The Battle is Joined for the Soul of America

Sitting on the American taxpayer’s left shoulder this morning is a little angel. On the taxpayer’s right shoulder sits a little devil. They are joined in a battle for the taxpayer’s soul. Says the angel: “You know this is the right thing to do.” The devil counters, “It’s gonna cost ya big bucks, baby. Let ’em eat cake.”

Big bucks. Big as in $3.55 trillion. That’s President Obama’s projected spending total for 2010. And to clean up the mess the Bush gang left behind, the new President needs $3.94 trillion for the 2009 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

Of the 2010 total, $634 billion is for a “down payment” on a universal health care program. To help pay for the program, the President wants to end the tax cuts his predecessor handed to the wealthiest Americans – those making at least $250,000 a year.

cartoonThe devil has a lot of ammunition. Obama’s spending plans would push the 2009 budget deficit to $1.75 trillion – 12.3 percent of the nation’s annual economic output. In 2010 the budget is projected to be $1.71 trillion. Naturally, the Republican war cry is ringing out across the land: There go those tax-and-spend Democrats again!

But wait just a minute. What about the tax break included in the stimulus package for Americans making less than a quarter million bucks a year? In the new budget that would become permanent. (To fill the revenue gap created by that tax break, the Obama Administration wants to make companies pay a fee for polluting the atmosphere.)

And remember, this budget includes $2.7 trillion for the types of spending (such as waging war) that were excluded from previous budgets by accounting tricks?

It’s time to hear from the angel. She wants to know whether Americans are willing to borrow those big bucks to provide health care for all. Or do they want to continue the waste and inefficiency of the current health insurance hodgepodge that leaves nearly 50 million people without coverage?

And are they willing to borrow big bucks to break U.S. dependence on foreign oil? The President proposes spending $15 billion a year for 10 years to develop technologies like wind power and solar power “and to build more efficient cars and trucks right here in America.”

What about education? Is it worth going into debt to ensure that the nation’s brightest kids don’t have to miss college because of a lack of funds? And to equip America’s children with the skills they will need to compete in a global economy?

It’s a question of priorities. The new budget includes nearly $534 billion for the Defense Department in 2010, up 4 percent from 2009. Also, the administration is requesting $75.5 billion for the rest of 2009 to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and $130 billion for 2010. That’s a fair chunk of change. But the Republicans think it’s not enough. They want more money for tanks and missiles, less – much less – for schools and hospitals.

In the coming days and weeks the debate between the angel and the devil will rage in America. How it turns out will determine the path this country takes. The decision will have vast implications not only for this nation but for the rest of the world.