To no one’s surprise, the overwhelming majority of people in this country do not like the crazy, extremist House GOP’s reckless handling of the ongoing default crisis. A CBS News poll came out today showing that only 21 percent of this nation backs the Republicans’ “handling” of default crisis-related negotiations.
If the House GOP were led by rational actors who actually cared about the best interest of this country and operated on good faith, they would at this point drop their crazy posturing and get serious about accepting a deal that has already been tilted towards the right. But there is no chance. In fact, the House GOP is doubling down and ratcheting up the crazy. Last week they first trotted out a "balanced budget amendment", which was basically a “Trojan horse to end Medicare” and other entitlement. Jon aptly described it as "U.S. fiscal suicide" back in March. They were making a lot of noise, hoping to bring that reckless piece of legislation to the floor this week.
Well, they pulled the BBA off the docket late last week and instead are now planning to bring another dogmatic piece of wingnut legislation with the turd-polishing title of "cut, cap and balance", which is described charitably by the
Republico Politico as “a popular conservative plan to cut spending, balance the budget and put a cap on overall federal spending, the latest Republican attempt to lay down their marker in the debt ceiling debate.” The proposal currently has “little chance” of passing. This is nothing short of a cynical stunt to inject yet more Grover Norquist-blessed “ideologically extreme” policy points into the insane default crisis-related discussions. Let's get into the craziness after the jump.
As noted by Robert Greenstein from the Center on Budget and Political Priorities, this “cut, cap and balance” approach is more extreme than the crazy Paul Ryan plan that will end Medicare as we know it:
The “Cut, Cap & Balance” measure cites three constitutional balanced-budget amendments (H.J. Res 1, S.J. Res 10, and H.J. Res 56) and states that Congress must approve one of them or a similar measure before the debt limit can be raised. All three of the cited proposals would require cuts deeper than those in the Ryan budget. All three measures would establish a constitutional requirement that total federal expenditures may not exceed 18 percent of GDP, and all three would essentially require that the budget be balanced within the coming decade.
Talking points that the legislation’s proponents circulated on July 15 seek to foster an impression that the measure would protect Social Security and Medicare. Such an impression would not be accurate. The legislation would inexorably subject Social Security and Medicare to deep reductions.
The measure does not cut Social Security or Medicare in 2012. And it does not subject them to automatic cuts if its global spending caps are missed. It is inconceivable, however, that policymakers would meet the bill’s severe annual spending caps through automatic across-the-board cuts year after year; if they did, key government functions would be crippled.
Policymakers would have little alternative but to institute deep cuts in specific programs. And as noted elsewhere in this statement, before the debt limit could be raised, Congress would have to approve a constitutional balanced budget amendment that essentially requires cuts even deeper than those in the Ryan budget. Reaching and maintaining a balanced budget in the decade ahead while barring any tax increases would necessitate deep cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. After all, by 2021, total expenditures for these three programs will be nearly 45 percent greater than expenditures for all other programs (except interest payments) combined. Big cuts in these programs would be inevitable.
Moreover, because taxes — including payroll taxes — would be virtually impossible to raise as a result of the new constitutional barrier, Social Security solvency would have to be restored entirely through benefit cuts. Balanced Social Security packages that include measures to raise Social Security’s $106,000 payroll tax cap, so that higher-income Americans do not escape the tax on much of their earnings, would effectively be ruled out.
The last time the United States had spending this low was in 1966. Much has changed since then, which makes a federal budget at that level both impractical and undesirable. We are an older country, with more retirees receiving the Social Security and Medicare benefits they’ve earned during their working lives. Social Security benefits have been consciously increased to improve the quality of life for retirees. Health care costs have multiplied so providing Medicare, veterans’ care, and Medicaid is much more expensive. Education has become more costly, and government fuel costs have risen along with everyone else’s.
How ugly is this proposal. Even the White House has been out in front today issuing a veto threat (via email):
The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 2560, the “Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011.” Neither setting arbitrary spending levels nor amending the Constitution is necessary to restore fiscal responsibility. Increasing the Federal debt limit, which is needed to avoid a Federal government default on its obligations and a severe blow to the economy, should not be conditioned on taking these actions. Instead of pursuing an empty political statement and unrealistic policy goals, it is necessary to move beyond politics as usual and find bipartisan common ground.
The bill would undercut the Federal Government’s ability to meet its core commitments to seniors, middle-class families and the most vulnerable, while reducing our ability to invest in our future. H. R. 2560 would set unrealistic spending caps that could result in significant cuts to education, research and development, and other programs critical to growing our economy and winning the future. It could also lead to severe cuts in Medicare and Social Security, which are growing to accommodate the retirement of the baby boomers, and put at risk the retirement security for tens of millions of Americans.
Furthermore, H. R. 2560 could require even deeper cuts, since it conditions an increase in the Federal debt limit on Congressional passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment. H. R. 2560 sets out a false and unacceptable choice between the Federal Government defaulting on its obligations now or, alternatively, passing a Balanced Budget Amendment that, in the years ahead, will likely leave the Nation unable to meet its core commitment of ensuring dignity in retirement.
The statement of administration policy concluded that "if the President were presented this bill for signature, he would veto it."
So, keep an eye on this story, because no doubt the House GOP and their extremist cronies are going to push it from all directions. If anyone within the Village bubble treat this proposal as some kind of serious package, it shouldn’t be too difficult to blow it up with facts. Then again, given how these default-crisis negotiations have been played out in a field so far stacked to the right, one often wonders whether facts, reason, or logic have anything to do with politics these days in Washington.
P.S. One last note for today. In case you missed it, you may want to read up this piece in the Washington Post about how some of the most “fervent” budget cutting “deficit hawks are Republicans who also spend the most taxpayer money to push their crazy, dogmatic, and tone-deaf right wing political ideas masqueraded as policy points.