Philip Maddocks: Congress promises budget cuts that won’t affect you
Lawmakers from both parties said that with the country on the brink of financial instability it is time for the American people “to hear the truth” about the sacrifices others will have to make in order to get the U.S.’ finances back in order.
In a news conference this week, leaders from both parties, in an unusual show of bipartisanship, pledged to make the painful fiscal choices necessary “that might affect other Americans, but not you.”
Both Democrats and Republicans agreed that “everything was on the table” as they discussed trimming the federal deficit. But they termed any plan to cut your benefits a “nonstarter” and assured Americans everywhere that it would be someone else who would have to give up entitlements in order to make the country whole again.
“We know this is going to be hard on a lot of people, but we’ve already asked you to make sacrifices and that hasn’t worked too well,” said one representative. “So what we are asking of you now is to let us ask someone else other than you to make those shared sacrifices so we can all get beyond this crisis.”
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate expressed confidence they would be able to find a way to get the deficit under control and the dispute over the country’s debt ceiling resolved without asking anything more from you.
“We have told the president that any spending cut he proposes that would affect you, we can find dozens of people other than you that we can put it off on,” said one senator.
“We don’t think it’s fair to ask you to pick up the cost when there are literally hundreds of millions of others out there who could be paying for this,” added a congressman up for re-election.
Reflecting the political potency of the issue, some Democrats in Congress are now signaling that they would accept linking some kind of automatic trigger to any proposed cut to your benefits or increase in your taxes.
“This is a seminal moment in our country’s history,” said a Republican lawmaker. “I think we are building up to a place over the next couple of months where we are going to do something.”
Even top Democrats, who oppose many of the Rapublicans’ plans, say lawmakers must show the public that they are moving to put you on a more stable financial footing even if it comes at the country’s expense.
“We’re going to have to come up with something that makes sense,” a Democratic senator told reporters after he met with White House officials last week. “My personal conviction is that we have to be able to prove that we’re willing to do something for you.”
The willingness of Congressional Democrats to examine such options reflects a recognition that lawmakers cannot credibly forge ahead with a vote on the debt limit without some accompanying steps to make the increase palatable to you.
One proposal getting attention is a plan from a Republican and a Democratic senator to cap federal spending within a decade at about 20.6 percent of the nation’s economic output — except when it comes to you.
“This is a situation where the more, the merrier,” said a longtime congressman.
One veteran political operative said that failure to come to an agreement this time would represent a “huge calamity” for you.
“I am concerned about our country,” he said, “but I am cheering for anyone who is trying to solve this with no cost to you.”
In coming weeks, the fight over sparing you from shouldering any of the country’s fiscal burden is likely to become entangled in the consideration of broader plans to address the government’s chronic budget deficits and the mounting debt.
A “Gang of One Hundred” in the Senate, made up of elected members to that chamber, is developing what is expected to be a far-reaching plan that its members hope could become the basis for a deal that addresses none of the growing costs of the entitlement programs and the other underlying drivers of the nation’s fiscal problems but that would shield you from any of the costs.
One Democratic member, who leads the Budget Committee, said Sunday that the group was making “enormous progress.”
“I hope that we are able to announce an agreement soon,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “If we don’t, we’re simply not going to be relevant, because telling you what you want to hear is the only way we will all get through this.”
Philip Maddocks can be reached at email@example.com.