Late this afternoon, the CBO reaffirmed all of our concerns with Speaker Boehner's Budget Control Act of 2011 – plus interest (pun intended).
We have asserted ad nauseam that any proposed budget plan that fails to countermand the current prodigal spending levels, including the modestly reduced spending levels of 2011, is not worth the paper it is printed on. The CBO estimates that Boehner's $1.2 trillion in discretionary spending cuts will only save us $850 billion over ten years. This means that Obama's credit card increase will be higher than the concurrent spending cuts, thus voiding the promise of the dollar-for-dollar agreement. Moreover, the CBO estimates that all the cuts will be backloaded, as the estimated savings for next year – the only enforceable year – will be a negligible $1 billion! It turns out that an extra $4 billion in mandatory spending for Pell Grants will ostensibly wipe out any savings from the paltry discretionary cuts.
This plan is worse than a strikeout; it's a ground ball into a double play.
A mere lousy plan would have destroyed our leverage over the debt ceiling fight; Boehner's plan obviates our future leverage over the FY 2012 budget fight in late September as well. The House-passed budget resolution, known as the Paul Ryan budget, authorized $1.019 trillion in non-emergency discretionary spending for FY 2012. Boehner's bill authorizes $1.043 trillion.
Additionally, all the reforms in entitlement and welfare spending that were adopted in the Ryan budget (including reforms of Pell Grants) will be jettisoned and exchanged for a grand bargain formulated by the Super Commission. Yes, I know, it's a committee; not a commission.
Consequently, when the 2012 budget fight boils over after the summer recess, we will lose our leverage to fight for the Ryan budget. So, all the hard work that has gone into passing the appropriations bills and fulfilling the mandate from the budget resolution would have been a waste. The Boehner plan has already overshot the spending levels of those bills. Democrats will laugh at them during those pretentious days at the end of the fiscal year.
Concurrently, there is another unforeseen vice to this plan. The two largest non-defense appropriations bills; the Labor/HHS/Education and Transportation/HUD bills, are being saved until after August. The Ryan budget blueprint achieved the most savings from these bills; $26 billion of the estimated $47 trillion in discretionary savings for 2012. Boehner's plan, or any 2.0 version of it, would allow liberal Republican appropriators to reinstate some of the spending to the most pernicious activities of some of the worst government agencies. Congressman Steve LaTourette, a shill for Big Labor, is already agog over the opportunity to spend more on Labor.
John Boehner, to his credit, is planning to rewrite his bill. He needs to go for a home run and stick with Cut, Cap, and Balance. At the very least, we don't need another double play.
If GOP leaders are serious, they will fight for a deal that upholds the integrity of the Ryan budget, both on the discretionary and mandatory sides of the ledger.