Let’s put first things first

Let's put first things first By Senator Tom Daschle Most South Dakotans, when they put together their family budgets, put first things first. Before they take a big vacation, they pay down the credit card debt, pay their health insurance premiums, put some money in college and retirement funds and save something for emergencies.

Washington ought to use that same common sense in putting together the federal budget. The numbers are a lot bigger, but the principle is the same: Put first things first.

The national economy is doing pretty well right now. We've tightened our belt and we have some money left over each year. The question is, what do we do with that budget surplus?

A lot of people in Washington want to blow the whole thing on the fiscal equivalent of a luxury vacation. Congressional Republicans just passed a budget that provides huge tax breaks that go mainly to the wealthiest Americans. Their plan doesn't add one day of solvency to Social Security. It doesn't use one dime of the surplus for Medicare. It doesn't include a nickel for prescription drugs. And it doesn't pay off the debt. It would force deep cuts in education, veterans' health, agriculture and other critical areas.

One reason I voted against the Republican tax plan is because it directly contradicts the common sense advice I hear from people all across our state. South Dakotans believe � and I believe � that before Washington takes the fiscal equivalent of a luxury vacation, we need to pay down the federal debt, save Social Security and strengthen Medicare, including adding a voluntary prescription drug benefit. Next, we need to put aside money to pay for our children's education and other essentials. Finally, we need to put aside money to deal with disasters like the ones that have pounded our state over the last few years.

After we do all those things, if there's still money left over, it ought to go to the people who really need a tax cut: middle class families and families who are trying to get into the middle class. They're the ones whose tax burden got heavier in the '80s, not Donald Trump.

Congressional Republicans claim their plan is fair because everyone gets something back. The fact is, under their plan, if you make over $300,000 per year, you'll save about $46,000 on your taxes. But, if you make about $38,000 or less � like most South Dakota families � you'll save about $157. That comes out to about 40 cents a day � not even enough to buy a postcard of Disneyland.

The President has vowed to veto the Republican budget when he gets it in September and I support him. Congress can do better. Because of the surplus, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pay off our debts from the past, prepare for the Baby Boomers' retirement, give our children a good education and cut taxes for working families.

It won't be easy. But as any South Dakota family can tell you, it's amazing what you can do when you work hard, use common sense and put first things first.

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