Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 12, 2010

YOUCUT.... Oh, good, another gimmick pretending to be policy work.

House Republicans will launch a project Wednesday in which they will offer bills to eliminate spending programs that Americans vote online to cut.

House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) will unveil the project, called "YouCut," which will combine Republicans' push for spending cuts with attempts toward online engagement.

People can vote online or through text message on a list of five proposals to reduce types of spending, on which House Republicans will then force a vote in the House the following week.

The list of possible areas for cuts is pretty underwhelming. For example, participants in this little exercise can eliminate the Presidential Election Fund, saving $260 million over five years -- but in the process making national candidates more dependent on outside fundraising. Folks can also vote to eliminate $200,000 a year in HUD grants for doctoral research on housing policy.

What's especially interesting, though, is that all of the proposals don't amount to much given the larger budget picture. Merit aside, if officials were to scrap every penny of the spending on Cantor's list, it would save taxpayers about $1.1 billion a year.

Obviously, for regular American households, $1.1 billion is an enormous amount of money. But when we're talking about a federal budget that's nearly $4 trillion, Cantor's money saving ideas, taken together, represent far less than 1% of the total.

In contrast, Democratic plans on health care, student loans, and energy policy would produce significant budget savings -- but generated apoplectic opposition from Cantor and other Republicans.

I guess this isn't too big a surprise. When President Obama reached out to congressional Republicans last summer, urging them to put together a list of spending cuts they'd like to see, the GOP caucus came up with $23 billion in proposed cuts over five years -- far less than the White House plan to reduce spending over the same period.

Cantor would obviously like to position Republicans as the party of fiscal responsibility and discipline, but I'm hard pressed to imagine why anyone would take this seriously.

Steve Benen 11:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (36)

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I vote we cut the salaries of hack politicians. Cantor would easily make the top 5 on that list.

Posted by: Tom Marchioro on May 12, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

It's a gimmick but we need some gimmicks. How about a "They Spent it" site. Or a "Give the Money Back Site" where all the bankers and the top 1% tax cut recipients have to give back the money they got from bush/repubs. The money can be stipulated for mining safety and oil spill prevention.

Posted by: cal.seff on May 12, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

"People can vote online or through text message. . ."

The preferred method, however, is, like Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, to write your response on the back of a twenty dollar bill. . .

Posted by: DAY on May 12, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Make YouCut work against them: set up drives at MoveOn etc. for libs to cut favorite Red State and conservative programs etc. Maybe get Jon, Rachel et al into the act.

Posted by: neil b on May 12, 2010 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, I might be for this.
But, I'd have a "Keep" button. Then, let them put SS, Medicare and Medicaid there, the new health care provisions,etc. Let them see how many people want to keep things, and not just show a tally of knuckleheads propagandized into voting "No!" on inconsequential, or stupid, programs.
Also, I'd put large military programs on there as well. I'm sure the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines will get almost universal support. But, how about the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan? Uhm, not so much. And how about letting us vote on airplanes and submarines that are still designed to fight the USSR. ANd how about 'missile shields' that can't take down a missile even when it knows the source and trajectory.
I'm not sure Cantor would go along with that, but it might open up a few eyes on the right side of the great divide.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on May 12, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

How long with this endeavor last? Will this effort also be "suspended"? Mr. Cantor has a problem with follow through. It appears that he rarely finishes what he starts.

Posted by: Jilli on May 12, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Rethugs aren't about governing! They're only about gimmicks and the appearance that they are doing something. You don't expect them to really work do you?

Posted by: kanopsis on May 12, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

On the heels of news that Cantor's last lame gimmick is dead as a doornail, he tries again...

Posted by: shortstop on May 12, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

They can't say what they would really cut, because we've already seen what they would do in power and it wasn't pretty. They can say they've learned their lesson and they are now going to be responsible, but if they tell you what they'd cut, they'd never get elected. Remember Paul Ryan? He's one of the few who's actually willing to do it. How fast did the leadership run away from his budget?

They simply aren't serious about the budget. The only thing they are serious about is regaining power.

Posted by: atlliberal on May 12, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

I guess they forgot to include the "Cut the defense budget by one third" option. I'd vote the hell out of that one!

Also, can we get a YouTax page up that let's you vote on what corporations have their tax deferments taken away?

Posted by: chrenson on May 12, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe it's just because of recent news, or maybe because I live in San Francisco, but I first read this as "You're Cut", and thought it was yet another GOP closeted homosexual scandal, this time focusing on those who like their men circumcised.

... but back to politics, can an outvoted minority really force a vote on anything in the House? Surprising.

Posted by: Rathskeller on May 12, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

The big question is: When does Scott Brown sign up for this idea?

Go, Post Turtles, GO!

Posted by: RuuS on May 12, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

When can I vote no on the defense budget?

Posted by: do on May 12, 2010 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

I think that such an interactive website could be very educational. The opening screen tells you that the projected budget deficit for 2011 is $1.26 trillion. It asks how you, personally, would want to try to balance it. The user is given options such as "cut foreign aid", "cut research on the mating habits of polar bears", "cut legal aid to poor defendants", etc. Then, after the user picks whatever egregious program he wants to eliminate, the website would announce: "Now, you still have a deficit of $1.24 You have more cutting to do! Or would you like to try raising taxes?"

Eventually, the user will get the hint: To make a significant impact on the budget deficit, you have to either drastically cut the military budget, or drastically raise taxes. Everything else is chump change in comparison.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on May 12, 2010 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Indeed Daryl, and the site (or a Democrat counter-site) can actually educate people on how little savings would actually come by axing many programs that cons consider cut-worthy. Examples, as stated: foreign aid, welfare (the real kind, not SS etc.) etc.

Posted by: neil b on May 12, 2010 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

i'm sure that Eric Cantor will both choose his list and describe the listed items, including pros and cons of the proposed cuts, in a totally fair, unbiased, educational way.

Posted by: zeitgeist on May 12, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK
I'm hard pressed to imagine why anyone would take this seriously.

Two words: The media.

While I think this gimmick will wind up falling flat, who the hell knows any more. I can never tell what the media will swoon over, and what they'll ignore.

Posted by: Mark D on May 12, 2010 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

The problem with any such online survey is that they are statistically useless. They do not represent the opinions of the general public; they only represent the opinions of the handful of people who bother to go to the website and respond. This is why almost all political surveys use some form of random sampling.

Despite that, get ready for Rethuglicans to argue that if the Democrats don't vote for these cuts, they are "ignoring the will of the people".

Posted by: Paige on May 12, 2010 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

If you take all the money 'freeloaders' and the people leeching of the government actually get in 1 year, multiply it times 100, it would still not even equal 1% of the money that corporations steal in the form of failure to pay taxes tot he country that has given them the ability to create such wealth in the first place. This does not even begin to talk about military waste.

I've made this argument a million times to some conservative associates of mine and they just can't get past the whole welfare, liberal spending, raise your taxes blah blah blah shit. It's truly amazing. They really are brainwashed.

If we had a rational military budget, and we forced companies to pay their fair share, we would not have a deficit. What is so hard about that?

Posted by: citizen_pain on May 12, 2010 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Polls consistently show that the public thinks that "foreign aid" spending is about 10 times higher than it actually is.

Posted by: Joe Buck on May 12, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans don't have a problem with spending lots of money, although they like to spend it in different places than Democrats. What they don't like is actually having to pay for it.

Posted by: qwerty on May 12, 2010 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'd support a program called "YouCut" if it meant citizens could vote on which members of Congress, the Senate and Wall Street would be hauled to the guillotine, and in what order they'd get beheaded.

Posted by: electrolite on May 12, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Cantor has already been "cut". That's why he sings in such a fine, soprano, voice, which is sine qua non for all cantors.

Posted by: exlibra on May 12, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe it might be good to suggest, as helpfully as possible, that other people might also be allowed to suggest things to be cut.

Posted by: Christopher Hobe Morrison, Pine Bush, NY, USA on May 12, 2010 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Obviously, for regular American households, $1.1 billion is an enormous amount of money.

Not really. It works out to about $3.67 per person.

Posted by: apm on May 12, 2010 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Would it be so unreasonable for Americans , who are so wildly misinformed concerning the actual substance in budgets , to expect the gratitude from a world that owes its existence due to American exceptionalism ?

Posted by: FRP on May 12, 2010 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

I thought republicans, McCain in particular, loved the Presidential Election Fund ? I distinctly remember a big brew-ha over Obama opting out.

Posted by: ScottW714 on May 12, 2010 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

how much you wanna bet that "end corporate welfare" won't be one of the choices for things to be cut

Posted by: andy on May 12, 2010 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

I hope they are really careful with the options they include (not really). This gimmick is ripe for freeping and for forcing GOP votes that they really won't want to take.

Posted by: danimal on May 12, 2010 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Oh look, you have to give them an email address to vote, or vote by phone. Why yes, I'd love to send some of my personal data to the GOP. (Maybe a fake email would work, but I didn't care enough to try.)

Posted by: mamooth on May 12, 2010 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

I think a platform for this already exists. It's called SIM City. We should do a real version of SIM City and show the impact of every cut, every item of waste, etc.

Posted by: Mark on May 12, 2010 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Reduce the defense department's budget by up to 50%.

Make the intelligence arena transparent, including the black ops budget, and cut it as necessary.

Stop all subsidies to oil/gas/nuclear companies, banks, health care insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Cut the agriculture subsidies to go only to real family (working) farms, not corporate agriculture.

Eliminate any kind of tax break for any U.S. corporation that outsources, and if they continue to do so after a set date in the near future, renounce their U.S. corporate status.

I'm sure there's many more.

Posted by: winddancer on May 12, 2010 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

May I vote for cutting off all spending for the 7th Congressional District of Virginia, including any monies for any office holder in that District?

Posted by: berttheclock on May 12, 2010 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

I love the idea of an interactive site where you can select cuts to various programs and see the results. Someone needs to set this up. It would actually be educational!

And it might give people a feel for the numbers. I think for many people, "million," "billion," and "trillion" all blur together, so cutting a $250M program seems like a lot.

Posted by: Mike on May 12, 2010 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

They seem to have forgotten to list Corporate welfare, farm subsidies and no bid contracts.

Posted by: merl on May 12, 2010 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Since Republicans don't really do any actual work, I'm wondering how much we could cut from the budget if we were to eliminate all monies for their paychecks, their staffs, their junkets and fact-finding missions, their offices, housing allowances, mail, printing-paper, ISP connections, PACs, think-tanks, lobbyist organizations, security details, reimbursement fees for attending FOX-bagger events, ....

Posted by: S. Waybright on May 12, 2010 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK



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