Striking a Balance on the National Debt

The new Congressional Black Caucus budget commission says that we need to address the federal deficit -- but also protect the needs of the poor.

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"If we're spending $10 billion to $14 billion a month on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it doesn't take much imagination to see what's dragging us down," said Cleaver, who has voted against funding both wars. As an example of what he considers to be wasteful defense spending, he cited Congress' continued votes to fund new C-17 transport planes -- despite the fact that the Air Force has repeatedly stated that it doesn't want them. "We have enough bombs to destroy the world twice, but there are people who would like us to be able to do it 12 times," he quipped.

Whatever suggestions the Congressional Black Caucus (or Rep. Cleaver, for that matter) ultimately has for the federal budget, the body knows it will be a gargantuan task to see its priorities represented in a House of Representatives controlled by an overwhelming Republican majority. Cleaver is frustrated by the quandary of being outnumbered, but maintained that it will not dampen the caucus' commitment to having its say, and saying it loudly.

"I'll tell you this," he said. "One of the things that we are going to do at the CBC is make sure people around the country know whose side we're on."

Cynthia Gordy is the Washington reporter for The Root.

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