The Saturday before the mid-term election, Representative John Boehner was on the radio saying that “We’re ready to cut spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving roughly $100 billion almost immediately.”
The Republican manifesto known as the “Pledge To America” stated that “We will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone.”
They campaigned hard on this issue. You would think that it would be very easy to cut 100 billion from our bloated 3.5 trillion dollar annual budget, but Republicans are avoiding the expensive and politically dangerous territory of social security and medicare, and as always, defense and homeland security are off limits.
Now aides say that the $100 billion figure was hypothetical, and that the objective is to get annual spending for programs other than those for the military, veterans and domestic security back to the levels of 2008, before Democrats approved stimulus spending to end the recession.
Yet “A Pledge to America,” the manifesto House Republicans published last September, included the promise, “We will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone.”
On Tuesday, aides to Mr. Ryan and Mr. Boehner blamed Democrats’ failure to pass the regular appropriations bills for fiscal year 2011 for forcing Republicans to reduce their goal to perhaps $50 billion to $60 billion.
Actually, maybe I have the spin here wrong. I thought the excuse would be “we don’t have enough time to cut that much this year,” but that bit about $100 billion being “hypothetical” makes me wonder if they’re prepared to back away from it next year too. They wouldn’t dare do that with tea partiers watching them anxiously. Would they? Brian Riedl, the lead budget analyst for the Heritage Foundation, told Newsmax in November, “The Republican leadership has committed to this $100 billion cut… I expect them to do everything in their power to enact it. They’re on the record, they ran on this, and if it’s brushed aside there would be harsh political consequences.” Well, they’re sort of brushing it aside now, albeit with the caveat that they won’t have a full year yet to live up to their promise. (Never mind the fact, noted by the Times, that having less than a full fiscal year to deliver was entirely foreseeable when they were touting the $100 billion number.) Are there political consequences for that?
In fact, according to The Hill, not only can’t they find enough cuts to hit the $100 billion target before the fiscal year runs out, they might not even have time before March to put together the 12 different appropriations bills they’d need to make targeted cuts. There are “only” 43 legislative days before then, only 23 of which are scheduled to be spent in session; the House could, as an alternative, pass a continuing resolution of its own cutting spending for the rest of the year by $100 billion and leaving it to Obama to figure out where the cuts should come from, but that’ll almost certainly never pass the Senate. Exit question: What now?
Yet somehow we can afford things like tax funded genital washing, video games, and a study of male prostitutes in Vietnam.