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Point three: Remodeling the nation's budget

Growing tired of increasing discourse in America, columnists Zachary Diaz de la Cuesta and Trevor York have decided to combine their efforts to discuss key issues the nation is currently facing. In this column, the two seniors will put aside their political differences, compromising for the better.

Balancing America’s budget is perhaps the most-discussed topic in the upcoming 2012 election. Candidates frequently speak of the cuts they plan to make if elected and how these said cuts would balance the budget. Likewise, congress and President Obama have tried to pass several bills to accomplish this. However, their bills have done little to help the U.S. economy, due to the severe partisanship in Congress.

One area where some cuts must be made is the Depart of Defense (DOD). Now that the war in the middle east has been scaled down. The U.S. military does need to be the same size as they were in 2003. We propose that the Army and Marine Corps be cut by 40 percent and production of fighter jets be scaled back. The F-22, for example, costs around $350 million per unit and their effectiveness in the war in the Middle East has been minimal. Instead, we should spend our money on multi-role aircraft such as the F-35 which is capable of dog-fighting, bombing and reconnaissance, versus the F-22 that is primarily made for dog fighting.

Another cut that can be made in the DOD is reducing pay raises within the military. Although we should be able to defend ourselves, our military must be streamlined to coincide with our current budget. Now that the war in Afghanistan is over, the military budget does not need to be nearly as large as it currently is.

We support Obama’s estate tax plan, which cut an an estimated $2 trillion in the U.S budget in the next decade. This plan includes numerous tax provisions, including higher taxes on the top 1 percent and higher estate taxes as well. Taxes would be raised on high-income households from 15-20 percent. Those individuals who are considered wealthy but not in the top 1 percent would also pay higher taxes, but only around $4,000 on average. Likewise, the upper middle class — those who make $100,000-$200,000 — would pay more taxes as well, but the average tax increase would be less than $500.

In general, raising taxes is a foolish thing to do in hard economic times, especially with an irresponsible Congress. However, raising taxes is not nearly as bad as running a massive deficit, which could result in inflation, essentially a tax in itself. In this purely fictional setting, where Congress could come up with a responsible and balanced moderate budget plan, additional taxes in addition to large spending cuts is the most workable scenario.

Obama’s plan would alleviate the burden on the lower class, which has severely struggled during the current recession. Even those who are considered middle class would not have to pay much more than they do now, and only the very wealthy would see considerable increases. In addition to all this, Obama’s plan would help reduce the current $15.5 trillion deficit facing the U.S. Although many conservatives might disapprove of Obama’s plan for fear of higher taxes, his plan still provides lower taxes than under President Bill Clinton. Additionally, Obama’s plan still provides lower taxes than if the Bush tax cuts expired.

While cutting them may be controversial, reforming entitlements is the only way to responsibly balance the budget. In 2011, Social Security combined with Medicare and Medicaid accounted for more than forty percent of the entire U.S. budget. Furthermore, this number is projected to continually rise if reforms are not made.

There are two primary ways to reform Social Security: initiating means testing and raising the retirement age. As lifespans continue to increase, it becomes necessary to raise the age of retirement. While means testing may seem unethical, as wealthier citizens who paid into the program would not receive benefits, it ensures that Social Security remains solvent and available to prevent seniors from falling into poverty.

Similar to Social Security, the best solution to Medicare is to increase the retirement age and cut benefits for wealthier citizens. This ensures that the entitlement programs are available for poorer citizens who desperately need them. As for Medicaid, the best solution would be to reduce federal funding and give states more leeway to determine the standards for their specific programs.

Besides cutting the military and entitlements, there are many cuts to be made to discretionary spending. Making cuts to unnecessary federal education spending and other small programs may not cut the deficit by a large amount, but they make government more efficient.

The best way to cut superfluous programs in the Department of Education is to end the No Child Left Behind program. This program has not been effective and has actually created a financial burden within the education system.

Balancing the budget can be difficult if both parties refuse to give up their sacred cows. Yet, if nothing is done to assure American fiscal soundness, then everyone loses. New taxes and drastic spending cuts are the only solution that prevents the fiscal calamity facing Europe.

For the second column in this series, read the March 2 article, Point two: Building up our national defense.

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