November 27, 2011

Going Big | Parkersburg News and Sentinel

"Go big" in reducing deficit spending, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin is urging fellow lawmakers. But most of them don't even seem capable of going small.

Manchin, D-W.Va., and scores of like-minded senators and members of the House of Representatives have a secret weapon in their deficit-slashing arsenal: next year's elections.

In August, Congress was unable to devise a deficit reduction package acceptable to President Barack Obama. His goal is massive tax increases, while thoughtful lawmakers understand the problem is too much spending instead of not enough taxing.

A stalemate during the summer was broken by agreement to form a "super committee" of senators and representatives. Its 12 members were told to come up with a plan to reduce deficit spending by $1.2 trillion over 10 years. They were given until Thanksgiving to accomplish the task.

If that didn't happen, automatic spending cuts would kick in, Americans were assured in August.

However, those "automatic" cuts will not begin until early 2013, after presidential and congressional elections the previous fall. That delay gave the "super committee" no incentive whatsoever to come to agreement by this week.

And it did not. Panel members have said they cannot agree on a plan to meet the $1.2 trillion target - even though, at $120 billion a year, it averages less than 3 percent of the total budget.

Another factor will become apparent sometime next year: What Congress takes away, Congress can restore. Beyond virtually any shadow of doubt, lawmakers will rescind some or all of the "automatic" spending cuts before they take effect.

Last Sunday, Manchin urged fellow lawmakers not to settle for $1.2 trillion in cuts. He said he and about 140 other Senate and House members, both Republicans and Democrats, want Congress to consider a package of $4 trillion in deficit reduction. The bipartisan Bowles-Simpson proposal, released earlier this year, could be used as a template, Manchin added. "Go big," he urged.

As matters stand, Obama and liberal lawmakers may be on the verge of deciding they have managed to pull the wool over the public's eyes once more - that they can get away with not cutting back on government spending.

They may well be wrong. Big government will be an issue in the 2012 elections. That will be a problem for Obama, and it should be one for members of Congress who let constituents down on deficit reduction. That will work to the advantage of Manchin and other responsible lawmakers. In effect, voters may give their peers the option of either going big - or going home.

By:  Editorial
Source: Heed Manchin’s call for big cuts