Reason Contributing Editor and San Francisco Chronicle scribe Carolyn Lochhead takes a look at the GOP's new 15-page booklet "Tread Boldly," which is supposed to stop the "reckless spending binge" that, well, began under a Republican president and Congress. The headline sums up the waste of paper the report signifies: GOP leaders lack concrete plans to reduce debt.
Among the ideas for reducing the nation's $13 trillion debt (mislabeled "deficit" in the pamphlet) is a call to "eliminate unnecessary and duplicative federal programs," a well-worn bullet point that fails to name any such program. Others, such as canceling what's left of the bank rescue and President Obama's stimulus in addition to freezing federal hiring, are slightly more specific but yield sums nowhere near what's necessary to tame the rising debt.
The document calls for extending $3.1 trillion in expiring Bush administration tax cuts, the vast majority of which Obama and Democratic leaders wholeheartedly embrace, except for the tax cuts for high earners. Defense spending, which has more than doubled since 2001, dwarfing every other budget category, goes unmentioned. The most telling omission is Medicare, the jet engine of U.S. deficits....
GOP leaders...ruled cuts to Medicare off the table in this year's health care debate by eviscerating Democrats for trimming the program to pay for health care to the uninsured and casting themselves as protectors of seniors. Republican leaders have similarly ruled the defense budget and tax increases off limits, ensuring that the debt would continue to soar should they assume power.
They have ignored a bipartisan plan to slash military spending by almost $1 trillion over the next decade. Among other things, the proposal by Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Ron Paul, R-Texas, would remove thousands of U.S. troops stationed in Japan and Germany since World War II, arguing that the United States is subsidizing its rich allies.
The Frank-Paul proposal, called "Debt, Deficits & Defense," argues that the defense budget has grown so large that it is weakening U.S. security by endangering the country's economy.
Reason columnist Veronique de Rugy gets in the zinger:
"Republicans don't have a plan" to cut spending, said Veronique de Rugy, an economist and budget expert at George Mason University's Mercatus Center and a conservative think-tank veteran. "I don't want to even say they've given up on free-market ideas, because that would be too nice to them."
Read more. The story is depressing but dead-on in detailing how the GOP, which has snubbed Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wisc.) semi-serious budget cutting plan, is full of crap when push comes to shove. They have proven themselves time and again, in word and deed, incapable of seriously grappling with reducing even the rate of growth of spending, let alone absolute, year-over-year cuts. In noting the Paul-Frank plan on defense spending, Lochhead's story also suggests that the real solutions are likely to come from unlikely alliances that reach across party lines. Certainly both parties got us into the mess and it's likely that both will need to get us out on some level. That sort of happened during the late '90s, even though spending was never actually cut.
Look for a special issue of Reason this fall that will make specific suggestions to trim the federal budget six ways to Sunday. In the meantime, offer up ideas in the comments!