Deficit Reduction, Job Creation, Family Economic Security Shouldn't Be Mutually Exclusive

Mar 25, 2011

"Both Democrats and Republicans have said the budget shouldn't be balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable. This should be a key principle in budget negotiations, not a talking point."

By Alan W. Houseman

Congress will return to Washington next week with a final vote on the federal budget for fiscal year 2011 still hanging over their heads.

By now, it's well known that the House had proposed dramatic cuts to the tune of $61 billion to domestic, non-defense discretionary programs. The Senate rightly rejected this bill, which would have slashed early education, job training, postsecondary education, nutrition assistance for women and children, and home heating programs for low-income people.

Now, there is some hint that lawmakers are willing to compromise and put this year's budget behind them. On March 19, a bi-partisan group of 64 Senators sent a letter to the president asking for his leadership in deficit reduction, indicating tax reform, spending cuts and entitlement reform should all be on the table. And political insiders recently reported that lawmakers are trying to find middle ground on the FY2011 budget so they can move on to the budget for fiscal year 2012, which begins this year on Oct. 1.

The current Continuing Resolution expires April 8, and it is unclear, despite this talk of compromise, whether lawmakers will come to agreement by then. Regardless of what happens, lawmakers already have set the tone on their intent for federal spending beyond 2011. The tenor of the debate thus far is troubling.

First of all, purporting to begin restoring balance to the nation's budget by solely focusing on domestic, non-defense, discretionary programs is disingenuous at best. These programs collectively account for about 12 percent of the federal budget. Cutting these programs will barely whittle away at the deficit, but it will come at a significant cost, especially for children and families.

Those intent on cutting have as much acknowledged this, but insist that the nation "has to start somewhere."

The problem with where they are starting is that it disproportionately affects Main Street Americans, especially the most vulnerable among us. We agree that a key to the nation's long-term prosperity will be getting its house in order and its revenue and spending in line.

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