Feature

Don’t expect any real budget cuts

Discretionary spending makes up only 16 percent of the budget, and cutting $100 billion from these programs will barely touch the $1.3 trillion deficit, said Steve Chapman in the Chicago Tribune.

Steve ChapmanChicago Tribune

Tea Partiers should prepare to be disappointed, said Steve Chapman. When asked how they’ll bring the federal budget under control, Republican leaders who’ve gained power because of Tea Party votes say they’ll “freeze and cut discretionary spending.” Uh-oh: Discretionary spending makes up only 16 percent of the budget, and cutting $100 billion from these programs will barely touch the $1.3 trillion deficit. Any serious deficit plan has to address the rapidly escalating costs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which, along with defense spending, make up 60 percent of the budget.

Sadly, current Republican leaders continue a long GOP tradition of “magical thinking’’ about frugality. Ronald Reagan preached fiscal discipline, but he let the federal budget balloon by 22 percent. George W. Bush turned a $128 billion surplus in 2000 into a $459 billion deficit by 2008. Republicans insist they’ll be different this time around. But since they’re counting on the senior-citizen vote in 2012, they’re unwilling to cut entitlement programs. If you expect Republicans to reduce the size of government, you might as well be “waiting for Santa Claus.”

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