Wednesday, February 02, 2011

EDITORIAL >> Who’ll make the first cuts?

Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) told the annual banquet of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce last week that Congress must bring spending under control and balance the federal budget, or face “our next Pearl Harbor” if those problems are not solved in the next few years.

The Second District congressman wouldn’t be specific when The Leader asked him where he would cut spending to reduce a $1.5-trillion deficit. But he said the cuts would be across-the-board and would include the military.

“We’re doing our research and homework and identifying problems,” said Griffin, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, in an interview with The Leader. “We’ll look at the military budget and other programs. We have a tough road ahead.”

“We need to continue to fund our national-security priorities, including C-130s,” the freshman congressman cautioned.

Republicans, who control the House, have said they will not extend the national-debt ceiling this month without spending cuts. Some in the party are pushing for as much as $100 billion in cuts, but the GOP will have to point to specific programs they want reduced. Social programs, agriculture and the military are among the likely targets.

Griffin has crunched the numbers and concluded that a $14- trillion debt and a $1.5-trillion deficit are unsustainable and fiscal restraint is in order.

The congressman, like most Republicans, has ruled out tax increases to close the deficit and reduce the national debt. He points to Caterpillar’s move to North Little Rock from Illinois after receiving tax breaks and other incentives, which should be offered to other businesses in the state, he said.

President Obama has offered similar tax breaks to corporations, and he could convince fellow Democrats to go along with the idea, provided the spending cuts are less severe. Would Democrats meet Republicans halfway and support a $50 billion reduction in spending in return for raising the debt limit and throwing in tax breaks for corporations?

A compromise is likely, thus avoiding a shutdown of government services and postponing a real knockdown fight until 2012, when the balance of power could shift in Washington from the White House down to Congress. Until then, expect a lot of rhetoric and symbolic gestures.