BEAM: Hey, What Happened To Those Budget Cuts?

President Obama gave some, but he was among the winners when the fiscal cliff settlement was reached. Unfortunately, our children and grandchildren are the losers.

The president loaded up his golf clubs prior to Senate and House votes that avoided a fall over the cliff, and shortly thereafter he headed off to Hawaii to finish his vacation. Nothing was done to trim a $16 trillion national debt that will continue to grow and be passed on to future generations.

The bottom line is simple. The legislation approved by Congress raises taxes for higher income Americans that will give the government $600 billion more to spend over the next 10 years. It only cuts spending by $15 billion and adds nearly $4 trillion to federal deficits over the next decade.

“I’m embarrassed for this generation. Future generations deserve better,” U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, told The Associated Press.

Opponents — Republicans mostly — were promised spending would be reduced in the coming months, but that is all it is — a promise. And how many times have we seen such promises broken?

The next hurdle in this ongoing congressional gridlock over taxes and spending cuts comes next month when the national debt limit needs to be raised and federal agencies will be looking for money to operate. Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, who voted for the compromise, said that is when Republicans will insist on spending cuts, reform of the tax code and changes to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.

Democrats apparently have other ideas. Boehner wanted to amend the fiscal cliff settlement to include $300 billion in budget cuts, but Democratic leaders in the Senate said it wasn’t going to happen.

Congressional Democrats clearly don’t want anyone messing around with those three government programs. National Journal, a political news magazine, listed the AARP as one of the winners in the fiscal cliff negotiations. It said seniors and their lobbyists won’t have to be worried about cuts to those programs this month. The truth is, they may not have to worry about them for a long time.

Obama doesn’t sound as though he’s in the mood for another compromise. He said he isn’t going to have a debate with Congress over extending the debt limit. Actually, he wanted legislative power to raise the limit on his own, but didn’t get it.

Louisiana’s congressional delegation was split down the middle on the fiscal cliff settlement. U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat, and Republican David Vitter voted for the legislation. So did U.S. Reps. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, and Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman.

Vitter’s vote was a surprise in many quarters. He called the settlement “a much better outcome under Obama than I would have guessed.” Permanent tax cuts for 99 percent of Americans was a plus, he said.

Voting against were GOP Reps. Charles Boustany of Lafayette, Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge, John Fleming of Minden, Jeff Landry of New Iberia and Steve Scalise of Metairie.

Most had the same reaction expressed by Boustany.

“Last night, Washington voted to raise income tax rates for the first time in over two decades,” Boustany said. “I voted against this bill due to its fundamental failure to address one of the biggest problems facing our nation today: government spending. To the contrary, this legislation is comprised mainly of tax increases…”

Cassidy said, “The job of Congress is to strengthen and preserve Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid while addressing the debt and deficit. This bill does none of this.”

Sophie Quinton in a National Journal article agreed. She said members of Congress who want to cut spending (deficit hawks) were losers, along with Boehner, who failed to broker a deal that included tax cuts, the U.S. Treasury that faces a borrowing limit and the 1 percent of “wealthy Americans who make their money from investments, rather than paychecks…”

Taxpayers have to share some of the blame for the unwillingness of Congress to cut spending. They constantly talk about the need to reduce the country’s debt, but they want it done without touching government programs they hold dear. They can’t have it both ways. A majority of them who voted for Obama also see no problem in increasing taxes for the wealthy in this country.

“A central promise of my campaign for president was to change the tax code that was too skewed towards the wealthy at the expense of working middle-class Americans,” Obama said before heading off to Hawaii. “Tonight we’ve done that.”

Forgive me if I’m reading that wrong, but it sounds as though the president isn’t too concerned about curbing spending and reducing the national debt now that he and the Democrats have more money to spend.

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 337-494-4025 or [email protected].

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