Senator discusses U.S. budget, debt

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Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., discussed health care reform and the budget crisis with students in Politics Prof. Larry Sabato’s “Introduction to American Politics” class yesterday.

Blunt pointed to the failures of the last Congress as the major hindrance in this year’s budget discussion for the 2011-12 fiscal year. The federal government faced an impending shutdown this weekend before legislators were able to reach a compromise at the 11th hour.

“The only reason we had that debate last week was the total failure of the last Congress to do their job,” he said.

For the first time since the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, Congress did not propose or pass a budget, Blunt said.

Because of its recent inability to pass a budget, Congress is attempting to do the work for the last fiscal year as well as the current one. “We will now start trying to do the work for the spending year that started on April 1,” he said.

Blunt urged students to remember that although the government plans to spend $3.8 trillion in the budget for 2011, it only will take in about $2.2 trillion.

He suggested this budget deficit can be mitigated by reducing spending. ”I don’t think you can make up money on the tax side; it has to be on the spending side,” Blunt said.

The government needs to look for areas to cut spending everywhere, as well as make large entitlement programs more efficient, he said.

Third-year College student Braden Jones agreed with Blunt’s assessment. “I completely agree that the problem with the government deficit right now lies in the amount they are spending, not in how much they are receiving,” Jones said. “In my opinion, the government is here to serve the people and needs to live within its means, just like the people it represents. Sen. Blunt reiterated this point of view throughout his talk, saying that the American people and American government need to stop equating more spending with more caring or more importance.”

Blunt highlighted the outdated way in which the current government allocates budget spending. “The government is an analog government in a digital world,” he said.

The current government uses how much money it allocates to programs as a way to emphasize how important they are, Blunt said. “The government is the last place in America that measures how much it cares about something based on how much money they spend on it rather than the results they get,” he said.

Without making budget cuts, the U.S. may lose its authority as an international superpower, Blunt said.

“It impacts opportunity and it impacts our ability to be as competitive as we want to be,” he said.

The issues of spending, taxes and the budget are particularly important to University students as they undoubtedly will be affected by these issues in the future. “This topic directly affects their future and they need to be informed,” Sabato said in an email.

This generation of students will bear the brunt of the current budget deficit, Blunt said. “You will be paying this to the last day you’re working as a taxpayer,” he said.

Students are not blind to this impending challenge.

“In my opinion, there are two things that [my generation] needs to do now and especially in the future to help with the budget deficit,” Jones said. “The first is not to ask so much of the government. While there are many programs set up in the government that make life easier, I do not think all are necessities. Second thing is to realize that I am not going to receive the same Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits my parents will and certainly not the benefits my grandparents are receiving.”

American citizens have the ability to make sure they maintain control of the government, which differentiates them from Western European governments, Blunt added. “Our strength is that we live in a country where the people believe that they are bigger than the government,” he said.

In Sabato’s class, a number of guest speakers are invited to provide students with knowledge from different perspectives. “These visits are strictly for the benefit of my students, and I try to expose them to a wide range of ideological views during a semester,” Sabato said. “What they decide about the issues discussed should be left up to them.”

Blunt encouraged University students to think about their role in politics, particularly at this critical point in time. “Every generation, we stop and think about what we want to be for the next 25 or 30 years,” he said. “This is when we’re deciding who we’re going to be.”

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