Budget Gut Checks

As we draw closer to the deadline for a deal to avert federal government insolvency, I think two questions get to the heart of conservative Republicans’ true motivations.

1. Why not end the Bush tax cuts as part of this deal?

Those tax cuts, originally passed as a temporary stimulus measure, have now cost us upwards of $1.8 trillion, more than the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. Unfortunately, they’ve also become a new baseline article of faith for Republicans – allowing them to expire is now counted as a tax increase and therefore anathema to what 21st century American conservatism stands for. If you’re serious about cutting the deficit, let the wealthiest Americans again pay their share. Even a deal that made half of the cuts permanent and allowed half to expire would be more effective in lowering the deficit than all the spending cuts in Rep. Boehner’s latest plan. Which leads us to the second question…


2. Why not pass Sen. Reid’s plan today, instead of voting on Rep. Boehner’s plan?

Seriously. Reid’s plan has more savings, in every category than Boehner’s. (This chart from the New York Times conveniently lays out the plans side by side, based on the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis.) There’s more savings in discretionary spending (all those government programs conservatives like to rail against), more cuts to “mandatory spending” (entitlements), and, as a result, more savings from the lower interest payments.

Yes, it also includes savings from winding down the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But even without those savings, Reid’s plan cuts more than Boehner’s. And why wouldn’t you count those savings, since that spending helped get us in this hole (to the tune of $1.4 trillion)? Furthermore, if you’re a Republican who thinks the wars should be wound down, why not take the opportunity to put that into law?

The only real reasons I can see not to put Reid’s plan ahead of Boehner’s are partisan. You want to pass something written by a Republican so you can take credit, especially since you’re not getting your balanced budget amendment. You want the debt ceiling raise to be structured in a way that will require us to have this fight again next year, before the election, in hopes of scoring more political points. You’ve convinced the Democrats to offer a plan for shrinking the deficit without increased revenue and with larger spending cuts than your plan. But instead of celebrating that policy/ideological victory, you’re willing to toy with the nation’s financial solvency in hopes of scoring more political points? This is the kind of partisan maneuvering that leads Americans to think their Representatives are idiots.

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