Budget ducks tough choices

No changes proposed for largest drivers of deficits and debt

By Ken Esten Cooke— It’s a shame that politics now drives budget proposals more than common sense. And President Obama’s latest offering shows just that with its lack of addressing the true drivers of federal deficits.

The Senate, led by Democrats, has said it won’t bother to pass a budget this year. And House Republicans are fighting among themselves to come to an agreement.

Though annual deficits have fallen in recent years, long-term trends and the failure to address them, will continue to press future generations. Entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid continue to crowd out defense and infrastructure, which leaves the country compromised in a variety of ways.

The president must lead on budgets, whether or not the Congress is totally agreeable to his proposals. In 2010, he said he refused to pass on the problems of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to another generation.

But with his current proposal, election-year politics seems to be more important. USA Today called Obama’s latest budget proposal “a campaign document that defines Democratic priorities.” He should take President Clinton as an example of budget leadership and forge compromises with Congressional Republicans to help reduce spending on entitlements.

And the budget proposal does contain some good ideas, such as long-delayed infrastructure improvements, investment in education and science and other ideas.

Still, Republicans deserve blame, too, with their own unwillingness to work with the president and their blind loyalty to trickle-down policies. They prefer to focus on hot-button issues that will fire up their base, such as cuts to food stamp programs, instead of taking on the bigger entitlement programs. Those “big three” — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — when coupled with interest payments, take up two-thirds of the federal budget. USA Today states that 10 years from now, that 66-percent mark will grow to 80 percent if nothing is done. That spending will leave little room for the many other things that government could and should do.

It’s frustrating to watch this happening and to realize that compromise has become a dirty word in Washington. Still, true leaders at least propose solutions instead of shoving solutions to the back burner year after year.

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