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Tilting at Windmills

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December 28, 2010

HOW NOT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY ON BUDGET ISSUES.... At face value, the pledge from congressional Republicans to slash $100 billion from the federal budget is itself superficial and shallow. It's not as if GOP leaders identified $100 billion in unnecessary spending and vowed to eliminate it, or identified some specific policy benefit associated with these cuts.

Rather, Republicans picked $100 billion as an arbitrary figure -- apparently chosen because it's a round number -- and then started working backwards to reach their capricious goal.

Yesterday, CNN reported on how party leaders intend to reach their target.

Republicans view their midterm electoral victory as a mandate to cut spending, and cutting $100 billion from a $3 trillion federal budget sounds like a reasonable goal.

But GOP leaders say they will focus only on non-security discretionary spending, and won't slash funding for defense, Social Security or Medicare.

That makes their task a lot harder.

Cutting non-security discretionary funds by $100 billion means a 21% annual reduction in the part of the budget that includes funding for education, health and human services and housing and urban development, among other things, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank.

So, let me get this straight. Republicans started by prioritizing deficit reduction over economic growth, itself a ridiculous proposition. GOP leaders then decided, despite their top priority, that they wouldn't touch the Pentagon budget, Social Security, or Medicare -- the three things we happen to spend the most on. They also decided that taxes can't go up a penny on anyone.

And to top things off, Republicans are demanding $100 billion in spending cuts, mostly to education and health care, in large part because they think the number sounds good.

Remind me, why should anyone take the GOP seriously on budget issues?

The fact that Republican leaders are prepared to leave defense spending intact is especially hard to defend. Indeed, it comes as something of a surprise -- in recent months, Republican Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Bob Corker (Tenn.), and Johnny Isakson (Ga.) have all said Pentagon spending has to be on the table. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee, has said the same thing. Even Pentagon leaders themselves have said the defense budget is unsustainable.

This shouldn't even be controversial. Defense spending will top $700 billion in the next fiscal year. For Republicans to insist that we cut spending, but deliberately ignore the largest discretionary portion of the budget, is absurd.

The United States now spends about as much on defense as every other country on the planet combined. Every penny has been deemed entirely necessary by the Republican leadership?

It's the first hurdle that has to be cleared for the rest of the fiscal discussion to even get underway. Those who claim credibility on the subject, but believe a bloated Pentagon budget is untouchable, shouldn't even be part of the conversation.

Steve Benen 1:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (14)

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Comments

"Social Security"?!?

Remind me again why "Social Security" should be included in budget cuts, when it's not part of "the federal budget", being self-funded?

Posted by: zandru on December 28, 2010 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans view our government as a business. Bush the First committed us to be "Pinkertons to the world" -- committing us to police the entire world on behalf of business interests, not necessarily only American business interests.

Republicans thus see "Defense" as our business, not our national interest.

They are simpletons, but wily simpletons.

Posted by: jjm on December 28, 2010 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

If they see government as a business then taxes would be income to them. I think they see government as an authoritarian father figure that wants to see his corrupt elitist children become wealthy and rule over those despicable plebes by whatever means possible be it using religion to fool the ovis aries or laws to corral them.

Posted by: Kill Bill on December 28, 2010 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Can't cut the defense budget? Why? Because WHOOPASS!!, that's why.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on December 28, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

There is no good reason not to cut defense. We could cut $100 billion from the DOD and not even be close to the muscle. While we are fighting two brushfires (not really wars, just occupations of small countries) we still field a Navy and Air Force designed to fight an existential threat that no longer exists.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 28, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Actually Republicans want to increase taxes a lot...but only on poor people. The ones with more billions than they can spend already are the ones they want to exempt.

Posted by: Curmudgeon on December 28, 2010 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Take a look at how Republican'ts are going to accomplish this. With Paul Ryan as head of the Budget Committee, he can impose budget limits without votes OR debate.
(Read the info in the boxed section in the link)

The rules changes will pave the way for lower taxes on the rich, higher taxes on the poor and an exemption for deficit increases for tax cuts and health care reform repeal.

Posted by: Gridlock on December 28, 2010 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Remind me, why should anyone take the GOP seriously on budget issues?

Two words: magical thinking. This is defined by Wikipedia as "causal reasoning that looks for correlation between acts or utterances and certain events." So, the GOP says "cut taxes, leave spending untouched, and balance the budget," and poof! That's just what happens! It's magic.

Ob. Underwear gnomes reference:

1) Cut taxes + raise spending
2) ?
3) Profit! (for the GOP + its uber-rich base, that is)

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on December 28, 2010 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

What I have heard is that come March Ryan is going to propose a CR, or several CRs, with a 20% spending cut for all of the discretionary departments except the DOD and HSD. He will leave the actual cuts to the administration. That way he does his cuts thing without leaving finger prints. What happens for FY 2011-2012 is anybody's guess.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 28, 2010 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

By all means let us build a couple dozen more bombers in case Andorra starts getting fractious. It's no good being able to destroy everything bigger than a cockroach (except al-Qaeda) a mere twenty times over. We've got to go for fifty.

And yes, let's cut education and health funding as much as we can. As a nation, we are not nearly dumb and sick enough yet.

USA! USA! We're #49!

Posted by: tamiasmin on December 28, 2010 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

I really hate to be posting this, but the Democrats need to take a page from their Republican counterparts and fillibuster the shit out of anything these ass wipes want to pass for the next two years.

Posted by: Bozo on December 28, 2010 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Bozo- no need for the Dems to filibuster anything coming from the house that they don't like, since they still have a majority in the Senate, merely a smaller one than for the past two years.

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on December 28, 2010 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans can't cut defense spending. Our two trillion dollar wars comprise roughly 50% of our "out of control spending" problem. What will they run on in 2012 if they don't keep increasing the deficit!

Posted by: max on December 28, 2010 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know if they will get away with it, but watch for the the loony tunes to try to defund the other two branches of government. That'll save a bundle.

Posted by: thebewilderness on December 28, 2010 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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