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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Cutting federal deficit not what it appears on surface

The deficit-reduction package the Senate majority rammed through Tuesday night when Vice President Dick Cheney broke a tie vote does little to curtail spending, while hurting some Americans who struggle to live.

The spending-reduction legislation is supposed to cut the deficit by nearly $40 billion, but in reality the government can do that only if it sells a portion of the analog spectrum that television stations must give back as they switch to High Definition TV.

The legislation assumes the government will get $10 billion from the partial sale of airwaves to cut the deficit to $39.7 billion next year. But, the government may spend some of that money to help viewers without HD-TV to buy converter boxes.

Projection for this year's federal deficit is $477 billion, the highest ever, which means the next shortfall will still top $400 billion.

The bill had to go back to the House because of Senate changes and must have the president's signature to become law.

Passing the legislation wasn't easy, yet it would have been a more difficult task if it hadn't targeted lower and middle class Americans.

Under the bill, getting student loans will be more difficult when the government cuts lender subsidies. That means fewer students will go to college.

Some people trying to stay out of nursing homes will find home health-care payments frozen while their costs escalate.

And some of those who go to nursing homes will find it more difficult to transfer their few remaining assets to children before they qualify for benefits.

The philosophy that any debt reduction is better than no spending cuts fails to put human faces on these actions. Surely Congress can devise a better solution than to pound on people who deserve a helping hand.

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