Congress

What Part of Deficit Reduction Does Congress Not Understand?

If members of Congress can't find $1.2 trillion to cut in 10 years, the only reason is they aren't serious.

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Our government has the time to worry about school lunch menus in Boise, Idaho, but the Senate hasn't found the time to pass a budget in Washington, D.C., in nearly three years. H.L. Mencken famously wrote that every decent man is ashamed of his government. This one gives you little choice.

Gridlock is ordinarily the most constructive and moral form of government, but with entitlement programs on autopilot self-destruct, we're in trouble. So Americans turned their weary eyes toward a dream team, a supercommittee, a 12-member panel of our brightest lights, charged with identifying a measly $1.2 trillion in deficit savings over 10 years. Save us.

Alas, for Democrats, it boiled down to the most important issue facing the nation—maybe ever: "revenue enhancement."

Politico reported that during the supercommittee hearing, both sides agreed to produce "wish lists" to offer some notion of where negotiations might go. Republicans—believe them or not—claimed to want to save $700 billion by block granting Medicaid, another $400 billion in spending cuts, $1.4 trillion in cuts to some mandatory health care programs, and about $150 billion in cuts to the federal workforce.

Democrats, on the other hand, reportedly wanted to pass a new $447 billion spending bill (perhaps forgetting that this was a wish list for a deficit reduction committee) and $1 trillion in tax hikes on those 1-percenters. Since Washington spent $1 trillion more than it took in just last year, this would provide nearly no purpose over 10 years—well, other than a political one.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid—taking a break from fending off fictional goblins, Kochs and Norquists—laid out his position, explaining that Republicans had undermined the entire process by insisting "on expanding President Bush's tax giveaways to millionaires." The good Lord, you see, created every dollar for the U.S. Treasury to spend wisely; what you keep is a gift—a giveaway. Every tax cut is temporary, and every tax increase is a new base line. That's just how it works.

And the good senator from Nevada must be making a compelling case. A new poll by Quinnipiac University claims that 44 percent of Americans blame Republicans for the supercommittee's failure, whereas 38 percent blame Democrats. This, notwithstanding the fact that the same poll shows, by a 49-39 percent margin, Americans prefer closing the deficit with spending cuts only. (That is what democracy looks like.)

The committee's failure allegedly means that an automatic $1.2 trillion in cuts should kick in. It won't happen. Some Republicans are already grousing about defense cuts, and the newly involved Barack Obama—the guardian of frugality—has warned Congress that he would veto any cuts to the automatic cuts. Will anyone slash any defense spending before an election? Doubtful.

Granted, the GOP talks a big game about reform but offers very little in the way of specifics. Republicans do, however, deserve credit for stopping tax increases until both parties start the discussion on entitlement reform. One side doesn't define what compromise should look like. The supercommittee's failure is victory because any so-called compromise would have meant the institution of tax hikes, and spending cuts would only be as good as the next Congress' emergency or new priority.

But everyone understands that this entire process was theater. If members of Congress, with a $15 trillion debt and a trillion-dollar yearly deficit, can't find $1.2 trillion to cut in 10 years, the only reason is they aren't serious.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Blaze. Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.

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  1. You neglected to mention that it’s only 1.2 trillion cut from the expected increases. Not 1.2 trillion in debt reduction.

    1. Standard government double-speak

  2. A new poll by Quinnipiac University claims that 44 percent of Americans blame Republicans for the supercommittee’s failure, whereas 38 percent blame Democrats. This, notwithstanding the fact that the same poll shows, by a 49-39 percent margin, Americans prefer closing the deficit with spending cuts only. (That is what democracy looks like.)

    That is what criminally stupid looks like.

    1. no i’m don’t!

    2. the same poll shows, by a 49-39 percent margin, Americans prefer closing the deficit with spending cuts to programs they don’t use or like only.

      ftfy

      Do the same poll and specify cuts to Medicare, Social Security, or the defense budget as the “cut” option and that 49% is going to be decimated.

      1. I’ll be the exception: I generally like NASA, but now that the shuttle’s gone, I say skim $2 billion off. They’ll still have more money for other stuff.

        Though I have no knowledge of how much we’ll be paying the Russians each year for Soyuz flights.

    3. That is proof positive that nobody really pays attention or is too sorted into their teams to make a proper evaluation. Even MNG was frustrated that the Democrats didn’t take the $500b in tax increases and run with it since that is probably the absolute maximum you can get from the Republicans in the current political environment.

      This whole super committee was just about finding political cover for all parties so that each side would have its narrative to run on in 2012. And the Democrats are proving once again that they are a bit better at this game than their rivals.

  3. Reminder for the left:

    If the budget for Department X *was originally* supposed to be increased 5% next year, but is *only* increased 4%… that is not a cut.

    1. Zero-baseline budgeting, bitches.

    2. But… but… Science… teachers… policemen… firefighters… WHY DO YOU HATE AMERICA!?!?!?!?!

      1. I’ve been trying to figure out how it could cost over a trillion fucking dollars a year to run this country.

        Then I look at the Teams, and I stop wondering.

  4. What is it about communism that people fail to understand? I want to be equal to you, even if it means that we both live in squalor. The problem is, equality of ability cannot be parceled out.

    1. Kim Jong doesn’t live in squalor.

      1. Dude, quit wrecking the narrative.

        1. Oh, sorry.

          EAT THE RICH!!!one!!1won!

          There, that’s better.

    2. Oh, sure it can. Just force everyone to do whatever they’re the absolute worst at.

      1. There’s a lot of that going on at Occutard events, anon.

        1. So then, to each according to his needs.

          1. Like Carlin said:

            “My needs aren’t being met!” Well… get rid of some of your fucking needs.

  5. we just need to try real communizms

    1. Have fun with that.

      1. it wont work unles evrbody duz it

  6. A new poll by Quinnipiac University claims that 44 percent of Americans blame Republicans for the supercommittee’s failure, whereas 38 percent blame Democrats. This, notwithstanding the fact that the same poll shows, by a 49-39 percent margin, Americans prefer closing the deficit with spending cuts only. (That is what democracy looks like.)

    More evidence that, for all intents and purposes, Americans are retarded.

    1. They can’t help themselves cw. Greed is a very powerful force.

      1. I agree. Greed is a powerful factor. Maybe that’s what produced the public’s overwhelming cognitive dissonance.

      2. I’m having trouble understanding your comment here. Are you implying that greed is a primary cause of ignorance?

        1. I think it’s more like willful ignorance.

          1. I never thought about it before, but I guess greed can cause willful ignorance of everything not directly related to the object of your desire.

            Although I question the use of the word “greed” as it’s necessarily subjective. I suggest “Gluttony” as a superior alternative. I don’t think simply wanting to be rich and doing everything in your power to be rich causes willful ignorance, which is the connotation I always get with “greed.”

            Yeah, I’m one of the “greed is good” types.

            1. Can’t spell “gluttony” without me!

        2. No. It is such a powerful force that it can overcome common sense.

          1. Not greed. Envy. Big, big difference.

            1. I think we can all agree that it’s at least one of the “seven deadly sins” that causes such mental gymnastics.

              1. I prefer the term avarice than greed, when refering to the Sins, avarice being the desire for the unearned. Greed is good, provided you’re willing to work for what you want.

                1. Envy is at the core of Team Blue tax policy.

                  Sensible people don’t engage in such dead-endery.

  7. Alas, for Democrats, it boiled down to the most important issue facing the nation?maybe ever: “revenue enhancement.”

    Which by the way, they’re not really serious about. They normally love to claim that cutting taxes always reduces revenue, yet they’re pushing for even more payroll tax cuts!

    If you’re simultaneously trying to claim that cutting taxes reduces revenue, we desperately need to increase revenue, and yet we need more payroll tax cuts, then guess what: you’re completely full of shit, because all three of these things can’t possibly be true at the same time.

    1. It’s all about reelection.

      This is what we should shout out to the public: “Term limits, how do they work?”

    2. Almost no one is really serious about deficit- and debt-reduction via spending cuts, revenue increases, or a combination of both.

      Everyone is hoping that growth will eventually fix everything by making the numbers look better than they truly are.

  8. The supercommitee was a success, lots of lobby money was collected.

    While they are at a stalemate due to partisanship, bipartisanship will undo the automatic cuts before they kick in.

    The reality is government whats as much of your money it can get. It has a spending habit far worse than a 16 year old girl with dad’s credit card.

  9. wants as much money that is.

  10. Excellent points by Mr Harsanyi. Within two days, Reason will be back to mindlessly repeating how wonderful gridlock is.

    Voting for gridlock at this point is like installing bars on your windows with the serial killer already in the basement. qv Nightmare on Elm Street.

    1. Well, that’s half the argument. I’m not really seeing that voting to end gridlock is any better, though. Maybe voting for gridlock is like installing bars on your windows with the serial killer already in the basement-but at least you’re keeping the zombies out.

  11. Obviously there’s no equivalency here, but I’d be curious to know how big the budgets are for countries like China and India with populations that dwarf the U.S.

    1. Looks like India’s is about $300b.

    2. Most of the population of those countries would be considered destitute by US standards.

      The relevant measure is GDP, not population.

      1. GDP *per capita*

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L…..es_by_GDP_(nominal)_per_capita

        1. OK, then you have to switch to “budget per capita”. Which means there’s no difference in the ratio.

  12. …the only reason is they aren’t serious.

    “Are you serious?”

    1. I love my job at Orange Julius!

  13. I bet I could find $120 billion in cuts this year. I may just try.

    1. I bet I could find nearly $1 trillion in cuts this year.

      But I’d also bet that even the most devout deficit hawk in Congress (and probably more than 90% of their constituents) would balk at my budget.

  14. well, I know one guy who is serious about our financial problems. Too bad Mr Harsanyi likes shitting on him:

    https://reason.com/archives/201…..l-delusion

  15. “So Americans turned their weary eyes toward a dream team, a supercommittee, a 12-member panel of our brightest lights, charged with identifying a measly $1.2 trillion in deficit savings over 10 years.”

    C’mon, this story probably wasn’t even noticed by more than 5% of Americans. It does not reach statistical significance! (er, joke)

    1. You are not far off the mark though. The story died with barely a whimper in the media. The reason is simply because most people don’t believe anyone in government is interested in fiscal conservatism or has the balls to make any noticeable cuts in spending. The populace has already conceded that their elected representatives are unserious. And why should anyone care when the only difference between republican and democrat is their stance on abortion.

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