The Fiscal Cliff: Recession Looms Without Compromise, Leaders in Arkansas Fear

by George Waldon  on Monday, Sep. 17, 2012 12:00 am  

Congress will face a steep fiscal cliff when it returns to Washington D.C. (Photo by Wayne DePriest)

"We have to deal with entitlements," he said. "The sooner we do, the sooner we save ourselves from a fate we don't want to contemplate. Social Security is the easiest fix. They have to raise the minimum retirement age."

Paul Cunningham, executive vice president of the Arkansas Hospital Association, said he doesn't have a feel for what the consensus might be among his constituents regarding expectations or answers.

But Cunningham is hopeful that a new political climate will replace congressional gridlock after Nov. 6 and facilitate action. He believes the election results could embolden the re-elected and free the un-elected among the 435 representatives and 33 senators who will finish out terms this year.

"There is at least some possibility that during the lame duck term that something could be done," Cunningham said. "Whether it's something good or bad is open to debate.

"The deficit is a major issue. A lot of people will be coming back for only six weeks. They may feel freer to support movement, and [representatives] coming back will have at least two years before their next election.

"This gives flexibility for something to happen. And on the other hand, we could see more of what we've seen."

Cunningham is concerned about talk of excluding defense spending from budget reductions, even if the stance is made in the name of preserving jobs and national security.

"Where do you cut that will make a difference?" he said. "We're concerned more could come out of Medicare and Medicaid if defense is taken out of the mix.

"The bottom line is we just don't know."

Ewell Welch, executive vice president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation, is among those ready to embrace budgetary cuts to get the deficit under control.

"We're even willing to face some cuts in the farm bill as long as it's not disproportionate to other program areas," Welch said.

"That is the key to it: a proportionate share. Everyone understands we cannot keep going down the deficit-spending road we've been traveling."

 

 

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