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Tilting at Windmills

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January 5, 2011

HOUSE REPUBLICANS TO BREAK KEY PROMISE ON DAY 1.... When House Republican leaders unveiled their Pledge to America in September, it included a pretty striking promise to voters -- if elected, the GOP majority would "roll back government spending" by "at least $100 billion in the first year alone."

By all accounts, the figure was entirely arbitrary. It's not as if Republicans identified $100 billion in unnecessary spending and vowed to eliminate it, or identified some specific policy benefit associated with these cuts. The capricious goal was chosen because it was a round number. They thought it sounded nice, and voters would be impressed.

Regardless, GOP leaders touted the figure incessantly throughout the campaign season, and kept pushing it in the lead up to the new Congress. Indeed, as recently as last week, party leaders were not only sticking to the $100 billion figure, they insisted that they would make the cuts without touching defense, Social Security, or Medicare.

Even after being confronted with evidence that such a goal would necessitate devastating cuts to education, health care, law enforcement, and transportation, House Republicans said they didn't care. After all, they said, a promise is a promise, and this is a priority the GOP is willing to fight for.

Or rather, it was.

Monday, Republicans started slowly backing away from their $100 billion commitment. Yesterday, the pledge was effectively thrown out the window.

Many people knowledgeable about the federal budget said House Republicans could not keep their campaign promise to cut $100 billion from domestic spending in a single year. Now it appears that Republicans agree. [...]

Now aides say that the $100 billion figure was hypothetical, and that the objective is to get annual spending for programs other than those for the military, veterans and domestic security back to the levels of 2008, before Democrats approved stimulus spending to end the recession.

Oh, I see. Republican pledges are "hypothetical" promises. The Pledge to America must have included asterisks and disclaimers in font so small, the country missed the caveats.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking member on the House Budget Committee, said, "I think they woke up to the reality that this will have a direct negative impact on people's lives.... You know, it's easy to talk about these things in the abstract. It's another thing when you start taking away people's college loans and Pell Grants or cutting early education programs."

To be sure, I'm delighted Republicans aren't actually going to pursue this indefensible goal. When political leaders start breaking high-profile promises right out of the gate, it's generally not a positive development, but in this case, we're all better off with GOP leaders having changed their minds.

Of course, this doesn't change the fact that Republicans never should have made this promise to begin with, and shouldn't have put themselves in a position in which they're breaking their own pledge immediately after taking office.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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Comments

Today's rising sun is already casting a shadow on the R's giddy ignorance.

Posted by: Bill on January 5, 2011 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

Today, the new bozo's exit their clown-car and enter the House to join the ones already there!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on January 5, 2011 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans Lied!!!???? We are all deeply shocked. Quick - someone call Faux Nooze and have them push the story how this is all the Democrats fault.

Posted by: Mr Beltway Q. Douchebag on January 5, 2011 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

...this doesn't change the fact that Republicans never should have made this promise to begin with, and shouldn't have put themselves in a position in which they're breaking their own pledge immediately after taking office.

In all seriousness, why not?

It helped to get them elected, and that was the purpose of making the promise.

Their constituency has never reacted negatively to this sort of behavior before, so they either don't know or don't care. (I would guess a mixture. In fact, I would guess if you did an exhaustive poll, the results would be a mixture of angry denial, joyous disdain, and satisfied complacence.)

Why shouldn't they do exactly as they did?

Posted by: bleh on January 5, 2011 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

Most of the electorate pays scant attention to politics, and rabid partisans tell their candidate, "You had me at hello."

Hence, the successful road to office is to promise the moon, and deliver a moon rock.

Posted by: DAY on January 5, 2011 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

I'm afraid that this is merely a temporary respite.

Eventually, the Republicans will figure out a way to make deep cuts and have the blame fall on the Democrats. Or the White House will "meet the Republicans half way" and propose the cuts themselves.

Posted by: SteveT on January 5, 2011 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

Dems need to complain bitterly and loudly about the republicans increasing the debt by REPEALING health insurance reform.

Also, it's not enough to convince uninformed voters that Republicans lie, because they tend to fall back to the position "well, all politicians do it, but at least the Republicans' hearts are in the right places", because of what the R's have said that resonates with them.

Posted by: N.Wells on January 5, 2011 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

"Hence, the successful road to office is to promise the moon, and deliver a moon rock."
But DAY, maybe the teabaggers will feel like instead of that, they got mooned?
I'm ok with that.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on January 5, 2011 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

Benen is sort of dodging here.

On its face, the claim by Republicans isn't absurd -- that their original proposal for cuts was based on the spending levels proposed by Obama.

Now, to be honest, I have no idea whether the numbers add up. That is, is spending under the continuing resolution really $40-50B less than what Obama proposed?

Nor do I know whether the language in the pledge specifically identified $100B in cuts from existing spending levels or whether the pledge could be construed to mean cuts from Obama's proposed budget.

However, those are the key questions. If the numbers add up and the pledge doesn't directly contradict the GOP's current position then the GOP is hardly "lying".

I would suggest that, instead of trying to play "gotcha" about the GOP "breaking a promise," that the Dems spend more effort getting Ryan and others to go on record about cuts, and their economic consequences. That is, make them specifically admit that the cuts will cost jobs. Even if they say the cuts are necessary for "austerity" or "belt tightening" or whatever, make them admit cuts = jobs.

Posted by: square1 on January 5, 2011 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

What is the point of this diatribe?

Our base of low information voters has the memory span of a gnat, so it will not impact their support.

Our teapartiers are really just parts of our base who are providing self-justification for overlooking what transpired during the Bush years and, while they may complain loudly, they will get over it. After all, we still have a black president and that is what they really hate.

Independents do not really pay attention until right before voting time when we will be able to increasingly buy their 'beliefs'.

If you think that our corporately owned media will make an issue out of this, think again!

As always, there is no 'down-side' to our republican leaders lying!

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on January 5, 2011 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

I heard NPR this morning speaking with Lamar Smith (R) TX, who referred to Social Security as an "entitlement", which, of course, it is not. Anyone who has ever received a paycheck knows the SS money is the workers own money being set aside for their future use (I realize its not exactly their exact money). Smith has been paid, so he knows his statement is a crock. However it is useful for the GOP to lie about SS and make it look like a giveaway to blacks and browns and liberals.
Yes, lying is key to the GOP plans now, and has been an integral part of their "policies" for years. They will lie straight into the face of their common TeaParty nuts as well as the rest of us. And if the Media Corporate orders are to continue to ignore the lies, they won't stop. And really, they can't or risk the collapse of their house of cards.

Posted by: T2 on January 5, 2011 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

re T2...

As of 1/1/11, Social Security became an 'entitlement program' when 'funding' started being derived from general funds and not completely from payroll taxes.

Later this year, when Obama's (1 year) victories in the tax compromise expire he will negotiate an extension of the 'payroll tax holiday' and social security will be further ingrained as an entitlement program.

Naturally, it makes complete sense, when discussing reducing deficits, to include all entitlement programs in the discussion.

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on January 5, 2011 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

If you read comment threads around the internet you will see what happened. A lot of people, right, left and center started suggesting that if social security was going to be on the table so should the defense budget and corporate welfare. If Republicans were to actually cut Medicare and Medicaid but leave Exxon's subsidies alone a genuine populist movement might be in the offing.

Some big thinker at corporate headquarters somewhere realized that they might get burned if they got too close to the flame. The word went out and the loons are walking back. If they aren't really walking back they should be.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 5, 2011 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone who has ever received a paycheck knows the SS money is the workers own money being set aside for their future use

Sorry, but that isn't true at all. Yes, Social Security funds are withheld from everyone's paycheck, but those funds go to support current retirees, not into some account for future use. The checks one receives when one retires come from the Social Security taxes of current workers at the time. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Posted by: Gregory on January 5, 2011 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Posted by: T2 on January 5, 2011 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK
re T2...

As of 1/1/11, Social Security became an 'entitlement program' when 'funding' started being derived from general funds and not completely from payroll taxes.

Later this year, when Obama's (1 year) victories in the tax compromise expire he will negotiate an extension of the 'payroll tax holiday' and social security will be further ingrained as an entitlement program.

Naturally, it makes complete sense, when discussing reducing deficits, to include all entitlement programs in the discussion.

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on January 5, 2011 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK
-------------------------------------------------

We have been overpaying into the social security system since 1986. (supposedly to get ready for the baby boomers' retirement) A year or two of the general fund paying back the trust fund instead of the other way around doesn't make it an entitlement program.

Posted by: atlliberal on January 5, 2011 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

atlliberal - You missed who you were replying to. RepublicanPointOfView gives exactly what it says on the label in his/her comments - a "parody" of the Republican Point Of View. I can understand the mistake - RPOV often channels the Republicans so well that he/she looks like he/she is relaying their legitimate arguments rather than ridiculous parody. Mostly because Republican arguments these days don't quite rise even to the level of ridiculous parody....

Posted by: NonyNony on January 5, 2011 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK
Hence, the successful road to office is to promise the moon, and deliver a moon rock.

You're familiar with the etymology of the word "lunacy," right?

Posted by: navamske on January 5, 2011 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Social Security is most definitely an entitlement program. In 33 years with the SS Administration, I explained to hundreds, if not thousands of individuals that the payroll taxes paid by nearly every worker in the US are used to fund benefits for current retirees, survivors, and disabled individuals. However, once the individual has worked a minimum number of years in SS-covered (and taxed) work, that worked becomes entitled to a retirement benefit at a certain age, or a disability benefit upon meeting certain stiff medical conditions, and that certain members of the worker's family (e.g. widow/widower of a certain age, young children, etc) also can be entitled to family or survivor benefits. the point of SS is to replace a certain portion of a worker's wages or self-employment income in the event of retirement, ddeath, or disability. It is an entitlement once a threshold of covered work is crossed and certain other factors are met. And to repeat Gregory and others, a worker's benefits tomorrow will be paid by tomorrow's workers. It is a social compact, a compact among nearly all of us to take care of one another to a certain extent.

Posted by: Paul on January 5, 2011 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

The realization that "this will have a direct negative impact on people's lives" would have no impact on the actions of Republican politicians. They are not at all concerned about imposing misery on other people. They may have realized that this would have a direct negative impact on GOP ambitions for 2012.

Posted by: Daniel Kim on January 5, 2011 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

In the 1980's, Saint Ronald The Raygun and Mr. Andrea Mitchell (Alan Greenspan) saved social security 'forever' by increasing retirement ages and raising payroll taxes to expand the amount of $$$ in the social security trust fund.

The net effect of what Reagan & Greenspan did was to effectively reduce social security benefits by more than 20%!!!

Other than a few years during the Billy Bob Clinton presidency, when the SS overpayments were 'lockboxed', the rethugs and dumbocraps have spent every dime of the money. They graciously replaced that with U.S. Bonds that are kept in a mountain (I believe in West Virginia) somewhere.

The current repuke argument is that these bonds are no real, have no value, and should be disregarded. If this argument is not accepted, social security IS SOLVENT for several decades, without changes.

The other part of the repuke argument for killing social security is that medicare is financially unsound. The only way that this argument has meaning to social security is if you can convince the amerikan sheeple of the lie that medicare is the same as social security.

Even if you accept the repuke arguments, all that is really takes to assure long term solvency for social security is to ELIMINATE THE CAP on which the employee portion of income is taxed!

//also posting as RepublicanPointOfView

Posted by: SadOldVet on January 5, 2011 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

I am disappointed the Republicans are backing away from this promise. I was hoping the cuts would have a direct negative impact on people's lives, specifically the people who voted for the Republicans. We tend to imagine cuts have a direct negative impact on OTHER people's lives, not our own. I was hoping the cuts would demonstrate how government spending impacts ALL our lives.

Posted by: james on January 5, 2011 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

During the next campaign cycle, the Dems should promise every tax payer A NEW CAR!

Posted by: Marko on January 5, 2011 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

It's too bad the GOP is already backing away from their wild-eyed promises. This means that the realists are asserting themselves over the crazies. I suspect the crazies will have a short fuse and there will be a GOP civil war brewing before too long.

So why is this too bad? I was hoping the GOP civil war could be delayed until 2012.

Posted by: danimal on January 5, 2011 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

yes gregory, that's what I meant by "not exactly their exact money"..it is not as if we all have our own little account we contribute to. The money goes into a pile that pays the current recipients. A ponzi scheme, basically. But one that works. To our GOP writers...it worked so well that there was a huge surplus that the government then helped itself to for decades in order to fund other stuff...such as the Iraq war and tons of pork. Plus letting billionaires off paying their fair share. Raise the SS tax limit and the problems end.

Posted by: T2 on January 5, 2011 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK
Republican pledges are "hypothetical" promises.

You misspelled 'hypocritical' up there.

Ed

Posted by: ed drone on January 5, 2011 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Monday, Republicans started slowly backing away from their $100 billion commitment. Yesterday, the pledge was effectively thrown out the window.

Remember the Republicans kept asking “Where are the jobs ?”

The Dems should be all over TV everyday asking “Where’s the promised $100 billion in cuts ?”


Posted by: Joe Friday on January 5, 2011 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

The Republican promise is hypothetical, just all their promises to cut spending in the last 30 years.

Real government programs will not have any real spending cuts.

All of the spending cuts will come from hypothetical government deparments.

I'm glad I'm not the Secretary of Waste, Fraud, and Abuse-- their hypothetical budget will be taking a beating.

Posted by: jamie_2002 on January 5, 2011 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

After two years of almost non-stop, hypothetical, broken Obama promises, Steve, I can certainly understand your hypersensitivity to the subject.

Posted by: mary on January 5, 2011 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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