Cutting, spending and balancing the budget is the only way the U.S. will get its fiscal house in order according to Senator Mike Johanns, R-Neb., who says the financial situation is a mess. Johanns, a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, voted in favor of the Cut, Cap and Balance legislation that was effectively killed by a vote of 51 to 46 to table the motion to proceed to the Senate floor. The legislation proposed to cut current spending down to fiscal year 2008 levels, cap future spending to 19.9% of the nation's GDP by 2017 and require a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Johanns says he believes the Cut, Cap and Balance legislation would ensure a sound future for future generations. He says the seriousness of the budget crisis can't be overstated.
Meanwhile Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-Neb., a member of the bipartisan "Gang of Six" revealed more details concerning their proposal, which includes an $11 billion cut in agriculture spending over the next ten years. Conrad confirmed the Agriculture Committees would get to make all the decisions about budget cuts. He said that's important because the Ag Committee have the expertise to make the decisions on where the savings could be made and doing the least damage.
Conrad notes the proposed cuts to ag in the Gang of Six proposal is about a quarter of what the House proposal includes in terms of their cuts to farm programs, conservation and crop insurance. Conrad says believes the House proposal would cripple agriculture, but he did note that agriculture does understand it must be part of the solution. The Senator also confirmed that any required reductions in farm programs would not happen until after the 2012 crop year to let farmers finish out the farm bill terms they were promised in '08.
According to Conrad the Gang of Six plan is really a two-step process. The first step is a down payment of some $500 billion in savings government-wide. Then the committees are given six months to report how they would achieve the assigned savings they are given. Conrad says all provisions have been analyzed and scored and many key elements have been scored separately so they have a very clear idea what the scoring would show.