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Marketplace

The nest is full

Oct 11, 2019
Federal Budget

Bored with budget talks

Bob Moon Feb 21, 2011
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BOB MOON: There was plenty of political finger-pointing on the Sunday talk shows, as Republicans and Democrats blamed each other for the looming impasse over proposed spending cuts. The faceoff over lifting the nation’s debt-ceiling could shut down the federal government as early as next week. GOP lawmakers are signaling this morning they’ll seek a short-term budget extension to avoid a shutdown.

In the meantime, both sides have put their long-term spending suggestions on the table and that’s drawn a big yawn from Fortune magazine editor-at-large Alan Sloan. He’s here now to tell us why this debate has left him so bored. Good morning to you, Alan.

ALAN SLOAN: Good morning Bob.

MOON: First let’s talk about the budget. There’s been a lot said about both proposed budgets — those from the Republicans and President Obama’s budget offering. What’s your take on the tension in Washington?

SLOAN: I am completely bored. I mean, you hear all this noise from the Obama people, you hear all this noise from the Republicans, and you look, and there’s almost nothing of any substance and the idea that I should spend my time obsessing over this is just silly. I’m going to go wait for spring training and hope Mariano Rivera holds up.

MOON: Well, what about these plans? Would either of these plans even solve the deficit?

SLOAN: Neither one would come close. And it’s hard to believe either one is serious because the Obama thing pretends to be cutting spending, but really isn’t. And the Republican thing, as best I can tell, consists of, “Well, let’s get rid of things like Pell Grants that help lower income people go to school. But let’s not really deal with defense or entitlements or anything. It’s just at this point, nonsensical.

MOON: Well, let’s talk about entitlements. What do you think would help solve the deficit problem.

SLOAN: Among other things, raising taxes though we’re not supposed to say that. Trimming some of the entitlements. Dealing with the Pentagon. The one thing I would actually deal with differently than most is social security.

MOON: Social Security. It’s come up a lot in these debates I understand. What’s the problem with Social Security, can it be fixed?

SLOAN: Sure Social Security can be fixed, but Social Security is not a budget problem. Social Security on the books is showing a surplus. In reality, it’s starting to run a serious cash deficit, but it’s not a budget problem. It’s a cash problem. The other things — Medicare and Medicaid — are both budget and cash problems. Social Security is different and not as messy or as complicated as the other two, but who knows what they’ll do there.

MOON: Alan Sloan is senior editor-at-large at Fortune magazine — a title that let’s him have one foot in the political arena and one foot in the business arena. Thanks Alan.

SLOAN: You’re welcome Bob.

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