High-stakes budget battle

High-stakes budget battle

February 28th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

Scarcely anything is as important for our nation's long-term financial stability as getting unsustainable spending in check. Whether Washington is going to get serious about that remains an open question.

The U.S. House of Representatives, with its new Republican majority, recently sent to the Senate a $1.2 trillion bill that would fund federal agencies through Sept. 30. But the Democrat-run Senate and President Barack Obama refuse to accept the $61 billion in cuts that Republicans in the House included in the bill. They say the nation, already $14 trillion in debt, needs to have more so-called government "investments" in costly programs - by which they mean more spending of taxes and borrowed money.

It is almost impossible to believe that any responsible lawmaker would take such a position.

The federal government has been pouring countless billions of dollars into "stimulus" projects that don't stimulate much besides bigger government and "bailouts" that protect poorly performing companies from the free-market consequences of their actions. And the government has sent the bill for all that spending to taxpayers and the states.

Now it's time to pay the piper - or face calamitous tax hikes and cuts in major programs such as Medicare and Social Security a little further down the road. And yet the president and Democrats in Congress still have little sense of urgency about cutting spending.

So what, exactly, is going to happen with federal spending? We'll find out when the Senate takes up the spending cuts approved in the House.

House Republicans voted, among other things, to deny some federal dollars for the implementation of the ObamaCare socialized medicine law. That is appropriate, both because our nation cannot afford ObamaCare and because its requirement that Americans purchase Washington-approved medical insurance is unconstitutional. In fact, a majority of the states - which are being saddled with huge ObamaCare-related costs - have sued to block its implementation, and two federal judges have properly ruled ObamaCare unconstitutional.

But Democrats, who passed ObamaCare with zero GOP support, won't back down.

Republicans also voted to bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating "greenhouse gases." The regulation of those gases is based on highly debatable allegations that mankind's use of fossil fuels is catastrophically heating the planet. It is also based on the disputed idea that we can somehow clamp down on industry's emissions of greenhouse gases without causing economic disaster and destroying jobs - in a time when unemployment is already a painful 9 percent.

But there again, Democrats don't want to rein in government. They want the EPA to have the power to regulate those emissions, no matter the potential harm to our economy.

The Democrat-controlled Senate is unlikely, in short, to support the spending cuts and the curtailing of government power that were approved by the House. That is going to set up a showdown between the Republican-run House on one side and the Senate and the president on the other. The outcome of that battle has enormous implications for our nation's financial strength, and even for our solvency.

Democrats are striving to portray the proposed Republican cuts as unreasonable. But if anything, the cuts are too timid. The limited pain they would cause today is nothing compared with the economic disaster that is coming if we do not begin to cut spending now.