Time for Obama and Democrats to Act on Budget Deficit

Entitlements make up the biggest piece of the budget pie.

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I want to apologize to my readers: Earlier this week, I wrote that the American people are ready for entitlement reform, and it’s the politicians who are not. What I should have written is: It’s the Democrats who are not. Specifically, it’s the Democratic leadership who is not.

Case in point: the letter sent today to President Obama from 64 senators—a supermajority from both parties—asking him to join the effort in developing a plan to rein in record budget deficits. According to the Washington Post, the senators wrote: “By approaching these negotiations comprehensively, with a strong signal of support from you, we believe that we can achieve consensus on these important fiscal issues.”  ‘Strong signal of support’ wins the Understatement of the Week award. We need more than a signal; we need action. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

Case in point number two: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Social Security reform this week. "Two decades from now, I'm willing to take a look at it, but I'm not willing to take a look at it right now," he told MSNBC. "It is not in crisis at this stage. Leave Social Security alone. We have a lot of other places we can look that is in crisis. But Social Security is not." This means he’s not willing to look at Social Security reform for 20 more years, when he’s 91.

I think if Reid saw the PowerPoint presentation that Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan is reportedly sharing with Republican members of the House to build support for entitlement reform, he would revise his remarks. I don’t like PowerPoint any more than the next guy, but this one you’ve got to see. Here’s the link, courtesy of Raw Story. In it, you’ll see that non-defense discretionary spending is only about one fifth of all federal spending, despite all the headlines about cutting discretionary spending to balance the budget. It’s Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security that take up the biggest piece of the pie by far. When you see the numbers graphically, rather than as a paragraph of text, it’s pretty shocking. [See a roundup of political cartoons on President Obama.]

Andrew Stiles of National Review Online wrote a must-read piece that ends with this thought:

In spite of the challenge, Ryan insists that Republicans will ‘lead with our chin.’ They will no doubt come away bruised and bloodied, but so be it—to do nothing would be morally indefensible. And for Ryan, the father of three young children, the stakes—maintaining the American Dream for future generations—could not be higher. ‘The way I look at this, it is our obligation to our constituents, to our fellow countrymen to offer them an alternative vision for our country,’ he says. 'I don’t know what the outcome of that will be, but I know what side of history I want to be on.’

Time for President Obama and the Democratic leadership to decide which side of history they want to be on, too.