Little progress

Published 11:04 am Thursday, April 14, 2011

Daily Herald editorial

President Barack Obama’s deficit reduction plan — revealed in a speech Wednesday — shows just how difficult it is going to be to get the nation’s government to balance its spending with its income.

At issue is the growing national debt, which in turn is driven by a federal budget that spends more than it takes in from taxes. While spending in excess of receipts is a wonderful thing for Americans in the short term, it means the country is headed for a crash at the point it can not service the debt it is running up.

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The president took the unusual step — for a Democratic president — of proposing significant spending cuts. But Mr. Obama’s plan was vague on how it would address some of the government’s biggest expenses: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. While the president did suggest it would be possible to save money on Medicare and Medicaid, he was careful to not provide much detail — because cutting into those programs would be wildly unpopular. Likewise, he made a brief mention of Social Security — which is under pressure because of the nation’s aging population — but did not really offer any suggestions for keeping the program in balance.

No deficit control plan is going to work unless those major costs are addressed. But no plan for controlling costs in those programs is going to be anything but massively painful. So the president joins a long list of politicians who are dancing around the federal deficit problem without really being willing to do the heavy lifting.

There are no easy answers. The only question is whether anyone in power will address the had parts, or whether the country will just stumble into a massive debt and budget crisis without a plan.