Surprise: The Boehner/GOP Alternative to Sequester is More Spending!


courtesy ABC News

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) has a strongly worded opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal denouncing President Obama's attempts to shelve the sequester in favor of more spending and tax hikes. Here's a snippet:

The sequester is a wave of deep spending cuts scheduled to hit on March 1. Unless Congress acts, $85 billion in across-the-board cuts will occur this year, with another $1.1 trillion coming over the next decade. There is nothing wrong with cutting spending that much—we should be cutting even more—but the sequester is an ugly and dangerous way to do it.

By law, the sequester focuses on the narrow portion of the budget that funds the operating accounts for federal agencies and departments, including the Department of Defense…. Should the sequester take effect, America's military budget would be slashed nearly half a trillion dollars over the next 10 years. Border security, law enforcement, aviation safety and many other programs would all have diminished resources.

As I noted yesterday, this $85 billion figure is baloney. Only about $44 billion of the sequester's planned cuts would take place in 2013; the rest would take place in future years (if at all). To put that in perspective, $44 billion is roughly 1.2 percent of expected total federal spending in 2013, which will be higher than overall spending in 2012. The government is spending around $3.5 trillion a year, give or take a few billions.

It's worth asking Boehner a simple question: If "we should be cutting even more" spending than the sequester seems to do, why the hell does last year's GOP-approved budget plan increase year-over-year spending every year between 2014 and 2022? As table S-1 shows, after a small trim from 2013 to 2014, total annual outlays would grow (in current dollars) from $3.5 trillion in 2014 to $4.9 trillion in 2022.

courtesy Jennerjahn Report

In the Journal, Boehner tells the president that he's happy to come to an arrangement in which the sequester cuts are swapped for specifc trims. Indeed, he avers:

House Republicans have twice passed plans to replace the sequester with common-sense cuts and reforms that protect national security.

Whole Journal piece here.

This is at best misleading and at worst mendacious. The bills to which Boehner is referring are H.R. 5562 and H.R. 6684 (the latter being an updated version of the former). H.R. 6684 - known as "The Spending Reduction Act of 2012" - does exempt military spending from any cuts. But it doesn't reduce spending this year or next. Indeed, as the Congressional Budget Office reports, it increases spending by $48 billion in 2013 and $11 billion in 2014 before a number of slight reductions kick in during 2015-2022.

It also increases taxes ("revenues") by $98 billion over 10 years, something the tax-averse Boehner fails to crow about (he may not be confident of those revenue streams since they come from better "oversight and government reform," a catchall category that never seems to deliver on its promises). Go to page 2 of this document to check it all out.

H.R. 6684's fake spending reduction is the reason why Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) voted no, writing at his Facebook page, "Contrary to its title, the bill increases spending and debt by tens of billions of dollars."

It's a good thing that fewer and fewer people deny that "we've got a spending problem." Sadly, that recognition hasn't exactly swelled the ranks of those who are trying to do something about it.