By Bill Press
Tribune Media Services
On my radio show this week, newly elected Congresswoman Kathy Hochul acknowledged she was settling in to her new job in Washington. Still, she volunteered, at the end of the week she couldn’t wait to hop on a plane to upstate New York and get back to “the real world.”
Good for her. Already, Hochul realizes that Washington’s about as far as you can get from the “real world,” especially when it comes to debating budget cuts. In fact, judging from the nonsense heard every day about deficit reduction, official Washington’s wallowing in a world of lies spread by tea partiers and swallowed by people who should know better.
Lie 1: Debt reduction’s the number one problem facing this country. Nonsense! In the “real world,” the number one issue is not shaving trillions of dollars off the national debt. It’s creating new jobs. According to the latest Gallup survey, 58 percent of Americans rate the economy and jobs as the most important problem today. Only 16 percent rate the debt number one. Yet cutting $2 trillion or $4 trillion dollars out of the budget will not create one new job. In fact, the more we cut, the more jobs we lose.
Yes, of course, the deficit’s too big, so is the national debt. And yes, we have to start chipping away at both and stop piling so much more on. But that doesn’t mean Congress should drop everything else — global warming, immigration reform, education, renewable energy — and just cut, cut, cut until we balance the budget.
We didn’t become a great nation by thinking small. Think how much poorer a people we would be without the continental railroad, the interstate highway system, Social Security, Medicare, the space program, our great national parks, medical research labs, and other bold projects undertaken by Republican and Democratic presidents. We, in turn, must continue investing in the future or become a second- or third-rate nation.
We’ve already allowed ourselves to become a second-rate nation in space. This week’s successful Atlantis mission marked the end of the space shuttle and, in effect, the end of America’s space program. There are no new missions planned. Four thousand NASA employees have been given pink slips. And, from now on, if we want to deploy an American astronaut to the space station we built, we’ll have to buy a seat on a Russian spaceship — at a cost of $60 million each. We’ve gone from the leader in space to a hitchhiker.
Lie 2: Balancing the budget demands painful, but necessary, cuts in Social Security. Not true. As Senator Bernie Sanders points out, Social Security has not contributed one penny to the budget deficit. In fact, the trust fund has a $2.6 trillion surplus. With no adjustments, it can pay out every benefit owed for the next 26 years.
Indeed, Social Security and Medicare are part of today’s discussion about debt reduction for one reason only: because Republicans are using this excuse to achieve something they’ve always wanted: getting rid of both programs.
Lie 3: It doesn’t matter whether we raise the debt ceiling or not. Get serious. Who are you going to believe? Moody’s or Michele Bachmann? Standard and Poor’s or Steve King?
It’s as simple as this: great nations pay their bills. Again, this is something Republicans and Democrats always agreed on. That’s why the debt ceiling’s been raised — with no strings attached and no mandatory cuts — 39 times since 1980. The only reason the debt ceiling and budget cuts are linked this time around is because it’s Barack Obama, not George W. Bush, in the White House. Which gets us to…
Lie 4: Conservatives are fiscally responsible. Oh, really? Where were they when George Bush piled on the national debt with two wars, a massive expansion of Medicare, and tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires? Or when Dick Cheney proclaimed, “deficits don’t matter”?
It’s immoral to saddle our children with debt, they piously preach. Baloney. When they’re old enough to enjoy the great opportunities they’re given as Americans, our children will thank us for what we did build, not what we failed to build. Today’s Republicans only demand balanced budgets when Democrats are in power, but spend like mad when they’re in charge.
On debt reduction, there are too many politicians spreading lies. Where are Democrats and Republicans willing to stand up and tell the truth?
© 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.