President Obama Proposes Long-Term Austerity Measures

Mark Laluan

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on his fiscal 2011 budget proposals, Feb. 1, 2010 at the White House in Washington, D.C.

President Barack Obama has proposed this week a $1.1 trillion cut to government spending over the next decade.

Obama’s spending proposals are indicative of the new political reality of a Republican-led House of Representatives controlling the purse strings over the next two years.

In the current proposal presented to Congress, the Obama Administration calls for $3.73 trillion in spending for the fiscal year 2012, which amounts to a 2.4 percent reduction in total government spending from fiscal year 2011’s budget.

Leading the top of Obama’s proposals is a five-year freeze in increasing the rate of non-defense related domestic spending. Estimates put out by the Obama Administration show that this will save taxpayers over $400 billion over the next ten years.

Military spending will also be subject to a proposed immediate reduction of $78 billion, to be phased in over a five-year period.

Spending reductions have been called for in response to America’s growing public debt. Even with cuts, total government debt is expected to top $12 trillion through this decade.

Obama’s proposed budget and long-term spending cuts will not affect Social Security and Medicare. The combined cost of America’s social safety net has rapidly outpaced the ability of the taxpayer to fund these mandated programs.

Social Security and Medicare reform was attempted under the administration of President George W. Bush. The Bush administration’s proposed policies, first to privatize Social Security and then to suggest cuts in mandated coverage, were torpedoed through a bipartisan effort by Republicans and Democrats.

President Obama and his allies in Congress have shown no willingness to make cuts to Social Security of Medicare at this time. Other social welfare and public interest programs will feel the axe instead.

In addition, his own proposals for ending subsidies for energy exploration to save $46 billion and reducing funding for affordable heating for the elderly to save $2.5 billion, Obama’s budget has shown room to adopt, in one form or another, sweeping Republican proposals to end federal support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio, family planning services and AmeriCorps.

When asked if Obama’s spending priorities were appropriate, CSU East Bay senior and accounting major Christopher Greco thought the current proposals “dismal.”

“I feel that Obama is cutting money out of the wrong programs and our future will suffer because of it,” said Greco. “In a way, if Bush hadn’t put us in such a bad position with his lax business regulations, marred by over-spending and under-regulation, Obama wouldn’t have needed to make harsh cuts.”

“Obama’s budget seems to be the preface to some ‘1984’-style dystopia where much needed assistance to our country’s creative centers has been sacrificed for short-term gains.”

While America shows no signs of treading down the authoritarian path of George Orwell’s 1984, it is clear that Obama’s budget has ruffled some feathers through its de facto endorsement of Republican positions on spending priorities.