Magazine article Techniques

Make the Most of a Tough Situation

Magazine article Techniques

Make the Most of a Tough Situation

Article excerpt

"What's this budget problem in Washington?" "Isn't there a federal surplus now?" These are common questions as Congress continues to struggle with allocating funds. And complicating things is the ever-present partisan squabbling as both parties try to come out having done something good for their constituents at the other party's expense. Overall, the situation looks like this:

Budget surplus. Predictions of a federal budget surplus have replaced the gloom of deficits that plagued budget discussions just a few years ago. Predictions are based on a large number of factors, but chiefly rely on the condition of the economy. Given the growth in our economy in the past few years, it is easy to see how this could paint a rosy picture. While many contest the optimism--saying it does not take into account the rising costs of Social Security and Medicare--we nevertheless are better off now than we were 15 years ago. But given the good economic news, the public is wondering, shouldn't there be more money to spend on education?

Spending caps. In the most recent of many attempts to control deficit spending, Congress and the president agreed in 1997 to a balanced budget law that established a fiscal year spending cap on defense and domestic discretionary programs, which include education. How much goes toward the domestic side of discretionary spending depends on how much goes toward defense. If one area gains, the other loses, and as of now, defense is slated for a significant increase. What would be left for education in FY2000 may not even match last year's spending levels. In fact, to stay under the caps, Congress would have to cut education, labor and health programs by as much as $12 billion, according to some projections. …

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