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5:58 AM Mon, Dec. 17th

The budget deficit: How much are you willing to pay?

Everyone is talking about President Bush's State of the Union Address and the Democrats' response. Political pundits and news stations across the nation are interviewing senators and congressmen, former presidents, political science professors and other bigwigs for their opinions.

There's nothing new about this. It's the typical media response to the State of the Union address.

But I guess what disappoints me most is that I haven't heard a political pundit, a news anchor or a reporter ask, "How are we going to pay for all this without raising taxes?"

I haven't heard anyone question what exactly the president had in mind for his five-year plan to balance the budget. Or how long that plan is going continue once he is out of office.

Although the president claims that the government is three years ahead of schedule on balancing the budget, that's something I find hard to believe with the continuing drain of funds for the war in Iraq and the president's request for more troops and equipment for the region.

I've heard pundits and senators pick apart the success of the president's "No Child Left Behind" bill, his plans for Social Security and health care. But no one has raised the issue of how we are supposed to pay for these items without raising taxes.

My generation is currently paying and will be paying for the Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid of the Baby Boomer generation. I have no problem supporting my parents. After all, they supported me for more than 20 years of my life.

But what happens when I want to retire. What happens if I need disability? There will also be money coming into the Social Security fund from the next generation, but will it be enough to provide the benefits and services my generation needs?

Also, my generation and the one preceding mine are much smaller in population than the Baby Boomers. How are we supposed to provide the services this generation needs without raising taxes?

Many people are already paying for medical care and services for their elderly parents that Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid don't cover. That trend is expected to continue. How are American's supposed to afford paying higher taxes, care for their aging parents and children and pay for college?

I have to agree with the pundits on the president's plan for health care for the nation. The president wants to give tax breaks to working singles and families so that they can buy their own health insurance. I seriously doubt his plan would put the cost of private health insurance within the reach of regular people.

I can guess what will happen to many people if the plan goes into effect. People who don't make enough to pay income tax or pay very little income tax would not get a tax break or wouldn't get enough of a tax break to afford insurance. On the other hand, they would be making enough money to not qualify for Medicaid.

I seriously doubt health insurance companies are about to take the risk of offering low cost health plans for people who are at a higher risk of needing care. Most of those people are lower income families, the poor, the disabled and the elderly.

The president also spoke about improvements in controlling immigration and energy consumption in the U.S.

He wants to create a guest worker program for immigrants to curb illegal immigration. He also wants to create better ways for employers to check the immigration status of workers before they hire them.

But how are we going to pay for all this? I seriously doubt that immigrant workers have the funds or are willing to pay for a guest worker program. And I doubt that businesses are willing to pay for better programs to check immigration status. We could raise the fines for hiring illegal immigrants, but haven't we already tried that?

How are we supposed to fight the War on Terror and the war in Iraq without paying for equipment and troops?

I guess the bottom line of this column is the bottom line. How do we pay for all this without higher taxes?

I can think of one way the president can get out of raising taxes. The same way he got out of paying for his "No Child Left Behind" bill - create state mandates and force the states to pay for the programs. The states in turn will pass the buck down to the county government, who will pass it in turn to the local governments. The bottom line is the American people still end up paying for these programs one way or another.

The question the American people have to ask themselves and their representatives is, do we think these programs are worth the support?