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Bridging gaps a must for any budget bill

Posted: April 3, 2012 8:22 a.m.
Updated: April 4, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee really wants some bigger acorns for next year’s budget proposal and it seems many Americans do, too.

Speaking to the press last Wednesday after his bi-partisan budget plan got thumped in the House of Representatives, Cooper said his proposal was “like an acorn that can grow into a mighty oak tree,” but later added, “I wish it was a larger acorn.” 

The final tally for his House bill was 382 against and 38 for. Twenty-two of the supporters were Democrats, while 16 were Republicans.

So what was wrong with the proposal?

Ironically, it seems the bipartisan bill was simply too bipartisan. It found support from congressional members willing to compromise, but was left in the dust by the overwhelming majority that didn’t want to cross the aisle.

Cooper, a Democrat, joined with Republican Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio to introduce the plan, which was aimed at accomplishing many of the budget goals outlined in the 2010 Simpson-Bowles chairmen’s report.

The findings from the chairmen, Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff for President Clinton, and Alan Simpson, a former Republican Wyoming senator, called for a number of steps to improve the country’s financial situation in the long run, but focused on both spending cuts and tax increases. 

The budget blueprint from Simpson-Bowles and the bill introduced by Cooper and LaTourette matched the outlook from several polls that indicated most Americans favor a mix of both spending cuts and tax increases.

The plan introduced last week actually called for slicing $4 trillion from the national debt over the next decade through a combination of cuts and increased tax revenue.   

But representatives on the left and right were apparently disinclined to meet in the middle.

One plan that actually did pass in the House was Rep. Paul Ryan’s so-called “Path to Prosperity” proposal, which was approved by what many called a “polarized” vote of 228-191.

All but 10 Republicans voted for it, whereas no Democrat was willing to offer support.

Like Simpson-Bowles, Ryan’s plan calls for significant and much-needed changes to entitlement spending, which some Democrats are illogically not willing to consider.

Leaving entitlements like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid unreformed will undoubtedly lead to an even worse economic disaster down the road.

The Democrats on Capitol Hill who won’t seek major changes to the country’s entitlement spending foolishly add to the increased partisanship in Washington.   

But Ryan’s plan is certainly not perfect. His proposal insists on tax cuts instead of the increased tax revenues, particularly coming from those with the highest incomes, which should be part of the recipe to improve America’s economy.    

Rep. Ryan has said the budget gap from decreasing taxes will be made up from closing tax loopholes, but he has been largely unspecific as to which deductions and loopholes will be cut out.

Unfortunately, if the two sides can’t come together and particulars are left out of the process, then the country will continue to be stuck in its economic mire.    

The growing disconnect between Washington and the American people and the ongoing partisanship over the nation’s budget all sound like issues rehashed from the last few years. 

But unfortunately, the problems will once again come to the forefront this December when Congress will have to deal with a variety of pressing economic issues, including the extension of the Bush tax cuts, the expiration of the payroll tax holiday and another potential raising of the nation’s debt ceiling.

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