The Republican Deficit Plan: Mission Accomplished?

by Jonathan Chait | February 21, 2011

Yuval Levin at National Review congratulates Republicans for being more serious than Democrats about reducing the deficit:

The past week has done an enormous amount to illuminate the contours of the struggle for fiscal sanity in America. It is increasingly clear that one party is committed to denying the reality of the challenges we face and wants instead to bury its head in the ground and pretend all is well, and that another party is slowly coming to terms with the fact that it will have to lead the way if we are to avert a disastrous debt crisis.
President Obama’s budget, released Monday, was the epitome of cynical denial. ...
House Republicans did not answer this denial of reality with a politically convenient denial of their own. Instead, their response to Obama’s budget was that if he wouldn’t lead then they would. In a statement Tuesday afternoon, House Republican leaders said that their forthcoming 2012 budget would:

"include real entitlement reforms so that we can have a conversation with the American people about the challenges we face and the need to chart a new path to prosperity.  Our reforms will focus both on saving these programs for current and future generations of Americans and on getting our debt under control and our economy growing.  By taking critical steps forward now, we can fulfill the mission of health and retirement security for all Americans without making changes for those in or near retirement.  We hope the President and Democratic leaders in Congress will demonstrate leadership and join us in working toward responsible solutions to confront the fiscal and economic challenges before us."

I see one wee flaw here. The Republican budget does not, at this point, exist. Levin is comparing President Obama's actual budget to the GOP's budget rhetoric. it's true they're promising to do a really great job of putting the country on the right track. But I can't help but express more skepticism than Levin that the Republican promises will be born out in reality.

Keep in mind that the Republicans are promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act, both as a whole, and all the cost-saving features in particular. That costs money -- $200 billion over ten years, and then a whole lot more after that. They're promising to extend every dime of the Bush tax cuts, whereas Obama wants at least to phase out cuts on income over $250,000. And they're rejecting all of Obama's other revenue measures. So they have a lot of additional budget-cutting to do merely to catch up with Obama, let alone to exceed him as they promise.

They'll surely cut a lot of programs Obama won't, such as Medicaid. But in general, I predict that the GOP budget:

1. Relies more heavily on unspecified savings, such as unnamed reductions in the domestic discretionary budget, or other budget gimmicks, than Obama's budget, as judged by an independent budget authority, or

2. Reduces the deficit by less than Obama's budget, or

3. Both.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/83823/the-republican-deficit-plan-mission-accomplished