Public Perception Verses the Budget

The polls show that the public is overwhelmingly in favor of a balanced budget, but thinks the Republican plan is too harsh. These sentiments appear to contradict themselves. The public seems confused, and little wonder.

Mr. Clinton keeps talking about how he has cut spending and reduced the deficit. Meanwhile the Republicans are telling us that all they are trying to do is pass the first balanced budget in 26 years. If Mr. Clinton has made all those spending cuts and if the Republicans get their balanced budget passed why do we need to raise the debt ceiling?

It’s because the President’s cuts weren’t real cuts but Washington cuts. He didn’t cut spending. He cut the amount he wanted to spend if money were no object. And, the Republican’s balanced budget is a stretch, a seven year stretch which is an eternity in Washington. Republicans cannot assure us of anything beyond next year and the next election, and they know it. As for plans to balance the budget somewhere off in the future, we’ve heard it all before. That’s why the public is so skeptical. That’s why the public is being tossed to and fro, by the latest rhetoric, the latest creative sound bite. We don’t know who to believe anymore. It’s not because the Republicans went too far. It’s because they didn’t go far enough.

Yes, the polls seem to be empowering Mr. Clinton at the moment, but let me put it this way. Would you eat a seven course gourmet meal topped off by a hot fudge sundae everyday if you knew it wouldn’t blow your budget, add to your weight and clog up your arteries? You betcha! That’s the way these polls have been structured. Would you like the country to keep right on dining on both gravy and hollandaise? If you cut through the President’s rhetoric he wants to keep cutting those Medicare checks just the way we are now, and decrease premiums to boot. Why not, if you ignore the fact that it will bankrupt the program.

And, let’s look at the rest of government. Sure we’d like to go right on spending on education, public television, the arts, you name it, and the programs that pay people not to work and not to grow things, and more and more money for more and more government workers. Why not? Except for the fact that we are squandering the resources of this country and pilling up debt for our children and grandchildren. That what I call harsh — harsh reality!

If Republicans are having trouble making their case to the American people it’s because if this budget is passed as is, the amount of our deficit spending will go up next year, not down. Republicans have made some important structural changes to be sure. However, they seem to have lost sight of the fact that they were elected, not to reorganize, but to pull all those needless, ineffective, and outdated programs and agencies out by the roots. After all is s said and done, if the conservatives in the House get their way only one useless agency will be off the radar screen of big government next year, Ron Brown’s Commerce Department. Unfortunately about 80% of its functions and staff will remain. They simply will be folded into other agencies.

How can Republicans really expect people to believe the are putting this country on a much needed diet when they’re still serving the baked potato with all that sour cream and butter. Sure they’ve cut out the chives and bacon bits, but when we put the country back on the scales this time next year, we won’t be able to tell the difference.

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