Mourdock budget fails honesty test

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On a careful review of Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock’s federal budget plan released Nov. 15, it’s obvious that Gov. Mitch Daniels, who knows something about federal budgeting, is in charge of the budget, not the state treasurer.

I have spent 33 years working on the federal budget, almost entirely as senior staff on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee. More importantly, as a native Hoosier, I have always been instilled with Midwest honesty and truthfulness in my work.

That is why when I examined the treasurer’s federal budget proposal I was sorely disappointed. He is correct that our federal government’s fiscal house is in disorder and the path we are on is unsustainable.

But it is hard for me to believe that, in his own words, “he spent many hours formulating” the plan.

From a policy perspective, reducing Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and defense spending in 2013 to “pre-2010” levels is impossible. To achieve the treasurer’s goal would mean Social Security benefits would have to be reduced in 2013 alone by an astonishing average of nearly $3,000 per beneficiary.

Similarly, to reduce Medicare expenditures in 2013 to “pre-2010 levels” payments to hospitals, doctors and recipients would have to be reduced in just one year by $1,600 for each of the more than 51 million Medicare beneficiaries.

Eliminating the Department of Education may help make numbers on a spread sheet add up to savings, but it ignores the fact that millions of low-income students would have to pay back immediately any student loans or grants they have received.

Interestingly, I would tell the treasurer that setting “non-discretionary” budget agencies’ funding at their 2010 level and letting them grow 1 percent annually has already effectively been accomplished in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Finally, the treasurer somehow has developed his own “baseline” spending path to measure his deficit reduction over the next decade. Analysts who do this work for a living would note that the treasurer has simply defined away nearly $4 trillion in spending that would occur under current law in order to claim $7.6 trillion in spending cuts. Not exactly an honest way to budget.

Addressing the fiscal challenges the country faces requires difficult and hard choices. Unfortunately, Mourdock’s budget has failed in the most basic responsibilities of providing a clear, understandable, honest approach to addressing those challenges.


G. William Hoagland

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