House Republicans have a winner in “Cut, Cap & Balance,” the long-term budget balancing and deficit-reduction plan which passed the House of Representatives yesterday evening. Cut spending now, cap future spending at 18 percent of GDP, and for the sake of the future pass a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget, just like the amendment employed by more than 40 states and countless municipalities from coast to coast.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell released his “last option” plan, which acquiesced to the Democrats and would give the most spendthrift president in the nation’s history a blank check to raise the country’s debt ceiling by up to $2.5 trillion as he sees fit. After a chilly reception from most everyone on the right, including me here at America’s Right, McConnell reiterated that his Obama-supported plan was only a “fall-back” option and promptly co-sponsored “Cut, Cap & Balance.”
Finally, a “Gang of Six” senators from both sides of the political aisle have just yesterday proposed a bare-bones outline for spending cuts, which follows in part the recommendations of the president’s own Bowles-Simpson Commission. While the plan prospectively cuts both personal income tax rates and corporate tax rates in the future, it also proposes $1.2 trillion in “new revenues,” which is Beltway-speak for “increased taxes.” In other words, the message is simple: raise the debt ceiling now, and we’ll have some committees devoted to studying spending cuts in the future (which, of course, will never materialize).
From Reuters, a few details regarding the “Gang of Six” plan:
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, one of the six Democratic and Republican senators who have been working since December on a deficit-reduction plan, said the proposed $3.75 trillion in savings over 10 years contains $1.2 trillion in new revenues.
According to an executive summary of the plan, it would immediately impose $500 billion in deficit cuts, cut security and non-security spending over 10 years with spending caps, make the Medicare and Medicaid healthcare programs operate more efficiently and abolish the Alternative Minimum Tax.
Conrad was quick to say that while there are $1.2 trillion in new revenues, the overall plan envisions a $1.5 trillion tax cut that would be achieved through broad tax reforms.
Call me a cynic, but considering that this particular plan was not a plan at all but merely an “executive summary,” what’s to stop the normal cast of characters on Capitol Hill from publicly endorsing this bill, raising the debt ceiling while promising to make the cuts as soon as the legislation is written and scored and otherwise prepared for passage, only to renege and leave this country with a higher debt ceiling with no corresponding spending cuts or steps toward fiscal common sense?
Frankly, the mere statement that “the overall plan envisions a $1.5 trillion tax cut” isn’t quite good enough for me, especially considering that there is no “envisioning” the $1.2 trillion in tax increases, which seem to be set in stone.
The folks at Americans for Tax Reform apparently the same way:
The Gang of Six ‘plan’ is not written in legislative language. It is an outline. It punts many decisions to the Senate Finance Committee. It deals in ranges rather than specifics. When it is eventually written down in legislative language and every American can read it, taxpayers will then learn whether the ‘plan’ raises taxes or cuts taxes and seriously reduces spending or fails to mandate spending reductions. It is a mistake to invest one’s hopes or fears while the ‘plan’ remains unclear and subject to change by a Senate Finance Committee selected by Democratic leader Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
One is reminded of the dangers of pronouncing oneself satisfied with a product before it comes clearly into focus. Henry VIII was assured by French ambassador Charles de Marillac that Anne of Cleves was tall and slim, ‘of middling beauty, and of very assured and resolute countenance’.
Best to wait until we can see up close what really is and isn’t there.
Furthermore, $3.75 trillion in cuts over the next ten years simply is not good enough, especially considering that this president has increased our debt at a rate of roughly $1.5 trillion every year. That’s like me running up a $10,000 credit card bill, increasing my balance to $30,000, and swearing that I’ll pay $6,000 toward the total over the next few years. It just doesn’t work.
The $6 trillion in cuts sought by House Republicans in the Cut, Cap & Balance plan is much more like it. Even better is that the framework of Cut, Cap & Balance acknowledges that one Congress cannot bind the next, and sets forth provisions which would keep us on the path toward fiscal common sense. The plan is a simple one:
- CUT spending, immediately and substantially, in order to reduce the budget deficit next year and every year thereafter.
- CAP future spending at 18 percent of GDP.
- BALANCE the budget in years to come by passing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the United States Constitution — including a requirement for a super-majority for any future tax increases, and across-the-board cuts triggered by a failure to balance the budget.
Congressman Paul Ryan spoke about the various plans on Hannity last night:
While he occasionally rubs me the wrong way (though I never doubt that his motives are pure), in this case Sean Hannity is completely right — instead of unifying behind one piece of proposed legislation, the Republicans in the House and Senate now have three different bills–the Cut, Cap & Balance Bill, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s “fallback option” bill, and this new quasi-plan from the “Gang of Six”–that they are “negotiating with themselves” on.
As I wrote about briefly a week ago in the context of discussion of Sen. McConnell’s plan, Republicans are dealing from a position of strength here, perceptionally, politically and substantively, and yet the leadership almost seems ashamed to argue and fight from that position, almost like an older brother who intentionally misses a few shots here and there while playing H-O-R-S-E with his younger brother in the driveway. Most of these politicians are attorneys, and yet in dealing with their colleagues across the aisle, they seem to ignore the very first rule of trial advocacy: if opposing counsel is imploding and making a fool of himself, sit back, sit tight, sit quietly and just let it happen.
In this case, the GOP needs to pop a couple of Ritalin, focus for a few minutes, and unite behind the strongest of the proposals –Cut, Cap & Balance. The Republicans need to take that plan to the people and explain that plan to the American people ad nauseum. They need to reach out by every means available, so that every politically conscious man, woman and child in this country understands the simple nature of Cut, Cap & Balance, and what it means for this nation’s future.
And then they need to sit back, sit tight, sit quietly, and let the Democrats hang themselves. Let them carry out their threats to “take this debate to the people.” Let President Obama be the president who enjoyed a ritzy 50th birthday bash less than 24 hours after the nation reached its purported day of default. Let the Democrats be the party that cares so much about seniors that they allowed Social Security checks to lapse. Let the Commander in Chief be the Commander in Chief that failed to pay his servicemen and servicewomen. Sit back, sit tight, sit quietly, and let the Democrats hang themselves.
Doing just that is wise politically. It allows the Republicans not only to showcase what they would have done if they had control of both the House and Senate, but it also puts the Democrats’ feet to the fire and renders them accountable for our economic success or failure. Doing so is wise in general, as well. So long as the Republicans relish in fighting from a position of strength rather than resist doing so, after all, the American people are likely to see passed much of what the House Republicans passed yesterday (much, of course, will not pass the Senate) and it puts this nation much, much closer to being insulated from complete economic calamity.
Cut, Cap & Balance is brilliant in its simplicity, and essential in its staying power. The Republicans need to get out of their own way and leave it up to the president and his party to go on the record opposing it.