FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
The Democrat budget’s “spending cut” hocus pocus
It’s awful that the Democrats want to squeeze a trillion dollars in new taxes out of Americans with Senate Budget Committee chair Patty Murray’s (D-WA) budget proposal, but hey, at least they offer a “balanced approach” by cutting a trillion in spending too, right?
Wrong. The “spending cuts” are almost entirely fraudulent. They’re just paperwork shuffles and accounting tricks.
It begins with one of the most reliable old flim-flams in the Democrat budget arsenal, “war savings.” This is accomplished by assuming that military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan would continue forever… except hey, what do you know, they’re ending! BOOM! $240 billion in “savings!”
In addition to being an insult to our intelligence, the “war savings” scam offers depressing commentary on the way Democrats view government spending through the lens of “baseline budgeting.” The default state of every government program is eternal existence, with built-in annual increases. Can anyone name a major program other than military operations that ever ends, or even diminishes appreciably? Okay, how about a minor one?
On top of the phony war savings, Murray’s budget does cut into the military, funding America’s defense a good $658 billion below the House budget figures, according to the Heritage Foundation. The military remains the one line item Democrats really are willing to slash.
Then you’ve got $242 billion in reduced interest on the national debt – which is not, under even the most tortured definition of the term, a “spending cut.” Debt interest is mandatory spending, which is one reason the common liberal scare tactic of wailing that a debt-ceiling freeze would ruin the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. government is malarkey. There is no voluntary Congressional action involved in raising or lowering debt interest payments.
Furthermore, CNN noted that “it was not immediately clear what assumed level of spending was being cut” to achieve these debt interest “savings,” which is a polite way of saying Murray just plucked the number out of thin air and scribbled it into her little fantasy. I once again invite the reader to imagine how the shrieking hysterics who freaked out over those tiny sequestration spending reductions are going to cough up enough hard-core cuts to lop $242 billion off federal interest payments.
All of these figures are expressed as 10-year sums, which is patently ridiculous when it comes to spending cuts (and is a practice fiscally responsible Republicans really should argue against.) A 10-year spending cut plan for the federal government is just about meaningless, as no future session of Congress will feel particularly bound to honor such commitments, absent overwhelming public pressure that terrorizes them into fidelity. The big spenders are pretty sure they’ll always be able to round up enough eager clients to keep terrifying levels of public support for honoring four, six, or eight-year-old spending cut plans from accumulating. Let’s treat the American people like adults and talk about the next two years, not the four Congresses after that.
Speaking of sequestration, Murray’s budget wipes that out, trading modest but real spending restraint for smoke and mirrors. She’s even got another $100 billion in “infrastructure” pork spending packed in. “The Murray budget does not contain net spending cuts with the sequester turned off,” reports The Hill. What a shock.
Meanwhile, the trillion dollars in tax hikes will be real and immediate, as every tax deduction and credit that doesn’t go to a core Democrat constituency becomes a “loophole” in need of closing. The tax code is far too complicated, to be sure, but one result of combining high rates with lots of deductions is that taking away the deductions becomes a relatively easy way to extract more revenue from the private sector. The discussion is transformed from “how much will the government take?” to “how much will the government let you keep?” Deductions are even more micro-targeted than “progressive” tax rates, which makes them easier to demagogue.
And with all that, the Murray “blueprint” never gets closer to “balancing” the budget than about $400 billion, sometime around 2016. It gets worse again after that. The national debt keeps growing, when even holding it at $17 trillion wouldn’t be good enough for America’s long-term prospects. Remember when $400 billion and $500 billion deficits were an outrage? Now they’re superhuman feats of fiscal discipline.
The Hill relays a very appropriate level of disdain from the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, towards the Democrat proposal:
“If the Senate Majority’s budget actually contains these accounting tricks, it would increase spending above already massive projections for spending growth. In other words, Senate Democrats would be proposing a tax hike to fuel even more wasteful government spending,” Sessions said.
“Can it really be this is all they have developed after four years of not producing a plan? If that it is so, no wonder why they won’t make their proposal public until after the committee meets.”
But let’s temper our disdain with one important recognition: the Democrat budget fantasia gives them a strong bargaining position, because they have lots of fat to trade away, while Republican negotiators have a nasty habit of opening with nothing but muscle and bone to lose. It’s up to the American people to insist that Democrats begin budget talks somewhere in the real world. We have been led to ruin by indulging their penchant for demanding the sun, moon, and stars from American taxpayers, and “compromising” by giving up a little real estate on the Moon.