Chris Graham: The forest for the trees

Mark Warner, once again, I’m right there with you, dude.

“This problem cannot be solved simply by focusing on cuts to non-defense discretionary spending, which is only 12 percent of the budget. Increased revenues and economic growth by themselves will not get us there, either. That’s why we must have a grown-up discussion about spending cuts, tax reform, and necessary changes to entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare,” Warner said in a statement that his office forwarded to me this week on the subject of President Obama’s proposed fiscal-year 2012 budget.

Lost in the back-and-forth chatter on how socialist or how ultraconservative the budget is in the eyes of the various beholders is, well, the grown-up discussion that Warner talks about, the forest for the trees, I’ll call it.

Political types can posture all they want on ending earmarks and making cuts in social programs – as even Obama is doing, to the dismay of his increasingly more vocal critics on the left. The simple fact of the matter is that as Warner points out our burgeoning federal budget is where it is because of spending that Congress and a line of presidents have decided they don’t want to control.

And there are political reasons for doing so. Curbing spending on Social Security and Medicare hits seniors, in particular, and guess who votes by far in the greatest numbers? Oh, yeah.

Defense spending, too, has become untouchable, despite the fact that the United States spends more on its military than the rest of the world combined. But just try proposing a cut in defense spending. You’ll get run out of Washington faster than a second-term congressman posting a picture on Craigslist.

And so they work around the edges, which by definition isn’t going to work. So much time is spent debating miniscule cuts to one-eighth of the budget. And this passes as leadership in this day and age.

“Every day that we delay making these tough choices, we add an average of $4 billion to the national debt,” Warner said this week.

The only way this works is if Republicans and Democrats put down their spears and make it a bipartisan priority.

I wish I could be optimistic that this spirit will overtake Capitol Hill anytime soon.

“This is the only way we will put our nation back on a responsible fiscal path that allows us to be competitive as we move forward,” Warner said.

I hear you, Senator.

Column by Chris Graham. More columns by Chris at

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