Budget Matters

By Levi Larson

Tax cuts, raising  taxes, spending cuts, and spending increases are all common phrases in addressing the federal budget. Democrats and Republicans tend to have opposing visions on the matter. As a generalization, Democrats fall under the category of tax and spending increases. Republicans, on the contrary, are in favor of tax cuts and spending cuts. Even with this pattern variations within party lines exist.

Drake in D.C. with Secretary Vilsack.

Drake in D.C. with Secretary Vilsack. Photo by Jill Van Wyke.

Speaking with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack gives the picture of Democratic ideals in balancing the budget. The former Iowa governor spoke to Drake in D.C. on policies the USDA implements, the broad importance of ag policy, and where he hoped to see policy go in the future. In alliance with his party, Secretary Vilsack favors increased government assistance. A large portion of the agricultural budget is dedicated to programs such as food stamps and cash welfare. This about 80 percent of the farm bill, an increase of 13% since the 2008 version of the bill, as we heard from Secretary Vilsack. The controversy of this spending comes from those skeptical of users legitimacy. According to Vilsack the fraud rate is at 1.3% and lowering. Programs such as these are critical to Vilsack’s idea of a balanced budget. Assisting the underprivileged is thought to stimulate the economy. Government programming is one solution offered to economic issues the nation faces.

Opposition to these views came to Drake in D.C. while listening to Republican Grover Norquist. As a guest of The Washington Center, Norquist came to speak to the group. Norquist is the founder and president of  American’s for Tax Reform. For those whom do not know of Norquist or his organization, he aligns himself on the political right. With this alignment comes the notion of tax cuts and decreased spending. For Norquist compromise on big issues such as the budget simply does not exist. One side wins, the other loses. An example of this belief for Norquist is that of a tax cut. A small cut is a win for those wanting a bigger cut and a loss for those looking for an increase. This win or lose principle, explains Norquist’s disbelief in bipartisanship. Without spending cuts in the budget as well as tax cuts, Norquist views the resulting budget as a loss.

The win or lose attitude of Norquist struck a chord when contrasting his beliefs with those of Vilsack. Similar to this attitude were remarks by Vilsack on how his stance on these issues shouldn’t be debated, but rather a commonly shared idea. Both parties tend to see issues with narrow vision focusing on their own personal beliefs. The budget clearly is no exception to this.

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