Student Op-Eds Week in Review

Week in Review: A New Budget Battle

Drew Hoppes, ‘13

The boundaries have been set. The debate on budget implementation raged on in Washington last week as the pilot budgets by both parties were revealed. The debate and the media coverage that followed served as a perfect example of the polarization of politics and the media. Each party chastised the other for irresponsible and foolish legislation. The title of a piece by Jack Kelly of the Pittsburgh Gazette said it best: “Dems, GOP Engage in Fairy Tale Budgeting. As non-partisan as that title may be, even Mr. Kelly let his personal agenda shine through in his writing,   following the trend in almost every article written on the topic over the last week.

Mr. Kelly, a former employee of the Pentagon, outlines the skeletons of the bills for both parties. The theme of the Republicans’ bill is cuts, planning to “spend 5.7 trillion less over the decade than CBO forecasts would otherwise be spent if no changes are made in current economic policies.” As Kelly explains, these projections make a few key assumptions. The CBO assumes that the government will spend $1.2 trillion more in 2023 than it does now. The Republican budget accounts for trillions of dollars of savings by the abolishment of the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Ryan turns Medicare back into a voucher program, something he said he would not do in his unsuccessful campaign in the 2012 election.

The Pittsburgh columnist let his allegiance be known, however, as he started explaining the Democrats’ budget. He concludes that “to get their numbers, Democrats rely on pixie dust, magic beans and chicanery.” The Democratic budget plans to spend a trillion more than the GOP version, while raising taxes by $975 billion, according to their own calculations. Republicans estimate the taxation to be closer to $1.5 trillion. The Democrats’ bill also never purports a balanced budget, but rather deficits no higher than $400 billion annually. While Kelly does not believe it is fiscally responsible to ever have a deficit of over $400 billion dollars, he suggests that the inaccuracy of CBO projections could allow for the overstatement of projected revenues.

Most articles written about the subject were opinion pieces that took blatantly partisan approaches, rather than Mr. Kelly’s more subdued agenda. Representative Tom Price’s piece in Real Clear Politics entitled “The Unserious Senate Budget, was more indicative of the style of writing circulating this week. The crux of his argument is simply that Democrats are taxing more so they can spend the people’s money more. He goes on to essentially give a marketing pitch for The Path to Prosperity Bill, explaining that the Republicans’ secret is to “not spend more than we have.” He doesn’t rely on “budget gimmicks, accounting tricks, or wasteful spending.” Nowhere in his article, however, does he explain the big difference in the two budgets – the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

The trillions of dollars that would supposedly be saved by repealing the law is a necessary component of the House committee’s bill. Democrats believe it is foolish for the House Budget Committee to assume that the Affordable Care Act is simply vanishing from the books. After being upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision in July of 2012, Republicans have brought legislation proposing to appeal Obamacare to the Senate a staggering 36 times. The most recent attempt last Friday, and was voted down 54-45 across party lines. Assuming trillions of dollars in cost savings from the repealing of Obamacare does not make House Republicans more creative or intelligent financially, but rather just makes them look bitter about an issue that was decided last year. As much as the Democrats won’t budge on the Affordable Care Act, it seems as if Republicans are equally passionate about preventing taxes and big government. Now that the lines have been drawn in the sand, the American people wait to see what a compromise would actually look like for such a pressing issue.