RSS
Washington's deficit-hawk pretenders
Even if the GOP's spending cuts are larger than Obama's, they would fritter away the proceeds on tax cuts and repealing health-care reform
Brad DeLong
Brad DeLong
T

he Obama administration's proposed spending freeze promises to reduce certain categories of government spending over the next decade by $400 billion. This is a bad idea. It will cut not fat, but muscle. It will leave our country worse off. So why cut important spending instead of scrapping unnecessary excess? The fat is jealously guarded by Senators from states with small populations. And Obama's spending freeze on non-defense discretionary spending targets the muscle.

By contrast, we do not know what the Republican House's long-term budget proposal would cut. They have not told us. Perhaps it will cut non-defense discretionary spending by a total of $800 billion over the next decade, relative to
its baseline level. Perhaps it will not do anything. Perhaps it will cut muscle and add to fat and leave us about where we are now. We really do not know.

Suppose the Republican plan actually does cut spending by $800 billion. The House Republicans then want to take that $800 billion, and spend $200 billion of it trying to repeal health care reform. They then want to take what's left, and use it to pay for extending the Bush marginal tax rate reductions on high-earning Americans. But it will not stretch quite that far. Extending those Bush tax cuts is projected to cost $750 billion, and there is only $600 billion left in this hypothetical scenario. There's a $150 billion shortfall.

The Obama proposal looks to reduce debt 10 years from now, by $400 million. This theoretical House Republican proposal looks to increase the debt 10 years from now, by $150 billion.

And over the past 30 years, Democratic budget proposals have by and large delivered what they promised. Republican proposals, by contrast, have all turned out to produce much bigger deficits than were pledged at the start.

If you are a real deficit hawk, there is simply no contest as to which political party you should support right now.

But there are a lots of people in Washington who are paid in either dollars or favor points to pretend to be deficit hawks when they are no such thing.

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week