Minge talks about budget at local town meeting

This article submitted by Stephanie Everson on 04/01/97.

Representative David Minge, representative to the 104th Congress in Washington, D.C., talked about his federal budget proposal at a town meeting at the Paynesville Area Senior Center last Wednesday morning. Rep. Minge is the co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of 22 moderate to conservative House democrats in Washington committed to not only balancing the federal budget by the year 2002, but also creating a $23 billion surplus.

Some of their ideas on how to achieve that aren't too popular, but if implemented, will definitely end the federal deficit in five years, a feat the Clinton administration, with all their balancing proposals, can't honestly claim. Even though the budget plan includes some hard choices, many in Congress see it as a better alternative than the President's. The Blue Dog's budget has already won the votes of 110 Democrats and 20 Republicans.

Minge handed out "bills" from the United States Government which were addressed to every man, woman, and child living in this country. Each bill was for $20,080 which, with a population of 267 million people, is every American citizen's share of the $5.3 trillion debt. Even though it was a prop, it made the point of how far into debt the U.S. government has gone.

$5.3 trillion is an incredible figure to imagine. If a person made $10 per hour and worked five days a week, it would take them approximately 276 million years to make $5.3 trillion dollars. That's before taxes, provided the person lived that long.

How does the deficit actually affect the average Minnesotan? Most people still go to work, take care of their families, eat, sleep, and play, whether the national debt is $5 or $5 trillion. Most average Americans don't feel the direct effects in their daily lives, but in actuality, 15 cents out of every tax dollar is used to pay the interest on the national debt. That's $15 out of every $100 that isn't going to government programs that many Americans in this area use; not only welfare and housing assistance, but also CRP and various agricultural programs.

The government also borrows money from the social security trust fund to pay their deficits, which, if not stopped, will no longer be available when the young people of today need it. With the Blue Dog Budget Plan, the economy would continue to produce a surplus that, by the year 2005, would no longer make it necessary for the government to borrow from social security.

The Blue Dog Coalition has developed four main ways to achieve all this; no tax cuts, cut federal spending now, ask the affluent elderly to pay a slightly higher Medicare premium, and lower the federal cost-of-living.

No tax cuts
The Clinton administration's budget plan offers Americans $100 billion in tax cuts, while Washington is expected to borrow more than $100 billion from private markets this year alone. In Minge's opinion, this is irresponsible. In the Blue Dog plan, there will be no tax cuts until after the budget is balanced. Minge refers to this as "eating spinach before dessert."

Cut spending now
In Clinton and the GOP's plan, they will postpone their biggest spending cuts until after the year 2000, which will cancel Clinton's biggest initiatives-school construction subsidies and welfare-to-work incentives between the years of 2000 and 2002. The Blue Dogs would start cutting spending right away.

Tap affluent elderly
Although this may be one of their most controversial steps, the Blue Dogs would ask the wealthier elderly to pay a slightly higher premium on their Medicare.

Lower federal CPI
According to a bipartisan study, the consumer price index (CPI), which is used to figure the national cost of living, exaggerates inflation by 0.8 percentage points. The Blue Dogs would shave those 0.8 percentage points off the CPI until the budget is balanced.

For example, the 1997 cost of living adjustment (COLA) gave $17 more a month to the typical low-wage retiree of 65, and gave $39 more a month to a retiree of the same age with higher lifetime earnings. The Blue Dog budget would make the COLA a flat $20 a month for everyone.

These measures are definitely controversial, but if nothing else, they will eliminate the U.S. deficit of $5.3 trillion in the next five years. Still, without the input of area citizens Minge and the Blue Dog Coalition won't have a clear picture of the interests of Minnesotans. For this purpose, Minge has created the Congressional Budget Task Force and asks Minnesotans from all walks of life and every political affiliation to give their input on this plan. Anyone who is interested in participating in Minge's Congressional Budget Task Force should contact his office at 1-800-453-9392.

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