11:15 AM EDT, July 27, 2011
A reader commenting on Rep. Chris Van Hollen's op-ed "Medicaid cuts would hurt us all" (July 25) bemoans his lack of commitment to seriously reduce the national debt. But his priorities and solution are questionable.
We have a crisis, but it's one of sluggish economic and job growth, not the deficit. If the deficit were an immediate crisis, the world wouldn't be nearly so anxious to purchase U.S. Treasury bonds at historically low interest rates.
One can cut all the discretionary spending one wants, but the fact remains that growth, not spending cuts, is the only thing that will solve our long-term deficit problem. And you can't cut your way to growth.
When adjusted for inflation and population growth, non-security discretionary spending is the same today as it was in 2001 — $369 billion. There was no reason any agreement on the long-term deficit had to be coupled to raising the debt ceiling.
In fact, raising the debt ceiling has nothing to do with long-term future spending. The debt ceiling is about paying for spending already approved by previous Congresses and presidents.
President Bush added almost $4 trillion to the deficit and, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Ms. Bush's two tax cuts and two wars will account for nearly half the public debt by 2019.
If Congress and the president had focused on the crisis of jobs and growth instead of on debt, the solutions they might have come up with would also have been the best long-term solutions to the debt crisis.
Meanwhile, drastic cuts in government spending at this time will only increase public and private sector job losses and threaten a return to recession.
One has to wonder about the true motives of some in the Republican Party. They certainly had no concern as to the size of the debt during the Reagan and Bush years. Is it possible that some now see a chance to use the debt issue as a way to destroy the Obama presidency and unravel all the gains made during FDR's New Deal?
Jack Kinstlinger, Baltimore
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