An “I Told You So” Post
So, having heard for months that the Republicans really are serious about cutting government spending this time, and that they’d be able to do it without cutting Medicare, Social Security, or defense, even if it would be a laughably small $100 billion in cuts as compared to the $14 trillion dollars in deficits (a figure little different than that proposed by the American Commie-Socialist Party), the Republicans have returned to power and we get to see if they are actually going to put our money where their mouth is and be serious about cutting the size of government.
We now have an answer. It’s exactly what those of us who live in the real world have been saying all along: you can’t make any meaningful cuts to government if you don’t touch Medicare, Social Security, or defense. Those of us who live in the real world predicted that, when back in power, the Republicans would turn out to disregard all their claims about cutting government spending once they had to face the reality that they could not do so in any meaningful manner without hitting their own constituencies the hardest.
This was not a difficult prediction to make: anyone with the faintest grasp of reality could see that the Republicans’ promises of cutting government spending were completely irreconcilable with their insistence on maintaining defense spending and Medicare spending, and that they were only going to be able to choose two of those three promises. That they would choose spending as the promise to disregard seemed obvious given the history of the Republican Party in Congress over the last several decades. The only hope was that movement conservatives would finally hold the GOP’s feet to the fire on spending such that spending cuts would become a bigger factor in the ability of the GOP to win elections than cuts to defense spending or Medicare (both of which have immediate, short term implications, whereas the negative effects of fiscal irresponsibility are always limited to the long term).
That the Republicans chose a paltry $100 billion in cuts as their target number in the campaign was pretty pathetic to begin with, given the size of the deficit. But no, I was told, this figure was just going to be a starting point, and that they had no incentive to mention bigger cuts or specific cuts on the campaign trail for fear of alienating voters and jeopardizing their election. No really, I was told, they’ll be able to make major cuts without touching defense, Medicare, or Social Security.
Today, the Republicans have to sit down to the task of actually governing and implementing their promises. And what are they doing?
As they prepare to take power on Wednesday, Republican leaders are scaling back that number by as much as half, aides say, because the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, will be nearly half over before spending cuts could become law….
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.
And why are the backing down so quickly from their spending cut proposals? It can’t be that the fiscal year will be half over by the time any hypothetical spending cuts could become law – it’s not as if Republicans weren’t aware of the government’s fiscal calendar during the campaign, and besides, since any spending cuts proposed by Republicans would allegedly be blocked by the Democrats in the Senate or vetoed by the President, the date on which a hypothetical law went into its hypothetical effect shouldn’t matter terribly much.
So it’s probably fair to ask why the Republicans are backpedaling so quickly on their proposal to cut a paltry $100 billion in spending now that they’re actually in control of the House. The real answer?
But wait, you say! Shouldn’t it be fairly easy to find $100 billion to cut in an annual budget that exceeds $3.5 trillion? Well, yes — except that the GOP’s limiting itself to cutting discretionary spending (Social Security and Medicare are, as ever, completely off-limits) and even within discretionary spending they refuse to touch “security” budgets, i.e. Defense and Homeland Security. That leaves just $500 billion or so for this year to play with, and since, as Rich Lowry noted earlier at the Corner, a good chunk of that will already have been spent by the time the continuing resolution expires in the spring, they’d have to make huge cuts to what’s left in order to get to $100 billion in savings overall.
In other words: they can’t even find a way to cut a paltry $100 billion from the budget without touching defense, Medicare, and Social Security. As ever, preservation of spending on defense, Medicare, and Social Security is far more important to Republicans in Congress than any semblance of actual fiscal responsibility.
Having successfully predicted that Republicans would turn out to be completely unserious about actually cutting government spending, I will now make another prediction: the Republicans’ conservative base will forgive them for this by the next election, and will find ample excuses for Republicans’ unseriousness, whether they be in the form of claiming that even the smallest cuts are meaningful (even if they wind up being smaller than the cuts the Dems put forward), or in the form of finding a way to blame the Democrats for Republicans’ actions, or in the form of claims that the media is lying/overblowing the Republicans’ fiscal irresponsibility.
Personally, I will blame the libertarians who criticize the Republicans for their fiscal irresponsibility. Clearly, the only reason the Republicans will have returned to their fiscally irresponsible ways is that libertarians criticized the Republicans for returning to their fiscally irresponsible ways. Clearly.