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The Boehner Plan: Phony Cuts, Slimy Procedures, Dangerous Ignorance

The main problems with the Boehner proposal are:

  • Most of the initial $1.2 trillion of discretionary cuts are (1) from defense, or (2) are phony, out-year, and easily avoided. The compensatory immediate $1 trillion increase in the debt limit is, on the other hand, very real.
  • Even worse, however, the notion of giving a Reid/Pelosi/McConnell/Boehner-appointed commission the power to devise non-filibusterable, unamendable tax increases (or, for that matter, gun control, taxpayer-funded abortion, forced unionism, or federalized same-sex marriage) in the second tranche is devastating.
  • And a guarantee of a losing vote on a balanced budget constitutional amendment doesn’t get you anywhere.

WHEN WILL THE BOEHNER CUTS TAKE PLACE?

The initial $1.2 trillion in discretionary spending cuts extend from fiscal year 2012 through 2021 -– or an average of $120 billion a year. But the commensurate borrowing authority will happen immediately. [Section 101(c)]

For fiscal years 2012 and 2013, the proposal sets up a “firewall” between defense cuts and domestic cuts -– and slashes defense dramatically.

After 2013, there is nothing to prevent ALL of the discretionary cuts from coming from defense. And it would certainly be tempting to gobble up Harry Reid’s proposal to “save” $1.3 trillion from the natural wind-down of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and the commensurate interest reductions.

That said, any “cut” after the upcoming fiscal year (2012) is nothing more than a pig-in-a-poke.

BUT WON’T THE GRAMM-RUDMAN-TYPE SEQUESTRATION INSURE THAT THE DISCRETIONARY CUTS ARE IMPLEMENTED –- EVEN THOUGH THEY’RE A LONG WAY OFF?

Historically, Gramm-Rudman was pretty much of a flop. In 1985, the fiscal year before Gramm-Rudman kicked in, the debt was

  • $1,823,103,000,000 (9/30/1985)

During the decade after the passage of Gramm-Rudman, this is what happened to the debt:

1986 $2.125 trillion
1987 2.350 trillion
1988 2.602 trillion
1989 2.857 trillion
1990 3.233 trillion
1991 3.665 trillion
1992 4.064 trillion
1993 4.411 trillion
1994 4.692 trillion
1995 4.973 trillion

In other words, at the end of a decade, the debt was 273% of the debt in 1985.

If we followed that trend for the next ten years, the current $14.29 trillion debt ceiling would have to be increased to almost…

  • $39 trillion in 2021.

But, you protest, the problem with Gramm-Rudman is that it didn’t really get at the entitlements.

Duh! And this differs from Boehner in what way?

There are a lot of ways to “game” Gramm-Rudman. But the really obvious one is to pass a gigantic bill under section 101(b)(3)(A) of the Boehner proposal which declares a giant line-by-line emergency for everything.

After six months of Obama’s whining about “default, default, default,” it is now clear that the consequence of not increasing the debt limit would not be non-payment of interest, but rather a shutdown of many discretionary government programs. Yet, this seems more than the McConnells and Boehners can bear.

But if the McConnells and Boehners are unwilling to force these shutdowns now, why is it going to be easier in 2017 –- when they are presented with the same whiny “horror stories” unless a massive emergency bill turns Boehner’s discretionary cuts into mincemeat?

Incidentally, an “emergency” occurs whenever an unanticipated “loss of life or property, or a threat to national security” occurs. Is there any program in the government for which Barack Obama could not make this argument?

WHAT ABOUT THE JOINT COMMISSION? WON’T IT TAKE CARE OF ENTITLEMENTS?

Do you like the “debt reduction” proposals, such as ObamaCare, which have recently come from the desks of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, and John Boehner?

You do?

Then you’ll love the fact that Boehner appoints a twelve-man commission -– with all 12 members chosen by these four –- and makes whatever legislation it proposes unfilibusterable and unamendable.

If Boehner’s poor stewardship leads to a GOP loss in the House, the filibuster may be the only tool available to prevent a gigantic unfilibusterable, unamendable tax increase or a second ObamaCare.

True, the Bob Dole-perfected “reconciliation procedure” offers some of the same advantages to a tax-loving leadership. But, unlike reconciliation, with its “Byrd Rule,” there are no limits whatsoever to what the debt commission can do.

Gun Control. Abortion. Forced unionism. Same-sex marriage.

All of these would be barred on reconciliation, but could easily be passed on the Boehner commission’s legislation.

by Michael E. Hammond, former General Counsel Senate Steering Committee 1978-89.

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