WASHINGTON -- In the last three months, the biggest battle here has been about carving a relatively tiny amount of money out of this year's $3.7 trillion budget.
But while Republicans, Democrats and the White House bickered over whether to cut anywhere from $61 billion to $33 billion -- or else shut down the government -- a far bigger battle looms in the months ahead over the fiscal 2012 budget and trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see.
House Republican budget leaders were expected to unveil their budget proposals Tuesday that called for spending reductions in the order of $6.2 trillion over the next decade. It tackles entitlements as well as discretionary spending cuts that will make this week's fight over the fiscal 2011 budget look like an attempt to break into a child's piggy bank.
The question is, will the emerging story be all about the GOP's attempt to reform fiscally unsustainable entitlement programs, or about extreme spending increases by President Obama and the Democrats? To a large degree, that will depend on how the House GOP leadership frames the issue and their proposals. Done correctly, the story should be about the GOP reining in an irresponsible, spendthrift Congress whose budget policies have driven our country to the brink of bankruptcy.
Obama came into office in 2009 facing a budget deficit in the $400 billion range under President George W. Bush, largely the result of a fierce 2008-2009 recession that sharply cut federal tax revenues.
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the administration's spending policies are now expected to produce budget deficits of $1.5 trillion and $1.11 trillion, respectively, in fiscal years 2011 and 2012.
Annual government spending over the next decade will grow by 57 percent -- from $3.7 trillion this year to nearly $6 trillion 10 years later in 2021. Meantime, interest payments on the government's debt will rise meteorically from $214 billion to $931 billion over this same period, a monster 335 percent increase.
The CBO says yearly budget deficits will average nearly $1 trillion ($947 billion) over the next 10 years if we stay on our present spend-and-borrow course -- totaling $9.5 trillion.
Obama's budgeters insist that in ten years the debt held by the public and foreign countries will total nearly $19 trillion. But the CBO says it will actually double to $21 trillion, reaching a frightening 87 percent of our economy's entire gross domestic product.
"Such a path is clearly unsustainable and demonstrates the need for deep reductions in federal spending if debt is brought under control," the Heritage Foundation says in a recent analysis.