“The LIHEAP program is a necessity, not a luxury, and the president must fully account for the devastating social impact significant cuts would have on families in Maine and throughout the Northeast as they struggle to weather the current economic storm.”
The pressure to cut spending has mushroomed over the past year by voters who expressed opposition to runaway federal spending and by the president’s deficit reduction commission.
The high-profile commission released a report in December that highlighted how federal spending now makes up the largest part of the economy since World War II and that tax revenues are at their lowest levels since 1950.
The 2011 spending bills address discretionary spending, but the real cost increases are in entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which could be dealt with in the 2012 budget.
In his weekly radio address Saturday, Mr. Obama repeated his vow to offer a budget proposal that includes a five-year freeze onnonsecurity discretionary spending and calls for “job-creating investments in roads, high-speed trains and broadband.”
“So after a decade of rising deficits, this budget asks Washington to live within its means, while at the same time investing in our future,” the Democrat said. “It cuts what we can’t afford to pay for what we cannot do without.”
In the Republican response, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah said “the president’s proposal for a freeze in government spending might give the White House a nice talking point, but it is a totally inadequate solution to our nation’s spending problems.”
Budget analysts said both sides will have to think bigger if they want to make a real dent in the deficit.
Robert L. Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, called the president’s proposed freeze “more window-dressing” and said the GOP spending cuts “focus far too much attention on a narrow slice of the budget.”
The long-term spending problems will not be addressed until lawmakers stop paying just lip service to the entitlement programs that make up the largest and fastest growing part of the federal budget, he said.
“I think both sides are trying to avoid a fight over the things that’s going to offend their base,” Mr. Bixby said.
“If they fight about waste, fraud, and abuse and domestic discretionary programs - that’s safe territory. Republicans don’t have to alarm anybody about putting taxes on the table and Democrats don’t have to alarm anybody about putting entitlements on the table.”