Friday, September 24, 2010

So what does this "Pledge to America" really mean?

But as far as I can see, there’s only one specific cut proposed — canceling the rest of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which Republicans claim (implausibly) would save $16 billion. That’s less than half of 1 percent of the budget cost of those tax cuts. As for the rest, everything must be cut, in ways not specified — “except for common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops.” In other words, Social Security, Medicare and the defense budget are off-limits.

So what’s left? Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math. As he points out, the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won’t cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: “No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress.”
No more Congress? I could live with that (or just eliminate the Senate - that body gets almost nothing done and is practically useless). Here's the link to the quote. Krugman makes an interesting point elsewhere in the same column about how atheoretical discussion of fiscal policy has become. One could agree or disagree with the ideas proposed by various leaders (e.g., FDR, Johnson, Reagan), but one at least knew they were basing their ideas on some coherent theoretical framework. It seems we've devolved to simply proposing whatever will bring a party to power without being terribly concerned about whether or not the numbers add up. The end result will be for even more dysfunction in DC at the worst possible time. With the next economic, environmental, or energy crisis just around the corner, it is clear that the next Congress will not be firing on all cylinders (or I should say will be firing on fewer cylinders than was the case during this past Congressional session).