I said budgets, not banjos!

The President’s Plan:  The President’s Budget For Fiscal Year 2012

U.S. Representative Paul Ryan’s (R) Plan:  A Roadmap For America’s Future

New York Times Comparison of the Two Plans:  Comparing Republican and Obama Budget Plans

The President’s plan looks to be the more common sense approach to me.  No, it doesn’t magically fix everything.  But it’s a start.  It’s going to take long-term fiscal restraint to eliminate the deficit and start reducing the debt anyway.  Also, the President understands this problem can NOT be solved by looking at spending alone.  We have to get more revenue.  And as much complaining as we all like to do about taxes, they really have been slashed significantly over the last couple of decades.  You just can’t do that and continue to provide the services that we the people expect from our government and not have a large deficit.

In contrast, the Ryan plan looks to be a…let’s say….a bit more soulless approach.  First, it’s a spending cut only approach.  Heck, not only that, he actually is proposing even MORE tax cuts.  Of course, the rich and corporations would be the beneficiaries.  Then, he has a plan that really is truly inadequate for Medicare.  It basically cans the whole thing and replaces it with vouchers.  Then on top of that, it ties the vouchers to the consumer price index, which unfortunately has no relationship to the rise in health care costs.  That means eventually seniors will have to pay a significant portion for health care out their own funds (the Congressional Budget Office estimates that portion to be between $6,400 and $7,000 to get the same level of coverage as they have now).  Obama was right to call out the immorality of such a plan, stating that they “want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors to each pay $6,000 more in health costs? That’s not right….”

But regardless of how this debate goes, what I really hope is that there is an attempt made to educate the masses about what really makes up this country’s budget.  Polling numbers show that half of Americans think foreign aid makes up at least 20% of the budget (the average guess was 25%, it’s really less than 1%).  In another poll, the median guess for the percentage of the budget made up by PBS/NPR funding was 5% (it’s really about 0.01%).  It is things like Medicare, Social Security, and national defense spending (it’s still unbelievable to me that we spend more on our military than the next 5 ranked countries combined) that actually makes up huge chunks of our budget (more than 50% combined).  Until we as a nation have that fundamental understanding, I don’t see how a budget debate can have much meaning to the voters.

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