segunda-feira, 14 de fevereiro de 2011

Orçamento 2012: opções muito difíceis para Barack Obama

O dilema do Presidente: como respeitar os cortes orçamentais prometidos aos republicanos -- que têm a maioria no Congresso e passam, por isso, a ter mais poder para condicionar a aprovação do Orçamento para 2012 - sem comprometer o essencial da sua agenda?

Para já, Barack promete: sectores cruciais, como a Educação, não serão afectados. A Defesa será uma das áreas em risco de ter maiores «congelamentos». A ideia é reduzir gradualmente o défice americano: 33 mil milhões de dólares a partir de Outubro, num total que deverá chegar a 1,1 mil milhões de dólares até ao fim do mandato.

Um artigo de David Rogers, no

«Monday’s release of President Barack Obama’s new 2012 budget paints a stark contrast between his vision of government and that of House Republicans — and the urgency that each side to face reality before they stumble together into a government shutdown next month.

The flood of numbers from the White House comes even as the House is preparing to debate the GOP’s own government-wide spending plan for the last seven months of this fiscal year. Never before has Washington seen two such complete budgets aligned at once — like two planets trying to eclipse one another yet both dwarfed by the larger systematic problems around them.

As part of his domestic spending freeze, Obama would roll back the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by $1.3 billion. House Republicans would double that cut to $2.7 billion. Obama would save the Pell Grant program for low-income college students even it means reneging on past initiatives.

Republicans would step back and let the maximum grant fall by 15 percent — a huge blow to students from the poorest families.

Even in areas where both parties have come together in the past, the differences are now measured in billions, not millions. Obama is proposing almost $7.8 billion for the National Science Foundation, for example; House Republican cuts would take the NSF back to about $6.5 billion. And the almost $10 billion gap in foreign aid and State Department funding represents a real retreat by the GOP from the activism of President George W. Bush, let alone Ronald Reagan.

The House GOP has been hankering for this fight almost from the first hour the polls closed in November. Yet what began as a fight over spending has evolved into more of a raw power play.

Deep cuts are proposed in federal aid to historically black colleges — almost as though to taunt Obama, the nation’s first black president. Extraneous legislative issues have been added — making a quick compromise more difficult. And even as they propose to defund Obama’s health care reforms, Republicans are using mandated appropriations from the same law to back fill their cuts.

At the same time, Obama’s budget will disappoint many of his own supporters who wanted a more aggressive posture on deficit reduction — and reining in the growth of government benefit programs. With a new farm bill on the horizon, the president appears to make no major effort to cut billions in annual subsidies — at a time of soaring farm income. And while he finds $62 billion in Medicare savings over 10 years, this is quickly exhausted in just two years by the need to pay for physician reimbursements.

“We need a much more robust package of deficit and debt reduction over the medium- and long-term, said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) “It is not enough to focus primarily on cutting the non-security discretionary part of the budget, which accounts for just 12 percent of spending this year. Instead, we need a comprehensive long-term debt reduction plan. … It must include spending cuts, entitlement changes and tax reform that simplifies the tax code, lowers rates, and raises more revenue.”

Indeed, for the current year, the White House projects a deficit of more than $1.6 trillion — even higher than the Congressional Budget Office forecast. But outlays would actually drop in 2012 and stabilize in the $3.7 trillion range as deficits fall to $1.1 trillion in 2012, then $768 billion in 2013.

The stakes are enormous.»

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