Now that federal government shutdown has been averted, it's a good time to examine what's at stake for most of America in the crucial next round of budget talks.
Not doing anything to reduce the size of government debt will be catastrophic. Not much quibble there. But acting hastily and cutting the wrong things can be even more costly to social and economic welfare.
Neither the Republican nor the Democrat's budget plans for 2012 will meet the major challenge of sustaining social programs while cutting the most egregious waste.
Since the GOP budget proposal has been published, let's eye that first. The 2012 budget template, released by Paul Ryan, Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee on April 5, cuts $6.2 trillion from government spending over the next decade. Some clarity is needed here in the semantics of this plan. Cutting is not the same thing as "improving" or "reforming."
One of the hallmarks of the Ryan plan -- a GOP campaign document for 2012 -- is cutting top personal income-tax rates from 35 percent to 25 percent. As part of his "path to prosperity" theme, he estimates that along with other cuts and a lower corporate tax, this will create 2.5 million private-sector jobs, lower the unemployment rate to four percent by 2015 and add $1.5 trillion to real Gross Domestic Product over the next decade.