(HOST) The struggle to reach a compromise on the 2011 Federal Budget is only a prelude for future budget battles. Commentator and veteran ABC News diplomatic correspondent Barrie Dunsmore offers some background on the next big one.
(DUNSMORE) In virtually all rankings of American presidents by historians, Republican Abraham Lincoln is number one and Democrat Franklin Roosevelt is number two. For decades, public opinion polls have produced similar results. But there has always been a hard core of those who did not share the rest of the country’s enthusiasm for these top two presidents.
For nearly a century after the Civil War, no candidate of the party of Lincoln could get elected dog catcher in the Deep South. And for more than half a century, arch-conservatives have dreamt of rolling back Roosevelt’s social safety net legislation with its signature Social Security program, along with Medicare and Medicaid which they see as by-products of Roosevelt’s New Deal.
Ironically, the election of a black man to the White House, which could be seen as the ultimate Civil War victory, has coincided with the energizing of those political forces historically opposed to government social programs. As Republicans now control the House of Representatives and Conservatives and Tea Partiers have become the dominant force in today’s Republican Party – shrinking government spending as a percentage of the economy to nineteen forties levels – has become the top of their agenda.
The instrument for turning back the clock to a time when capitalism was unfettered, regulations were few and maximum income tax rates were at 25% – is the proposed 2012 House Republican Budget. It would cut government expenditures by more than six trillion dollars over the next ten years.
No one would argue that America’s national debt and budget deficits need to be brought under control. And the bi-partisan Bowles-Simpson Commission offered a formula of spending cuts and tax increases that would take a significant step in that direction.
But the Republican budget contains no such balance. As its principal author Congressman Paul Ryan said in introducing his plan, "This is not a budget. This is a cause."
The "cause" that Ryan and House Republicans so eagerly wish to serve, is nothing short of the dismantling of the Federal Government as we have known it for the past six decades.
Specifically here’s how some of the quote "savings" would be achieved:
-repealing the health care reform law, leaving 30 million people uncovered and many more with inadequate insurance.
-eventually ending Medicare and turning it into a private program paid for with vouchers that the Congressional Budget Office says would drive up the cost for seniors.
-taking $770 billion out of Medicaid for the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable.
-cutting education spending by 36 percent and transportation by 41 percent.
-slashing $19 billion from veterans programs, although nothing from the Pentagon budget.
-Social Security escapes changes for now.
But here is the real clue to the ideological nature of this Republican budget. It actually adds $4 trillion to the deficit by significant cuts in personal and corporate taxes down to 25 percent.
Such an unashamed effort to take from the poor to give to the rich is quite remarkable.
(TAG) You can find more commentaries by Barrie Dunsmore at VPR-dot-net.