Jonathan Cohn

Take Boehner Seriously. Please.

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It's been an almost a week since House Minority Leader John Boehner came forward with his economic plan, such that it is, but I wanted to make one observation about it.

Boehner's plan would mean a fairly drastic cut in discretionary spending: According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Boehner is seeking to reduce it by 22 percent, or more than $100 billion. Of course, Boehner sees this as a virtue: The whole point is to assure voters he wants to reduce "spending." And when you put it that way, in such abstract terms, it sounds pretty appealing to most people. But the specifics would probably alarm a lot of people: We're talking serious cuts to schools, public assistance, and services--the type that not just the poor but also the middle class would notice. (Not that it would be ok if only the poor noticed it.)

Have you seen a lot of mainstream media coverage about what Boehner's plan would mean in practice? I haven't. And, assuming my impression is correct, that seems like a pretty big failure.

I know this election is primarily a referendum on the Democrats. I know that the Republicans are always making proposals like these and that, with President Obama in the White House, their ability to enact them is limited. But this is arguably the second most important Republican in the country, putting his imprimatur on a scheme that would have dramatic and potentially long-lasting effects on the population. It seems like that scheme should be getting a little more attention.

Update: That was fast! Edmund Andrews has a new piece in the Fiscal Times, detailing the the Boehner plan's likely impact:

That would require sharp cuts at civilian agencies ranging from NASA and the National Science Foundation to the Internal Revenue Service, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Bureau of Prisons, based on GOP estimates. The plan could slash money for child care and education programs, including No Child Left Behind – one of former President George W. Bush’s signature initiatives. Moreover, those cuts would come on top of savings House Democrats hope to achieve through a somewhat less stringent cap on nonsecurity spending proposed by President Obama.

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