Local economist: broken system, extreme partisanship led to budget crisis

EL PASO, Texas - A local economist said the current budget crisis was brough on by a broken system and extreme bipartisanship.

Dr. Timothy Roth was a consultant to President Reagan's Cabinet Council on Economic Policy. He was also the senior economist for the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee. He's currently the Chairman for the Department of Finance and Economics at the University of Texas at El Paso and understands how the budget process is supposed to work and how it's just not working now.

"We lurch from crisis to crisis. And all of it could be resolved if the Congress and the President did their jobs. Plainly and simply: A budget setup to the Hill from the President and a budget produced by the Congress and then negotiation. But no negotiation has occurred effectively for four years," said Roth in an interview Wednesday.

Roth said there hasn't been negotiating because the system is flawed. He said gerrymandering, or the process in which political parties gain an advantage by redrawing district boundaries every ten years or so leads to this problem and also because parties are choosing candidates who are either far right and far left and refuse to work with the other party.

The economist remembers when negotiating was a virtue in Washington. "Personalities haven't changed... There's just more far left and more far right lawmakers now."

He also believes the President's administration, like any would, is exaggerating the impact of a sequester. Agency leaders have spelled out dozens of seemingly devastating consequences, such as prison lockdowns, untended and unaudited nukes, being more vulnerable to terrorist attacks because of staffing shortages, 600,000 women and children being taken off WIC, among other things. In Arizona, convicted criminals who are in the country illegally, were released because of how the pending budget cuts are forecasted to affect the Prisons budget. This is overblown, said Roth.

"Every incumbent president has an incentive to accomplish that which he or she set out to do. This president is very interested in increasing taxes as a way to reduce the deficit and to expand or increase spending so i believe it's the President's way to try to get the Republicans to the bargaining table."

He, like several conservative groups, point to the fact that the proposed $89 billion that will be cut, amount to 2.3% of the overall federal budget. Roth said the cuts could be manageable if agencies allocate funds more effectively.

The senate hasn't put out a budget in more than 4 years and they're not really discussing the ones that the house offers up. The president's budget has too much debt for Congress to take it seriously. Roth believes the only way to fix the problem of going from crisis to crisis is for voters to get informed, get angry even, and vote out any lawmaker who's not working with others to resolve it.

He also said the issue is compounded by special interests who lobby for their funding not to be affected. "Don't tax me. Don't tax thee, tax the man behind a tree. That's what everyone wants. Tax them, not me. Oh and by the way, cut the budget , but not what's spent on me. What's fundamentally missing is a sense of public virtue, what the founders talked about - think about other people not just yourself."

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