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.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (Getty Images)
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (Getty Images)

“It always seems that when it comes time to cut, the most vulnerable — the poor, children and senior citizens — end up being the first to have their services reduced,” said Gaskin. For him, Republicans lost all credibility for handling the deficit by insisting on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, which he says will only add to the nation’s debt. “It never seems to be a shared sacrifice. The rhetoric is always to try to demonize people who are struggling.”

Putting it bluntly, Gaskin says that given extreme economic hardships in the country, people shouldn’t even be talking about actually balancing the budget now. “Most economists would argue that when the government pulls back on spending during a recession, all it does is make the situation worse,” he says. “We should try to get the economy back in line by getting demand up, improving consumer confidence, investing in our infrastructure and improving our manufacturing base.”

Cleaver adds that the CBC will not support Republicans’ proposed across-the-board cuts, especially to the departments of Education, Labor and Transportation, because investments in those areas are critical to job creation and preparation. “We approved the stimulus act, not because we wanted to go to our home districts and get cussed out at town-hall meetings, but because the economy needed to be stimulated,” said Cleaver. “This is not the time to go in and start ransacking, for example, the Labor Department’s budget. We’ve got to create jobs for Americans.”

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