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Campaign pledges to cut budget are empty rhetoric



Vows to reduce federal spending are popular on the campaign trail this year, but voters in Kentucky better hope that no matter who wins the elections, most of the promises remain just talk. …

Kentucky, one of the nation’s poorest states, ranked 12th among the 50 states in federal spending per resident during the 2009 fiscal year, according to Census Bureau data. That was a total of more than $50 billion, an average of $11,592.63 for every man, woman and child in the commonwealth. …

A couple of points should be clear to anyone who looks beyond the hollow sloganeering.

One is that a big chunk of the money — 52 percent of the total in Kentucky, for example — comes from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. If congressional candidates want to reduce those figures, they will have to cut popular programs on which ordinary citizens depend. That would be political suicide, of course, so don’t worry: There won’t be any shredding of these entitlement programs. But it also means that much of the budget-cutting, deficit-slashing rhetoric is hollow.

Moreover, many of the other federal dollars that are spent in the states go to areas that are likely to prove resistant to political tampering. Kentucky ranks near the top of the list, for example, in active military pay and expenditures for veterans programs. …

There are areas where Congress has sufficient control to reduce or eliminate spending, but don’t bet on its happening. Rand Paul, the Republican candidate for a Senate seat from Kentucky, might turn out to be enough of an ideologue — and sufficiently obtuse about Kentucky — to embrace cuts in ventures such as agriculture subsidies, anti-drug efforts, supplemental nutritional assistance and Appalachian Regional Commission programs. …

Overall, however, the line of politicians willing to support spending cuts that harm their own states will be short. …

The answers to federal budget dilemmas lie in increasing revenues by raising tax rates for the wealthy, closing tax loopholes, winding down the wars and costs in Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as can be done responsibly, reaching careful bipartisan agreement on which programs can be administered more effi ciently and less expensively and, most important, getting the economy and employment moving faster in the right direction.

Anything else is just a sound bite.

— The Courier-Journal, Louisville



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