a year later, with half of the cuts being from national defense.
It should be obvious to all of us that a committee is not an ideal way to reduce excessive spending. But with our debt already huge, and with our annual budgets long in red ink, this is the plan Congress has adopted.
The automatic cuts would not take effect till January 2013. By then, our debt will be much larger. Nevertheless, when the cuts are identified, expect a lot of objections -- not only from members of Congress but also from many taxpayers.
Do you believe this plan will work? If not, how would you propose that we cut spending to slow the growth of our national debt?
The committee has a tough job to do by Thanksgiving. We'll know then whether we'll be "giving thanks" for its efforts.