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Tilting at Windmills

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March 9, 2011

SENATE DEMS THROW A CURVEBALL.... The budget playing field has been frustratingly narrow the last several weeks. Policymakers started with the 2011 budget proposal as a baseline, and at least in the House, set out to cut tens of billions of dollars from only one small chunk of the larger budget -- non-defense discretionary spending.

And so the debate progressed, painfully, with Democratic leaders eyeing about $10 billion in cuts and Republican leaders demanding more than $60 billion in cuts, all from the same small pot. The final answer was likely to fall somewhere in between -- the question was when they'd strike a deal, and how awful it'd be.

Today, Senate Democrats decided to throw a curveball. The debate has become overly narrow, they said, and it's time to broaden the playing field.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the Republican Party's bluff on the need for deficit reduction Wednesday, outlining a fiscal framework that involves broader cuts and revenue raisers than the GOP has proposed -- and warning that there will be no agreement on funding the government unless the GOP broadens its approach.

"A bipartisan compromise simply will not be found in the domestic discretionary spending cuts alone," Schumer said in a half-hour presentation at the Center for American Progress. Without a broader scope, Schumer said, "we won't be able to come to a compromise on a seven month budget."

Just as important, Schumer emphasized a distinction that's gone largely overlooked thus far: "Right now a very small, very intense ideological tail is wagging the dog over in the House of Representatives. Their fervor for spending cuts is not grounded in deficit reduction at all. Instead the far right wing has deliberately confused two separate issues. They've conflated reducing the deficit -- which is not their true priority -- with cutting government -- which is."

And with that, Schumer began moving the game from the GOP's field, where Dems have been losing, to a bigger venue.

Schumer endorsed the approaches taken by Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, both of whom reduced or eliminated deficits by cutting discretionary spending and addressing entitlements and tax revenues. He identified achievable savings on all three flanks, including cuts to defense spending, agriculture subsidies, and a surtax on millionaires and billionaires.

"I noted with interest last week's Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, the most popular proposal to reduce the deficit out of 23 options surveyed was a tax -- a surtax -- on millionaires and billionaires," Schumer said. "It's not only a popular thing to do, it's the right thing to do."

Good for Chuck. For weeks, the Republican line has been that we're in the midst of a budget crisis -- which they prefer to forget they're largely responsible for -- but the resolution must come by approving brutal, job-killing cuts to a small portion of the larger budget. Schumer, in effect, was telling the GOP it's time to expand the party's horizons -- if there's a genuine crisis, why not look at the rest of the budget, too?

Ezra Klein had a good item on this earlier, saying "it's about time" Democrats did this.

There's not much money to begin with in non-security discretionary spending, and because it's such a popular place to search for cuts, there's not much waste, either. It's like trying to clean your house by doing more and more to organize the hallway closet. It might help the first few times, but eventually, you have to head elsewhere. [...]

This might prove a clarifying moment. If Republicans are only willing to consider cuts to non-defense discretionary spending as part of a deficit-reduction deal, then whatever their aim is, it's not really deficit reduction. That's not how you reduce the deficit. If they're only willing to consider deep cuts to this year, as opposed to policies that would save a larger amount of money over the next few years, then it'll raise the possibility that they're motivated more by the specifics of an unwise campaign promise than by concern over the budget. Either "we're broke" or we're not. But if the answer is that we are -- and that's certainly what John Boehner has said in the past -- then it's time we started acting like it. The idea that you can balance the budget simply by doing things liberals don't like and Americans don't notice is a campaign fiction, not a plausible fiscal philosophy.

The fact that congressional Republicans aren't sure how best to respond to Schumer's move is probably a good initial sign that Senate Dems are on to something here.

Steve Benen 2:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (21)

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Comments

Sounds good, but "once bitten, twice shy".
-I'll believe it when i see it. ('cause there ain't no grownups in DC)

Posted by: DAY on March 9, 2011 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans have not responded because the Koch Bros.haven't completed their round of phone calls telling the GOPers what to do and say. But it's a pretty good guess that by tomorrow, the Republican response will sound like this "Raising taxes on Americans is a job-killing, economy-wrecking idea that will hit small business owner's and prove once again that Obama is not an American citizen and Democrats are closet socialists, and it's time the president accepted all $61 mil of our proposed cuts to eliminate all the good things we enjoy."

Posted by: T2 on March 9, 2011 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Chuckles may be a Whoreporatist, and my Senator, but he does usually end up on the correct side of an issue.

I think if he were the Senate Majority Leader, we'd see a lot more of things like this, instead of 'Good Ol' Go-Along to Get-Along' Harry Reid.

Harry was a bit feisty when Little Boots was President, but I think he was a much better Minority Leader than Majority Leader.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 9, 2011 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Broder dies and bipartisanship goes right out the window;>

Who's going to demand Schumer apologize for hurting the Repubs feelings?

Posted by: martin on March 9, 2011 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

T2,
"...and it's time the president accepted all $61 mil of our proposed cuts to eliminate all the good things we enjoy."

I think if it was $61 mil, we'd all be happy.
:-)

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 9, 2011 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

If ALL of the Dems had the courage to back Schumer up on this then it may have an impact. But they won't because they are cowards. They will hang him out to dry alone.

I am a life-long loyal Democrat so I know of what I speak.

*sigh*

Posted by: Trinity on March 9, 2011 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

"Right now a very small, very intense ideological tail is wagging the dog over in the House of Representatives. Their fervor for spending cuts is not grounded in deficit reduction at all. Instead the far right wing has deliberately confused two separate issues. They've conflated reducing the deficit -- which is not their true priority -- with cutting government -- which is."


Go Chuck Schumer! Lets have the Great Conflation debate and tell half of America what that word means.

Posted by: max on March 9, 2011 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

"The fact that congressional Republicans aren't sure how best to respond to Schumer's move is probably a good initial sign that Senate Dems are on to something here."

Its also, sadly, a pretty conclusive sign that the Democrats are going to stop talking about it.

Sigh.

Posted by: MCD on March 9, 2011 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

This is why it's hard to hate Chuck Schumer. He's a jerk, he's a shill for the financial industry, and his views on Israel and drug policy could hardly be worse. But at least he has a spine!

I never expected any Dem to actually do the obvious and start proposing to cut the Republicans' sacred cows of defense and farm subsidies.

Posted by: dbeach on March 9, 2011 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Republican leaders need to come to the table and show us how we can continue to feed our families while they are destroying our livelihoods! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 9, 2011 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Who's going to demand Schumer apologize for hurting the Repubs feelings?
Posted by: martin on March 9, 2011 at 2:18 PM |

***************************

Brain Williams, Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, David Gregory, Wolf Blizter, and all the rest of these corporate shit stains ..........

Posted by: stormskies on March 9, 2011 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

I like Ezra's analogy very much . I might even restore my own closets to their former glory , later this Spring .

Posted by: FRP on March 9, 2011 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

"They've conflated reducing the deficit -- which is not their true priority -- with cutting government -- which is."

What? Their true priority is cutting government programs *associated with people who don't vote for them.*

Posted by: Chris S. on March 9, 2011 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Cutting government programs *associated with people who don't vote for them* pretty well sums it up.

Posted by: Kenneth D. Franks on March 9, 2011 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Cut all unwanted Pentagon projects.
Subtract 61 billion.

Apply remainder to jobs in the same districts where unwanted projects were cut.
win-win except that Republicans don't WANT more jobs. That would help the economy recover before a Republican were in the Oval Office to claim credit.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on March 9, 2011 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

About f***ing time. Think wedges to reduce the problem into manageable bits:

1. reduce military spending, focusing in procurements first
- then you get to have a discussion about aligning our forces with our priorties, etc. That itself, will be fun. What fraction of our air force is based on 1960's era defense strategy? Navy?

2. revise health care spending, long term; ie, expand the HCA and revise the cost curve, even more.

3. Revise soc security, in the sense that what is owned will be paid

4. Dis entangle us from Afgan and Iraqi rebuilds. We have wasted billions - yes, billions, on stupid bullshit projects. Ask anyone who has served there, and you can find story after story of moronic roads; unused irrigation systems, stole money, etc.

attack revenues

5. - a surtax is bullshit. Revise the tax structure. Raise marginal rates on income above 250 k. yes. Raise taxes. Cut tax breaks for those over 250 k. If they howl, respond thusly:

" We have thousands of working class stiffs humping over Afghanistan mountains, and you pussies bitch about a marginal rate going to 38 % ? Go cry me a god damn river. "

6. -revise tax structure; cut top corp rate; cut as many loopholes, breaks, giveaways, etc as possble. Give the randians what they want- lower tax rates on corporations, AND level the playing field so corps. make financial decisions based, on, you know, business decisions, and make sure the final lower rate still increases revenue

7. - penalize bastards that hide tax revenue oversees

8- Increase tax enforcement ... on the rich. Yes. risk being called names by the tea party. boo f***ing hoo....


Make the economy grow, for real, with non defense spending ...

9. Try to actually invest in, you know, America. Spend some god damn money on infrastructure, water, non oil-based energy etc.

10. Focus on educating people. In the US.

11. Get some real economic growth, which increases the tax base, which increases the tax yield ....


Ok. So we are in the hole with a current deficit of 1.7 T; What could each one of the wedges be worth?

It is about time that some Dem found his or her spine. I say go bold. THis pissant stuff around the margins gives us --- pissant stuff on the margins


Posted by: bigtuna on March 9, 2011 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

FINALLY, a Dem politico figures out how to make the GOP play on our field. See Chuck, that wasn't so hard.

Please, please, please keep it up.

Posted by: Chris on March 9, 2011 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

As I posted on DKos, it must feel great to talk tough in front of a friendly CAP crowd. Does he have the balls and the commitment to toe that line in committee and on the senate floor?

Does he have the guts to call out fellow Dems (including the President) who adopt the bullshit deficit framing?

When he does all that, THEN I'll be impressed.

Posted by: bdop4 on March 9, 2011 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, you know who should weigh in on this? That nice fella lives up on Pennsylvania Avenue. I forget his name. Used to be a promising young politician.

Posted by: Cazart on March 9, 2011 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Both budget proposals suck big time as our reps still buy into supply side economics. Taking money out of the economy and creating more unemployment can only be called stupid. The time to worry about your debt and borrowing is not when a tornado has just blown the roof off your house.

Posted by: bjobotts on March 9, 2011 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

I just got to this particular party but GO SCHUMER! This is exactly what is needed; some God Damn offense. Imagine how popular Oil, Gas and Nu-clar subsidies are with gasoline headed for $4 a gallon!

Posted by: robert on March 9, 2011 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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