President Obama

 Today, February 14, 2011, President Obama will present his 2012 budget to Congress. He has labeled this budget as a “middle ground”, where there are areas for investing, and specific areas will things will be cut.

There will be hard decisions that the president will have to make, because everyone in the country will be forced to make adjustments and sacrifice.

The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but it embodies the values, priorities, and aspirations of the president and his administration. President Obama has promised spending cuts that are an expression of “shared sacrifice” needed to balance a $1.3 trillion budget deficit.

The nation has projected deficits over the next decade of $12.5 trillion, so at this point our budget is in the red. It is important that the president’s budget begins to put our country on a path of sustainability, and we stop spending money that is not in the bank.

This year the president is presenting his budget, and it is expected that it will be in the area of $3.6 trillion. The president has pledged that the 2012 budget would help the United States, “live within our means while investing in our future.” Many of the political pundits interpret the term investing with spending money, and funding programs that keep our country in debt.

Nevertheless, the president will call for a five year spending freeze and no pay raises for federal workers. He will target social programs, including cuts to a home heating assistance program for low income households. He also proposes reduction in the popular Community Development Block Grant programs, and in funds for community action grants.

It is obvious that this year, President Obama has a divided Congress and he will be forced to negotiate with the Republicans in the House, who believe that the cuts don’t go far enough. The president made it clear in the State of the Union address that he wants to work with Congress with our country’s short-term and long-term fiscal challenges.

As the president said in his State of the Union address, “Now that the country is back from the brink of a potential economic collapse, our goal is to win the future by out-educating, out building, and out innovating our rivals so that we can return to robust economic and job growth.” This will not be easy, because in the inner cities the unemployment rate is anywhere in the 35% to 50% range.

Everywhere you look around the country everyone is talking about cutting programs as opposed to expanding programs. Many of these programs that are being cut impact the basic needs and necessities in poor communities. With a $1.3 trillion budget deficit, everyone will be forced to make “shared sacrifices” and it will impact everyone.

Once the budget is presented that is only the first step. Now 40 congressional committees and 24 subcommittees will debate and hold hearings on what is feasible. Some of the president’s proposals will be accepted, some will be thrown out, and others will be compromised on. The process is exhausting, and once both houses can agree, it is sent to the president for his signature.

If everything goes according to schedule and goes well, the formal federal budget for 2012 is signed by the president and goes into effect October 1, 2011. If all doesn’t go according to plan, Congress will pass a temporary spending measure known as a continuing resolution to continue funding on September 30th.

This year, Congress did not agree so the government has been running on a series of short-term continuing resolutions. Now Congress will be forced to debate another budget and the 2011 budget has not been formalized. All we can hope is that Congress can agree on something.        

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