Friday, February 27, 2009

An Honest Budget

I am afraid this week’s “EC from DC” is slightly shorter than usual. It has been a very busy day on the heels of a very busy week. Please do not take that as complaining in any way, shape or form. This has been an exciting week and a week that great progress has been made for the American people and the people of Missouri’s Fifth District.

Yesterday, before returning home to Kansas City, I met with the President and Vice President at the White House. I do not take that sentence lightly, and always get overwhelmed and moved when walking over the threshold of the Executive Mansion.

This meeting, of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the first President to come from our ranks, was to talk about the American Recovery Act and the Budget he had just released. As he always is, the President was an active listener, but full of resolve. You get the sense being around him that he thrives under pressure and sees this burden as an extraordinary opportunity.

It was an honor to be asked to the White House and I did not pass up the chance to ask him to visit our District in the coming year to see first hand how well we were using the stimulus money. The Vice President seemed particularly interested in our plans (perhaps in part because my old Legislative Director is now his).

My friends, the old adage, “Of whom much is given, much is expected,” applies directly to our community right now. My pledge to the President was that he could depend on us. I know he can.

The President outlined his budget to us at the meeting, a budget that puts us back on a road toward economic and fiscal health. These are the highlights of his presentation to us:

Being honest. If this Budget used the gimmicks employed in recent budgets, it would show a bottom line that would appear about $2.7 trillion better over ten years. For example, prior budgets didn’t include the likely cost of natural disasters or the cost of permanently continuing the temporary patch that prevents millions of Americans from paying the Alternative Minimum Tax. Americans have gotten used to gimmicks in budgeting, a habit I am pleased to say this budget breaks. The good is presented with the bad.

We will cut the deficit in half by the end of the President’s first term. President Obama inherited a deficit of $1.3 trillion or 9% of GDP in fiscal 2009. Even though the stimulus plan increases the 2009 deficit to give the economy a desperately needed boost, over subsequent years the deficit is reduced by more than half by 2013. This budget predicts a 2013 deficit of $533 billion or 3.0% of GDP. On its current trajectory the deficit is projected to add up to $9 trillion over the next ten years –the President’s will reduce those projected deficits by more than $2 trillion.

Reforming health care. The President made health care reform a centerpiece of his campaign and while I am not sure how we can do it all at once, he has begun the process of doing a line-by-line review of the Budget. One of the lines they have started with is health care.
Health care is the key to our nation’s fiscal future – and there are substantial improvements that are possible to deliver better results at lower costs in the health system. In the Recovery Act, and in this Budget, we are beginning to make the investments electronic health records — and also identify more immediate saving measures to slow the growth of Medicare and Medicaid spending. We have assigned these savings to a health reserve fund, which will be available as we work through the legislative process on health care reform this year.

Making key investments. The Budget also makes substantial investments in education, energy, and infrastructure — investments we began with the Recovery Act. It expands investments in early childhood education; makes Pell Grants for college into a reliable source of support for students and indexes their value above the ordinary rate of inflation so as to better keep up with the rapidly rising cost of college tuition; and helps at-risk students complete college. The Budget also lays down a comprehensive approach to transform our energy supply and slow global climate change. And it makes infrastructure investments that will provide our nation a foundation for long-term economic growth.

I invite you to read in more detail about the President’s Budget, which can be found here >>>