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article imageTwo Budgets; Two Visions

By Donald Quinn     Mar 24, 2013 in Politics
The US Senate has passed its first budget in over 4 years. A largely symbolic measure in response to the recently passed budget by the US House, it came after a marathon voting session and highlights two radically different visions for America.
For the first time in four years the Democratically controlled Senate of the United States of America was able to release and pass a budget. Despite the fact that the budget barely passed with a vote of 50-49 margin, it is being touted as a great accomplishment by Democrats and being derided as a travesty by Republicans. Once again the American people are left in the lurch since the budget stands as much chance of passing the House, as the House budget stood of passing through the Senate.
Not surprisingly the White House came out with enthusiastic support for the budget version passed by the Senate with White House press secretary Jay Carney saying, "The President and Democrats in Congress are willing to make difficult choices so we can cut the deficit while laying the foundation for long term middle class job growth. And it is encouraging that both the Senate and House have made progress by passing budgets through regular order".
In a classic case of the partisanship that has made Washington DC the most ineffectual government in a decade, he went on to say “"The House Republican budget refuses to ask for a single dime of deficit reduction from closing tax loopholes for the wealthy and the well-connected but instead makes deep cuts to education and manufacturing while asking seniors and the middle class to pay more."
Meanwhile the House passed its own version of a budget, proposed and drafted by former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. Passing through the house on a vote of 221-207, largely along party lines, this budget is seen merely as a blueprint or the open salvo in the Republican parties attack on President Obama this year. The budget was quickly labeled an austerity budget because of the deep cuts to spending, and was just as quickly soundly rejected by the Senate.
The budgets are so far apart, one could be forgiven for thinking, that were drafted with two different countries in mind. The plan proposed by the Senate makes no attempt to balance the budget, though it does attempt to reduce the national deficit by $1 trillion dollars. This version of the budget offers a much smaller amount of cuts to spending and instead plans on reducing the deficit by raising the additional $1 trillion through tax increases, on top of the $600 billion already in place on the higher income earners. The total amount of spending cuts proposed under the Senate budget is $875 billion.
The house budget focuses more on spending cuts and balances the budget within 10 years, a major sticking point for the conservative base of the Republican party. To do so, however, the Ryan budget would make Medicare, America’s health insurance for senior citizens, dependent on a voucher system which has been widely criticized by Democrats and seniors alike. From a purely budgetary perspective Ryan’s budget offers $4 trillion dollars in savings and does not aim at increasing taxes. A major sticking point for Democrats is that Ryan’s budget, passed by the House, would lower corporate income tax from 39.6% to no more than 25%. The plan also would attempt to close loop holes that allows corporations to avoid taxes thereby, argues Ryan, bringing in more tax revenue than keeping the current schedule and loopholes in place.
Senators showed their partisan colors after the vote with Sen. Patty Murry of Washington saying “We have presented very different visions for how our country should work and who it should work for”
Senator Jeff Sessions said, “I believe we're in denial about the financial condition of our country. Trust me, we've got to have some spending reductions.”
By this summer, unless the two sides can agree on a budget, the American government will have to once again increase its debt ceiling and borrow even more money to keep the government afloat. Already the nation has over is over $16 trillion dollars, and rising at rates that have alarmed economists on both sides of the isle for years.
President Obama, who has overseen the largest deficit increase of any president in US history, plans to release his own version of a budget later this year. While most Americans are gravely concerned about the budget and the deficit, the President had this to say
“We don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt,” President Obama said in an exclusive interview with George Stephanopoulos for “Good Morning America.” “In fact, for the next 10 years, it’s gonna be in a sustainable place.”
The budget, once designed to make the country function has now become a tool for partisan rankling and jabs at the opposition, while Americans are facing some of the hardest times in the country’s history. With no end in sight to the crisis, many Americans are asking the question “What exactly are we paying our politicians in Washington to do?”
Here is a look at the two budgets, by the numbers.
• Total spending
o The Senate: $46.5 trillion
o The House: $41.7 trillion
• Total revenue
o The Senate: $41.2 trillion
o The House: $40.2 trillion
• 10-year deficit
o The Senate: $5.4 trillion
o The House: $1.4 trillion
• National debt at end of 2023
o The Senate: $24.4 trillion
o The House: $20.3 trillion
• Social Security
o The Senate: $11.3 trillion
o The House: $11.3 trillion
• Medicare
o The Senate: $6.8 trillion
o The House: $6.7 trillion
• Health, including Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program
o The Senate: $6.6 trillion
o The House: $4.0 trillion
• National defense
o The Senate: $6.0 trillion
o The House: $6.2 trillion
• Income security, including housing assistance, cash benefits and food stamps
o The Senate: $5.6 trillion
o The House: $5.0 trillion
• Interest on national debt
o The Senate: $5.2 trillion
o The House: $4.5 trillion
• Veterans benefits and services
o The Senate: $1.7 trillion
o The House: $1.7 trillion
• International Affairs, including foreign aid
o The Senate: $506 billion
o The House: $431 billion
• Education, training, employment and social services
o The Senate: $1.1 trillion
o The House: $906 billion
• Transportation
o The Senate: $919 billion
o The House: $801 billion
• Agriculture
o The Senate: $205 billion
o The House: $196 billion
• Natural resources and environment
o The Senate: $474 billion
o The House: $385 billion
• Community and regional development
o The Senate: $268 billion
o The House: $88 billion
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