Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Day: March 12, 2015”

The battle is about to get ugly

trahant MARK


The battle over federal spending is about to get ugly. Real ugly.

It’s been a Republican promise to balance the federal budget within a decade. And in an election campaign that promise look soooo easy. Cut a penny here, another there, and somehow, magically, revenues match spending and there’s a balanced budget. Since Republicans now control both the House and the Senate this should be a done deal, right?

But that’s not how it happens in the real world. In the federal system there are all kinds of fiscal obligations that move through the system automatically. If a person is eligible for Medicare or Medicaid … then the money is spent. Congress doesn’t have to appropriate a cent. The automatic side of the budget is growing because Baby Boomers are older and drawing more benefits such as Social Security.

But that’s only the beginning of this complex spending debate.

The money spent on American Indians and Alaska Natives is a tiny fraction, far less than one percent of the overall budget. Yet every idea to cut federal spending ends up significantly impacting tribal communities, making it impossible for tribal leaders to plan ahead, and disrupting ongoing initiatives ranging from education to economic development. The president’s budget would benefit Indian Country.

And while there are supporters of Indian Country initiatives in Congress, the bigger issue is the overall budget and how much pressure there will be to trim spending for all every federal agencies.

The president’s budget does address the deficit. The Congressional Budget Office reports that the spending plan would have “no net effect” on the deficit in 2015 but would reduce deficits between 2016 and 2025.

But that’s not enough for those in Congress who demand a balanced budget. And even the sequester was not enough to do that.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told a Senate panel that “the reality is that balancing the budget for any sustained period is probably not in our immediate future.” The budget would have to shrink by $5.5 trillion in ten years or eight times the size of the sequester plan and 65 times the Ryan-Murray budget deal (which didn’t last long).

You might think those numbers would be big enough, deep enough, to scare off even committed Republicans. And that’s true — when it comes to Defense spending.

Defense News quoted Sen. John McCain saying he will do “whatever it takes to avert sequester on defense. I will not agree to any budget that does not stop sequestration. We just had testimony this morning that will put the lives of American men and women in uniform in danger if we continue with sequestration.”

So that’s fight number one. Republicans who want to live up to a balanced budget pledge versus Republicans who want to end the sequester — at least as far as military spending. In a lot of ways this will be a contest of wills between the House and the Senate.

So which budget will prevail? The president’s budget — at least in terms of overall spending — has no chance. Congressional budgets will be unveiled shortly and then the fight begins and we can start to wonder what kind of last minute deal will be needed to keep the government operational.

As I said, the battle over federal spending is about to get ugly.

Mark Trahant holds the Atwood Chair at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. For up-to-the-minute posts, download the free Trahant Reports app for your smart phone or tablet.

Vaccine in Oregon

The bill to eliminate some vaccination exemptions failed this week. Here's a video on the subject.

On the front pages


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Boise council rejects barbed wire on greendbelt (Boise Statesman)
Snowpack stays minimal, February warm (Lewiston Tribune)
Budget panel holds off school funding, slows session (TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune)
WA Senate votes to cut college tuition (Moscow News)
More women in area carrying guns (Moscow News)
Sheriff has concerns about new Canyon jail plan (Nampa Press Tribune)
New state transport plan introduced (Nampa Press Tribune)
Buhl voters saw fake sample ballots (TF Times News)

Pro-vaccination bill dropped at legislature (Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, Medford Mail Tribune, KF Herald & News)
Eugene city may get into riverfront project (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath basin payment plan gets underway (KF Herald & News)
New secretary of state Atkins sworn in (Medford Tribune)
Jackson Co official urges pot tax vote (Medford Tribune)
Historic properties ordinance challenged (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Birds hitting wastewater building at Portland (Portland Oregonian)
Brown pushes to toughen state ethics laws (Portland Oregonian)

Members of Congress acting on sea star die-off (Bellingham Herald)
WA Senate moves to cut college tuition (Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Bremerton Sun)
New park established in North Kitsap (Bremerton Sun)
Bill to end personal vaccine exemption fails (Everett Herald)
Legislators moving to restore 'no child' waiver (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Passenger airline considers Port Angeles service (Port Angeles News)
WA suing Super Bowl ticket broker (Seattle Times)
Pierce County shores plan updated (Tacoma News Tribune)
McLoughlin statue will depart Washington (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima gangs cop departing for Seattle (Yakima Herald Republic)
Kittitas group concerned on water storage plan (Yakima Herald Republic)