Representative Cole: President Obama scoring political points
Sequestration is less than 48 hours away, and it’s increasingly apparent the 85 billion dollars in cuts are going to go through. According to the White House, thousands of workers at bases in Oklahoma would face furloughs, while aid to schools and health programs is reduced. I talked with Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole (R-Norman) Wednesday morning about sequestration.
You take issue with impact on defense, but these cuts only slow the growth?
Actually we have cut defense spending already before the sequester and we’re spending less money on defense this year than last year. But if you look at the overall government budget, it’s 3.5 trillion dollars a year. These cuts amount to 85 billion dollars, about 2.4%. The problem is the President has been adament about not touching Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, those types of programs.
On [the discretionary] side of the budget, ironically, where all the cuts are taking place, we’ve already demonstrated we can control that. It’s sitting down and getting serious about entitlement spending that’s the real issue here. Unfortunately, the President has never advanced a budget that’s balanced, has never put forward a program to deal with entitlements, has never endorsed Simpson-Bowles. We’ve racked up four 1 trillion dollar deficits, at some point you have to start confronting the problem.
What’s the current Republican plan?
The current Republican plan is essentially what was passed in May and December, it’s just how many times do you need to pass it, would be the Republican point of view. If the Senate will pass something, we will act on it. We’ve passed something twice, and they’ve not on it act all…It’s very unlikely they’ll be able to get something out of there.
What is your plan, what would you recommend? You don’t have a specific proposal out of the White House yet. It looks to me this is more about politics, and there’s no question the President is scoring political points right now. But he’s not making legislative progress partly because he’s not talking to anybody and he’s not putting forward real proposals.
How do significant budget cuts happen in the future if already this much alarm about these cuts?
They have to be put in place gradually and you have to get your fingers around where the problem’s at if you will, which is the non-discretionary.
One is chained CPI, we automatically raise Medicare and Social Security payments by a rate really faster than inflation, you can enact that, most people would never see the difference. It doesn’t hit anybody today, but it does mean gradually over time, you would slow the growth of these programs. And that saves hundreds of billions of dollars.