Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 5, 2011

THE CAP ACT IS ARGUABLY WORSE THAN THE RYAN PLAN.... MoveOn.org and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich have a new video out today, slamming the "CAP Act" being championed by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Claire McCaskill's (D-Mo.). Reich makes a brief, compelling case, calling it "the Republican plan with lipstick."

I heartily endorse the sentiment. The "CAP Act," as I've been arguing the past few weeks, would impose insane, statutory spending caps on Congress, with the goal of automatically slashing public investments in practically everything. The measure is generating growing support from Republicans and "centrist" Democrats, but it's still one of the worst ideas in recent memory.

But with due respect to Reich and MoveOn, I think they're arguably understating matters. The CAP Act isn't "the same" as the Republican agenda; it's almost certainly worse.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said Wednesday that a fellow Democrat's plan to tackle federal spending would be even worse for Medicaid than House Republicans' "heartless" proposals for the program.

House Republicans' fiscal 2012 budget would convert federal Medicaid spending into block grants to states, which opponents say would ultimately lead the states to cut benefits or drop people from the program. The proposal is "almost beyond my moral understanding," Rockefeller said at a press conference.

But he said Medicaid cuts would be more dramatic under Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-Mo.) proposal to cap federal spending. She and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) have proposed limiting total federal spending to about 20 percent of gross domestic product. Such "global caps" would be "worse than the House budget bill," Rockefeller said.

On a related note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' Paul Van de Water explained to the Senate Finance Committee yesterday, "Imposing an arbitrary limit on federal spending would risk tipping faltering economies into recession, make recessions deeper, and make recovery from a recession more difficult."

Heather McGhee also did a nice job summarizing the case against the CAP Act, calling it what it is: "a depression maker."

I realize this seems like a dry topic, which isn't yet generating much attention, and the idea of arbitrary spending caps might even poll well. But I'm going to keep banging this drum. At this point, these caps probably have enough support to actually pass both chambers, and if enforced, they'd obliterate the safety net and destroy any chance of progressive policymaking for a generation. And yet, there's some talk about including the idea in the Gang of Six plan and/or making it a precondition for raising the debt ceiling.

In other words, this really should be taken seriously.

Steve Benen 4:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (14)

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Comments

What's gotten into Claire McCaskill? She's usually so sensible, especially about money?

Posted by: Gretchen on May 5, 2011 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, automatic tax increases would be more effective for getting Congressional action.

Posted by: H-Bob on May 5, 2011 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

Claire has hired the same reelection team that did such a great job for Ike Skelton. She is trying hard to be a Republican. For reasons unknown to me they never learn.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 5, 2011 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Many of us in MO had such high hopes for Sen. Claire McCaskill but she has turned out to be so disappointing. She is hanging out with the wrong crowd in the senate. People Like Lieberman and Fienstein. She is demonstrating a weak intellectual understanding of economics but to put her name on such an insane piece of legislation and then go around touting it as a good thing is so disheartening. Trying to put caps on things whose costs cannot be predictably contained should any emergency arise. Why is she being so short sighted and closed minded. She will not even listen to her detractors in the senate because that would mean she might have to admit she is wrong...so she puts her fingers in her ears and only talks to those who already agree with her.

Here's hoping she comes to her senses and gets herself out of this ludicrous position. It makes her look so stupid and here's hoping she doesn't act that way and back what the president clearly calls for...a clean bill. She needs to listen to Obama...not Lieberman.

Posted by: bjobotts on May 5, 2011 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

if enforced, they'd obliterate the safety net and destroy any chance of progressive policymaking for a generation

You've hit on WHY they want it.

Posted by: MasterD on May 5, 2011 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

I know that thinking about evidence-based policy-making is not a good idea when considering proposals from the GOP (or pseudo-GOP Dems), but here goes: is there any evidence that these caps will restrain spending without causing financial disaster? Or is there evidence that a cap will cause economic trouble? Have any states tried this? Or have other countries tried this?

Posted by: meander on May 5, 2011 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Claire is simply a clone of Ben Nelson, but with fewer excuses. The problem is leadership -- where is it from Reid? Nowhere, as usual.

Posted by: michaerr on May 5, 2011 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

fine, if after excoriating Trump at the correspondents dinner, and ordering the mano-a-mano killing of OBL, Obama is looking for one more diverse way to show the spine in his leadership, vetoing a Repub-Blue Dog CAP Act would be a fine, fine addition to the list.

Posted by: zeitgeist on May 5, 2011 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

Claire is simply a clone of Ben Nelson, but with fewer excuses. The problem is leadership -- where is it from Reid? Nowhere, as usual.
Posted by: michaerr on May 5, 2011 at 5:07 PM

I recall electing a Democratic President back in November, 2008.

What was that guy's name, again?
~

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© on May 5, 2011 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Obama the Osama killer

Posted by: FRP on May 5, 2011 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

Is that Claire one of the worst blue doggerels or what?
BTW, check this out, the URL says it all:
http://rethug.com/

Posted by: neil b on May 5, 2011 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe a good framing of the CAP act that would make the effects tangible to voters would be to do the math and calculate some factoids like this:

- To keep medicare solvent 10 years from now we'd have to cut a trillion from defense.

- If there's another economic crisis like the last one we couldnt give any unemployment benefits. We'd also lose 2 million more jobs than we did this time.

Etc, play around with hypotethical ways to reach those 20%.

Posted by: Danny on May 5, 2011 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

My, my...must be something to be in the shoes of the junior Senator from WV, who signed on to this crap. Now Manchin has been publicly upbraided by the senior Senator in his own state. Wow. Just wow. Makes me wonder if Rockefeller was playing this up out of pique.

On another thought...

What's gotten into Claire McCaskill? She's usually so sensible, especially about money?

Yeah, she's usually so sensible about money, like underpaying taxes on her private plane to the tune of $300K, plus another $80K in taxes. Yeah, that's sensible. And just the kind of problem most Americans have these days. McCaskill is one of the worst, most corrupt members of a rotten Senate Democratic caucus — she's an embarrassment to the party and to the people of Missouri.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/21/958763/-McCaskill-admits-to-$287,000-in-unpaid-taxes-on-private-plane

Posted by: Big River Bandido on May 5, 2011 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

The CAP ACT is clucking crap...Chicken cowardice and bait and switch.Call them out!

Posted by: jlt on May 6, 2011 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK
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