During the “debt limit showdown of 2011” it was decided on both sides to extend the debt limit until after the 2012 election, and by doing so both sides agreed to a whopping 1.2 trillion dollars in cuts over the next 10 years which set up the dreaded fiscal cliff. Why exactly do we need to cut anything? That is mostly a discussion for another diary, but in essence, in macro economics of nations that mint their own money, they never have to pay off their debt, but instead they must produce enough money to pay the interest on their debts (it's kind of like refinancing a house for eternity). Typically in the past, what we've done as a nation is BORROW more money, in order to service the debt. However this time, with the rise of the Lipton Kids, our nation no longer seems fit to stick with the status quo, so we must now raise this money. Now, this money could have been raised either through cuts, revenue raises, or a combination of both. Thankfully, because of the Dems, we have now halved this burden. How so? See me after the delicious orange squiggle.
By keeping tax rates where they were (making the bush tax cuts permanent for everyone, even Scrooge McDuck) 1.2 Trillion would need to be cut, since Republicans wanted ONLY CUTS NO TAXES!!!
Because of the Republicans refusal to budge on taxes, and after they held our nation hostage during the debt limit crisis resulting in our first ever credit downrating, it was agreed upon by both sides, that this is where we would cut our 1.2 Trillion over 10 years:
Education and Special Education: 23B
Infrastructure Repair: 300B
Research and Development: 50B
State Department and Foreign Aid: 60B
Miscellaneous: 98B (Delicious Pork and Pet Projects allocated to the states)
As you can see, these are what both sides were willing to throw on the table as potential cuts over a 10 year period, roughly eliminating the current interest we pay on our federal debt.
That is before Obama fought and campaigned to raise taxes on top earners. While he originally fought to raise taxes on those making over 250k a year (which would have raised 1.2 Trillion over 10 years, thus eliminating all cuts, raising the 1.2 Trillion solely by taxing the rich), ultimately it was decided upon that those over 400k would be receiving the tax increases.
So how much does this then raise? Roughly 600 billion over 10 years (half of what is required to be cut or raised). While the deal is thought of to be terrible that Obama backed down, what it truely is, is pure tactical genius. One year ago Obama offered the Republicans a 10:1 deal, where 10 times the amount of cuts would be put in place compared to 1 part revenue increases. If half of the money has already been raised, and the other half comes from cuts, then this makes it a 1:1 ratio. Keep in mind that 1 year ago, Republicans would not agree to even a dollar of revenue increaes.
So now we find ourselves 2 months from yet another fiscal fight in congress of what to cut. The difference now is, only half of what was originally proposed will need to be cut. Now keep in mind, we are still in a fragile economy, and each and every one of those budget classifications represents the pay for many middle class americans. It is for this reason that I feel Obama should now bank the revenue increases he's won, but take a play from the republican playbook and demand more! Use the fear of defense cuts that republicans certainly do not want, to leverage more tax increases from the wealthy to pay for the difference. If we all believe in Keynesian economics, then we can agree that ANY money that comes from the federal government to the middle class is good for our economy. Even in the case of the defense, I do not feal we should be cutting anywhere, as i've illustrated below:
The Defense budget, while many on the left see as overgrown and unneeded, pays for many manufacturing and warehouses, especially in my home state of Pennsylvania, which represent many middle class jobs. These jobs, like all others, invests money from the national level to the local, making small businesses profitable from these workers.
HHS budget provides non-profit and even profit hospitals with tax credits and expenditures for machinery (also manufacturing jobs) as well as VA hospitals, nurses, and staff. Not to mention, HHS also provides us with the research to cure, treat, and combat invasive diseases and virii. Many of these are again middle class jobs.
Medicare budget provides life-saving medicine and care to our elderly, most of which were middle class workers, and the money that would be going to care for them, provides the funds for many middle class jobs.
Education and special education budgets provide funding for nearly every school in our country, and without this funding, more and more teachers will be losing their jobs in the upcoming year, and many families with special needs children will receive less funding for care and education, as well as the teachers and their aids.. These are solid middle class jobs.
Infrastructure Repair budgets provide nearly half of all the money that is used in each state to repair roads and bridges that we drive on every day and that the economy needs to move goods of commerce, as well as rail roads used to ship coal and other goods to provide energy to our houses and places of business. These are all middle class jobs that are made possible through funding at the national level.
State department and foreign aid’s budget provides us with the ability to retain positive relationships with our allies and other countries in need, from helping AIDs ravaged Africa to tsunami wrecked Indonesia to earth quake torn Haiti. While many complain that we should help ourselves first, the difference between helping these people or not comes out to less than $20 a year per person to keep the funding at this level. $20 is not a lot to ask from everyone to help millions around the world, and does a far better job by helping struggling countries, who in turn become trade partners and buy our goods. Aside from this though, supplies that are provided to these countries are bought from american companies, and american workers and volunteers are needed to move these supplies. These jobs, cuts to goods sold and manufactured, and the lives of millions could be cut.
Miscellaneous spending often referred to as pork is the most direct budget spending to affect local municipalities. This funding is often used to create parks, recreational activities, museums, and in general things that beautify and better enrich our lives. Not only does this funding create these things, but they also provide jobs for the people constructing them, the goods and tools required to build them, and the jobs for people to maintain and run them. These are middle class jobs.
So what is the point of this rant? It’s pretty simple. Yes these are tough times, and yes the federal government, much like each of us, must reign in our spending and get rid of waste. I don't think there is a single responsible Democrat who does not think some areas could be trimmed and cleaned up. But this funding is incredibly important to nearly every middle class person in this country. And as a result of Republicans fighting for the extension of tax cuts for those making between 250k and 400k, nearly every middle class american from the teacher to the construction worker to the small business owner will be affected negatively in some way by these cuts if they are to go in place.
As I’ve said many times before. I am a libertarian democrat, and I do feel that the government who governs least governs best, whether this be on social issues like gay marriage, or even on fiscal issues such as taxing the poor to give to the rich (otherwise known as corporate wellfare and fascism). But we do have a government, and they are there to work for us, and collectively funds can be used to better our society and way of life far better than when left in the hands of an individual who will not spend this money, and would rather our country go broke, than to reinvest it back into the economy.