Debate rages over the Federal Budget

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Instead of focusing on roses and chocolates this past Valentine’s Day, President Barack Obama was invoking images of the space race of the late 1950s and 1960s and college dropouts as he proposed a massively reduced budget to a Congress that was anything but lovestruck. The following month, the government came within hours of a complete shutdown, which would have put thousands temporarily out of work and had a negative effect on the already struggling economy. Eleven hours before the most recent budget deadline, the House of Representatives managed to push through another provisional budget that cut $38.5 billion from last fiscal year’s allowance. While the budget debates rage on, one thing is clear: belt tightening is in the near future for all Americans.

“Even as recovery begins to take hold, we have more work to do to live up to our promise by repairing the damage this brutal recession has inflicted on our people, generating millions of new jobs and seizing the economic opportunities of this competitive, new century,” Obama said in his Valentine’s Day address to Congress.

“The fiscal realities we face require hard choices. A decade of deficits, compounded by the effects of the recession and the steps we had to take to break it, as well as the chronic failure to confront difficult decisions, has put us on an unsustainable course. That’s why my budget lays out a path for how we can pay down these debts and free the American economy from their burden.”

Almost every area of the economy will be facing some kind of cut. The areas the hardest hit with respect to fiscal year 2010 come from the defense budget: research and development, test and evaluation, military construction, employee illness compensation programs, family housing, revolving management and trust funds, remedial action, and radiation exposure compensation all face cuts. For Medicare, healthcare fraud and abuse control will see a 2.3 percent cut. Grants to state Medicaid will be cut by 11.2 percent and cuts will also be made to children’s healthcare, disease control, research and training, the public health and social services emergency fund, coal miner retiree health, health care and COBRA tax credits, and other health services and training. Education and training will experience cuts in programs helping the disadvantaged, which will see a $5 billion drop. Special education, higher education, school improvement, student financial assistance, state employment services, Native American education, research and general education aids and academic competitiveness grants will also be cut, along with some funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, older Americans employment, and vocational and adult programs. Unemployment security programs will face a 47.2 percent cut. Earned income and child tax credits will be reduced along with foster care and adoption assistance, low income home energy assistance, public housing, unemployment insurance, child support and family support programs, troubled asset relief program and mortgage management, rural housing assistance, first-time homebuyer tax credit, armed forces retirement home, and children’s research and technical assistance. Veteran’s pensions funds will be cut by 12.7 percent, from $61 billion to $53 billion. Finally, transportation will see the cuts in railroad funding, airport and airway funding, mass transit initiatives and funding for highways.

Despite these sweeping cuts, supporters of the Tea Party movement are calling for larger cutbacks. Democrats and Republicans are coming closer to a final budget and it is probable that the budget will be finalized soon. In the meantime, debates will continue on where to take more money and where some might be put back in. As President Obama reiterated at the end of his address, “despite all we have been through these past two years, we will succeed. The idea of America is alive and well. As long as there are people willing to dream, willing to work hard, and willing to look past the disagreements of the moment to focus on the future we share, I have no doubt that this will be remembered as another American century.”

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