Money problems in Washington

Freezing government pay and banning earmarks distracts from true reforms.

Daily Editorial Board

For the last fiscal year, the federal government faced a $1.3 trillion deficit that brings the total national debt to about $14 trillion. President Barack Obama and Congress know they must take serious steps to confronting AmericaâÄôs deficit spending and growing national debt.

But the two proposals receiving the most attention from Obama and Congress are almost comical in their ineffectiveness.

The political grandstanding about a ban on earmarks ignores the fact that the proposal would affect less than one half of one percent of the federal budget; $16 billion in a total budget of $3.5 trillion, in other words, amounts to a fingerâÄôs scrape of frosting off a wedding cake.

Likewise, this week Obama proposed a pay freeze for the majority of executive branch employees. We think Congress should pass the pay freeze, but it is projected to result in only about $5 billion in savings over the next two years.

Politicians from both parties know that making cuts of this size gives the illusion of progress, but the reality is that only major changes will close the gap between taxes and spending.

Despite all their deficit-rhetoric, Republicans have been frustrating progress toward actually cutting it. Ending the Bush tax cuts âÄî which could reduce the deficit by 30 percent âÄî and raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans is an obvious step toward revenue generation for the feds.

This year, the federal government is projected to spend $844 billion on security. About $703 billion goes to Social Security. Roughly $451 billion goes to Medicare. The earmark and pay freeze proposals, meanwhile, could save a measly $21 billion.