By Mary Kate Cary |
The Budget Control Act, which was a difficult compromise to avert an economic crisis and avoid defaulting on our debt, included two parts. First, it reduced defense and nondefense spending over the next decade by about $900 billion. Second, it codified an agreement to reduce the deficit by another $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Because Democrats and Republicans were unable to agree on how to achieve this second round of savings, the agreement included a "Sword of Damocles"—indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts of almost $1 trillion, 50 percent from defense and 50 percent from much of nondefense—if Congress failed to agree on a different deficit reduction plan. This slash-and-burn approach isn't the best way forward for our country but was included as a measure of last resort to force both parties to come together and agree on a plan to reduce the deficit.
It would be a big mistake to allow these additional cuts to take place for two important reasons: they would be too deep and too arbitrary. That's why both the president's budget and the House Democratic alternative budget would replace this slash-and-burn mechanism with a plan to achieve greater deficit reduction from targeted, balanced policy choices. While we may be able to achieve further reductions in discretionary spending—both defense and nondefense—in the future, it must be done in a targeted and strategic way. As President Obama has said, "the size and the structure of our military and defense budgets have to be driven by a strategy, not the other way around."
Our budget replaces these meat-ax cuts with a combination of reductions from mandatory programs like agriculture subsidies and revenues generated by eliminating tax loopholes and asking millionaires to return to the same top tax rate they paid during the Clinton administration. Unfortunately, the Republicans have rejected that balanced approach. Because they refuse to raise a single penny by cutting tax breaks for the wealthy, their plan hits virtually everyone and everything else. The GOP budget ends the Medicare guarantee, raises the costs of student loans, increases the tax burden on middle-income Americans, and guts important investments in our economy. An independent study shows that their plan will result in large jobs losses just as the economy is slowly recovering.
We should reject that lopsided approach and adopt the balanced framework recommended by every bipartisan commission and reflected in the Democratic budget plan.
About Chris Van Hollen Member of the United States House of Representatives
Mackenzie Eaglen Resident Fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute
Benjamin H. Friedman Research Fellow in Defense and Homeland Security Studies at the Cato Institute
Lawrence J. Korb Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress