Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 6:46 PM on Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Share thoughts on U.S. budget


It's hard not to be anxious about the future if you read or listen to any national or international news about the economy. The problems seem so big that it's hard to know what to do; on the other hand, it seems fairly clear that doing nothing isn't an option.

Last month Sen. Lisa Murkowski conducted three town hall meetings around the state to help educate Alaskans about the work now being done in Washington, D.C., to meet the economic challenges facing the country, what that work means to Alaskans and why it's so urgent.

This evening there will be another opportunity for Alaskans to learn more about what's being discussed to get the national budget on track when Sen. Murkowski holds another town hall meeting via telephone. The meeting begins at 5:45 p.m. Alaska time. Those wanting to join in should call 1-877-229-8493 and enter pin number 14674. It's a great opportunity for lower Kenai Peninsula residents to find out how what's happening in the nation's capital affects them and share ideas for changes.

In her presentations last month, Murkowski pointed out some of the problems:

1. In fiscal year 2011, the United States government took in $2.3 trillion in revenue and spent $3.6 trillion, creating a deficit of $1.3 trillion for the year.

2. The $14.9 trillion national debt breaks down to $48,000 of debt for each man, woman and child in the country.

3. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction — 12 members of Congress tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in savings over the next decade — currently is reviewing all federal programs. The panel's work holds serious potential impacts for Alaska, given that 35 percent of the state's economy comes from the federal government.

4. Fifty-five percent of federal government spending is mandatory — for programs including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

5. Discretionary spending — which includes things like the nation's entire defense spending budget, funding for education, public health and law enforcement; funding for the Coast Guard — makes up 39 percent of the nation's budget. Cuts here will truly hurt Alaska.

6. Net interest accrued from the national debt totals 5.7 percent of total federal government spending.

There are no simple answers, but doing nothing is clearly not the right course. We're not on a sustainable track. Sen. Murkowski and others are promoting tackling the problems on several fronts, including reducing spending, reforming entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and overhauling the tax code.

What do you think? This evening is your chance to learn more about what's happening in Washington and share your thoughts on how to make things better.

Thank you, veterans

Last week, Isao "Henry" Nakada, a Homer World War II combat veteran, received posthumously the highest honor given by the U.S. Congress, the Congressional Gold Medal. Nakada served with distinction in the 100th/442nd Battalion in Europe, nicknamed the "Go For Broke" battalion for its courage and dedication. Congress honored veterans living and dead who served with the 100th/442nd Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service.

We congratulate the Nakada family on the honor long overdue their father and the Japanese-American soldiers who fought for their country despite prejudice — and even though their families had been imprisoned in internment camps. Most touching was the honor shown by military guards, who escorted the surviving veterans at ceremonies at the U.S. Capitol. Our men and women serving in uniform know how to honor the soldiers, Marines and sailors who served before them.

It's an example we can follow in our own way at ceremonies Friday in Homer. At 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month in the 2011th year A.D., take an early lunch break and stop by ceremonies starting at the Homer Emblem Club Veterans Memorial at Lake Street and Pioneer Avenue. Stand along the parade route down Pioneer Avenue to Main Street and the Sterling Highway or attend a second ceremony at the Gen. Buckner Legion Post 16 Veterans Memorial at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center. Veterans, we salute you and honor your service. Nov. 11 is your day. Thank you.