OUR OPINION: Ceiling raised; hard work begins

By NEMS Daily Journal

Enactment Tuesday of a bitterly contested federal debt ceiling increase and deficit spending reduction plan amounts to a beginning point for dealing with larger issues of federal spending and tax policy, and it became law on hard-won bipartisan votes in the House and Senate.
The immediate effect is prevention of default by the United States on its obligations. On its signing by President Obama, $400 billion in borrowing authority was made available to the Treasury, and additional $500-plus billion becomes available in the fall, followed by additional authority in early 2012.
The dispute over the debt ceiling began with Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner wrote in a Jan. 6 letter to Speaker John Boehner that the debt limit soon would be reached. Tuesday was the deadline, and funds were only hours ahead of it.
Mississippi’s two Republican senators, Roger Wicker, Tupelo, and Thad Cochran, Oxford, both voted for the compromise after expressing opposition to earlier discussions that included raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
Three of four Mississippi House members, all Republicans – Alan Nunnelee, Tupelo; Greg Harper, Brandon; and Steven Palazzo, Biloxi, supported the bill. Bennie Thompson, Bolton, the House delegation’s lone Democrat, voted against it.
Among the most important after-the-fact responsibilities of the delegation and state elected leadership is determining how the spending reductions, which could be $2.1 trillion or more over 10 years, will affect Mississippi.
Mississippi is second among all the states in the percentage of revenue provided by the federal government – 35.47 percent, $7.548 billion for all programs, including Medicaid..
Louisiana ranks first, 35.75 percent, $10.239 billion.
No one expressed enthusiasm for the bill, merely recognition that it had to be passed because it was what could be agreed on to prevent default.
What follows in Congress is more important in the long term, than the numbers agreed on in the bill passed Tuesday.
Next comes the appointment of a special committee charged with wringing at least $1.2 trillion more out of the budget over the next decade, and it must report by Thanksgiving.
In the long term, Medicare, Social Security, other entitlements – and probably additional revenue – must figure in a solution to the debt, spending and the goal shared by many: a balanced budget.
Nearly three-quarters of Americans polled by the Washington Post and ABC news offered a negative word to describe how they viewed the negotiations. The top words were “ridiculous,” “disgusting” and “stupid.” Overall, nearly three-quarters of Americans offered a negative word, the Post reported.

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