The Republicans’ 2016 budget has been released. Following suggestions from President Barack Obama and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) regarding where the budget and tax reform should go, the GOP has put out its own plan for the financial future of the nation. Judging from Rep. Tom Price’s (R-Ga.) op-ed in USA Today, the budget is meant to be a contrast to Obama’s plan (and indirectly Rubio’s plan — despite Price and Rubio having worked together on cuts in the past). Price writes that the budget will “restore fiscal discipline in Washington” and that it will stand in “stark contrast to President Obama’s budget proposal which never, ever balances.”
The emphasis in the budget is placed on making major reductions in spending over the next 10 years, borrowing from former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of State Mike Mullen, saying that debt is “the single, biggest threat to our national security.” In total, it quotes a cut of $5.5 trillion in under 10 years, as well as an “end to annual deficits” in order to “stave off a severe and completely avoidable fiscal crisis in the future.” It also calls “this dreadful recovery” the “worst in the modern era” and touts the advantages of small government and business growth on middle class improvement.
Of course, most budgets claim to be the penultimate solution to the plight of the middle class — in fact, practically every budget for many years, across parties. But like most legislative efforts, it has its strong points and its weak points. If only there was a way to balance the budget proposal and not just the budget.
There are areas that hit the mark and could be strong guiding factors for an improved American economy. The emphasis on balancing the budget is admirable — and it’s incredibly important. Republicans play an important roll in pulling back on spending and programs that the country cannot afford. There’s also the demand for oversight; when it doesn’t lead to expensive and extended congressional hearings, making sure government programs place importance on “efficiency and effectiveness” can help ensure that not only is money spent where it should be, but the result of programs and policy is as intended. Even the classic focus on small state government efforts over national policy, despite being clearly intended to cut into the president’s activity, has its merits and its points. Local government doesn’t always direct its own fate in a workable manner — as we’ve seen with the same-sex marriage mess — but often local government is best placed to judge what it needs and when.
On the other hand, some aspects of the proposal are simply far too extreme to be passable. Cuts are too severe, and they’re focused on social issues, with military aid taking a large chunk of funding. It’s not that Democrats aren’t in favor of military spending; once again, this is a strength that like any medicine becomes a poison when dosage increases to dangerous amounts or when badly administered. Just recently Defense Secretary Ash Carter spoke on behalf of the president to Congress, criticizing the sequester and its effect on the military and national security. Carter spoke in favor of the president’s budget, which also supported “a defense budget above the artificial caps of the Budget Control Act” in order to defeat ISIL.
“The Joint Chiefs have made clear that a return to sequestration-level cuts would significantly reduce the military’s ability to fully implement the President’s defense strategy,” stated the White House budget, mentioning both Russia and the Middle East as key concerns in the year to come.
On that aspect, Republicans may have fallen short and created intra-party conflict. The GOP budget adds $40 billion to the military budget, but it’s debatable whether that reaches the request made by Obama in his budget, and the last thing many in the Republican party want is to fall short on national security funding. Some have said they would not support the plan if it didn’t at least match Obama’s request, according to Reuters. So not only does the latest GOP budget fail to balance partisan requirements for passage, in particular with its section on health care and the elderly, but it may see conflict from within the party as well. “I think it’s going to be hard,” said Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), according to USA TODAY. “I don’t see how it gets passed.”
Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS
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