Watt talks fed. budget at Town HallBy Yasmine Regester, Staff Writer
Published: March 4, 2013
The informational session was an opportunity for participants to try their hand at balancing the budget. Participants were divided into groups and given a workbook with a list of government expenses where they had to vote yes or no to reduce the projected 10-year federal deficit.
“Regardless of what you’ve heard about the government there is not a dollar that the government spends that doesn’t benefit someone. If you take it away, there is going to be an impact to some program or initiative. Someone suffers,” said Watt.
Watt added, “Most if not all of the money the federal government has is acquired through taxation.”
Watt said one of the most pressing issues for Congress has been comprehensive tax reform. Congress also has the task of determining how social security will be paid for in the next 10 years. With the “baby-boomer” population, or those born between 1946-1964 aging out of the workforce, the government needs to make sure those people have access to social security when they need it. “We want those programs to be there for future generations,” said Watt.
Watt noted that most people don’t fully understand what the government is dealing with in terms of the budget. “Understanding all those pieces and that we as elected officials have to make the hard decisions. Making choices that require cutting support or increasing revenue is the only way we’re going to do this.”
The event was co-sponsored by The Concord Coalition, a national organization dedicated to educating the public about the causes and consequences of federal budget deficits.
Phil Smith, southern regional director of The Concord Coalition said, “Its a critical issue, more citizens should get involved. If you’re quiet, you better believe someone else will be loud.”
Smith said the most contentious topic he’s gotten feedback on has been foreign aid. “There are a lot of misconceptions about it. People say ‘hey just do away with it’ but it’s only one percent of the budget. Our problems are a lot bigger than one percent of the budget.”
The Fiscal Year 2012 deficit was $1.1 trillion, some due to decreased revenues from lower incomes and fewer workers; increased spending from unemployment benefits and food stamps; and from tax cuts and higher spending enacted to address the economic downturn.
“We’ve got to come together as a country and plan for the long term,” said Smith who noted town hall meetings give the politicians a chance to hear from constituents instead of just talking about what their going to do.
According to a fiscal outlook report released by the Congressional Budget Office, “Deficits are projected to increase later in the coming decade, however, because of the pressures of an aging population, rising health care costs, an expansion of federal subsidies for health insurance, and growing interest payments on federal debt.” The CBO also projects that budget deficits will total $7 trillion over the next decade.
The U.S. Congress currently faces a package of spending cuts worth $85 billion for the current fiscal year and $1.2 trillion over the next decade under The Budget Control Act of 2011. These forced cuts are called a sequester, or mandatory spending cuts made to the federal budget if the cost of running the government exceeds either an arbitrary amount or the gross revenue it brings during the fiscal year. Half the cuts would come from the Defense Department and the other half from federal agencies. These cuts would go into effect on Friday, March 1, 2013 if Congress doesn’t vote it down before then.