The reason you should think of the budget as a moral document is because it lays out the country’s priorities in monetary form. Programs that suffered cuts were considered not as important as those whose funding stayed flat or increased. The more I read about the recent budget deal, the more disgusted I become. It turns out half of the cuts in spending are cuts only through legislative technicality. There are hard cuts to programs that help the poor, like WIC, which took a $504 million cut (mere pennies of the deficit), while the military, the government’s biggest expenditure, got $5 billion more in funding. The health of poor women and children was deemed less important than beefing up our already massive military complex. I don’t consider that a moral decision.
I don’t want to endanger our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else. I’d like them to be home where they belong. But I cannot believe we can’t cut any of the defense budget without endangering the safety of troops stationed around the world. I also don’t believe cuts in the military will make us vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Terrorist attacks are caused by the hatred of disturbed people. No amount of money can prevent them from carrying out their missions if they are determined enough. We might see fewer attacks and better worldwide sentiment toward the United States if we invested more money in the State Department and diplomacy instead of the Defense Department and its firepower. But the State Deparment suffered $8 billion in cuts under the budget deal. As Sarah Morgan at American Progress said:
These kind of lopsided cuts are the wrong approach. We need to refocus our spending priorities so we can adequately address and respond to the threats we face today — not those from yesterday. Today’s global challenges are far more complex and interconnected than yesterday’s, and traditional military might is not the only way — and often not even the best way — to maintain our leadership role in the world.
What really gets me is if most of these budget “cuts” aren’t really cuts, this deal could have been reached weeks if not months ago. We came way too close to an unnecessary shutdown. The New York Times had an interesting interactive graphic on its website where you could balance the budget by making a series of choices. I was able to balance both the 2015 and 2030 budgets mostly by raising taxes on the rich and cutting military spending. As people have been saying on Twitter lately, we don’t have a debt problem, we have a revenue problem. We could solve at least part of our problems by collecting taxes from companies who are earning billions of dollars in profit each year.
“Part of this American belief that we are all connected also expresses itself in a conviction that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security and dignity. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard times or bad luck, a crippling illness or a layoff, may strike any one of us. ‘There but for the grace of God go I,’ we say to ourselves, and so we contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security, which guarantee us health care and a measure of basic income after a lifetime of hard work; unemployment insurance, which protects us against unexpected job loss; and Medicaid, which provides care for millions of seniors in nursing homes, poor children, and those with disabilities. We are a better country because of these commitments. I’ll go further — we would not be a great country without those commitments. […]
“The America I know is generous and compassionate; a land of opportunity and optimism. We take responsibility for ourselves and each other; for the country we want and the future we share. … This is who we are.”
He also criticized the Republicans’ vision of austerity:
Worst of all, this is a vision that says even though America can’t afford to invest in education or clean energy; even though we can’t afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about it. In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90% of all working Americans actually declined. The top 1% saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. And that’s who needs to pay less taxes? They want to give people like me a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut that’s paid for by asking thirty three seniors to each pay six thousand dollars more in health costs? That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President.
The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America.
That’s the kind of president I can support.
I know the budget is a complicated problem. I don’t claim to understand all of the issues involved. But what it comes down to is a lack of funds. And as most families these days know, you can only cut so much fat out of your budget until there’s just nothing left. At some point you need to go out and get more income — i.e., raise taxes. I like keeping my money as much as the next person, but we’re kidding ourselves if we pretend we can cut our way out of the deficit. And the people best able — and unforunately the least willing — to help us out are millionaires/billionaires and corporations. It’s their obligation to do so, and we should keep up the pressure to make them contribute their fair share. MoveOn.org is hosting a Tax Day: Make Them Pay event Monday to bring attention to the country’s biggest corporate tax dodgers, including Fed Ex, General Electric and Amazon. Think about joining a nearby rally. Or, if you’re busy that day, let your senators and representatives know you agree with the president’s plan for the future.