Washington is busy arguing about how to cut the budget, with Republicans (and especially Tea Party members) pushing for draconian cuts in everything ranging from Poison Control centers to environmental regulation. Meanwhile, Democrats are preventing those cuts from going through, which, while preventing major problems that would result from those cuts, does not help the deficit. Although it is important to stop many of these cuts, as they would cause serious economic problems as well as environmental and safety problems (and some, such as reducing Poison Control Center funding, would hurt the deficit), it is also very important to actually solve this deficit problem, or at least make some progress in solving it. However, it’s difficult to focus on deficit reduction when the focus rests on non-military discretionary spending- a total of about $600 billion. Even getting rid of all of that spending completely wouldn’t solve our trillion dollar deficit issue.However, there happen to be three other options which, if also added to the budget debate and used collectively, can serve as the key to budget reform. The first, entitlement programs, are probably not going to be accepted either by politicians or by the general public. Although this is not good, as they make up a very large portion of the budget, it is best to focus on what can be handled now. This leads to the Department of Defense, whose $700 billion budget is inflated with unnecessary wars and weapons programs that we can’t afford. Cuts here are traditionally opposed by Republicans, so it’s not a surprise to see that they’re not going along with them. However, the third and currently most overlooked option is raising taxes. The Clinton Administration had significanty higher taxes than we do now- income, capital gains, and estate- and yet the economy was doing fine. Strangely enough, when Bush tried to repeat the “trickle-down” economics policies that Republicans often praise, it didn’t do much good for the economy. A NBC News/Wall Steet Journal Poll found earlier this month that Americans are hostile towards cuts in Medicare, Social Security, education and other domestic spending. However, the poll also found that 81% support a millionare surtax, and 68% support ending the Bush tax cuts for the rich. At the beginning of the year, a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll showed that 61% would rather have taxing the rich be the first deficit fixing step, and 20% support cutting defense spending. Clearly this shows that Republicans aren’t listening to the people in this debate, and are lying through their teeth when they claim that Americans are opposed to increasing taxes.
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