Congress must reduce deficit
Published: Saturday, November 26, 2011
Updated: Sunday, November 27, 2011 15:11
Our Congress has failed us yet again, and we as students may end up suffering the consequences.
As many political experts expected, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction missed its Nov. 23 deadline to reach a deal on deficit reduction. This 12-member bipartisan panel was charged with finding a minimum of $1.2 trillion in cuts to our federal budget by this date, or automatic cuts would take place.
This failure now triggers across-the-board cuts of $1 trillion in discretionary spending over nine years, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. These cuts will begin in 2013 unless Congress is able to make a deal before that can become law. There are many programs and agencies that would be in line for cuts.
The Federal Department of Education's budget is set to be slashed by $3.54 billion in 2013, according to advocacy group the Committee for Education Funding. The Pell Grant program is exempt from cuts in the first year, but other student-aid programs will lose $134 million, reducing aid to at least 1.3 million students, according to the Chronicle. Career, technical and adult education will lose $136 million, affecting 1.4 million students, according to the Committee.
Florida would also lose many jobs, according to the Orlando Sentinel. It reports that the Pentagon may be forced to absorb $600 billion in automatic cuts beginning in 2013. This could cause the state to lose as many as 40,000 jobs as a result, according to a report from the Aerospace Industries Association which was cited by the Sentinel.
The committee's failure to reach agreement on a package to extend payroll tax cuts would also affect many workers. Payroll taxes were cut to 4.2 percent this year, but the rate will go back to 6.2 percent in January unless Congress takes action, according to the Sentinel.
This panel's failure is not simply a failure of Congress, but it is a failure of what we have allowed our politics to become. Both sides were unable to reconcile their differences due to taking positions they would not budge from. The ideological battle was fought between Democrats who wanted to protect expensive social programs and increase revenue by raising taxes on the wealthiest of Americans, and Republicans, who want to cut government spending and have steadfastly refused tax increases, according to a report from USA Today.
President Barack Obama has worked hard himself on this issue, making two separate proposals to the supercommittee. One proposal, made in July, would have cut $1 trillion in domestic and defense spending and would have raised tax revenues by $1.2 trillion, according to the New York Times. A second proposal, made in September, would have cut $3.6 trillion from the deficit, 60 percent of which would have come from spending cuts, according to the Times. Both proposals were rejected by the supercommittee.
Until we demand that our leaders compromise, this political paralysis will only get worse. There is too much at stake for an agreement to not be found on this issue. Allowing the issue of deficit reduction to linger through the 2012 elections will only make it more difficult to resolve this matter.