GOP Will Vote to Criminalize Reagan
If nothing else, you have to hand it to Congressional Republicans for sheer "choot-spa" when it comes to the national debt. Not content to destroy the U.S. economy rather than raise a dime of revenue from the wealthiest Americans, Republicans will vote Tuesday for the "Cut, Cap and Balance Act" making draconian spending reductions inevitable and future tax increases virtually impossible. As it turns out, the Ryan budget that 235 House Republicans and 40 GOP Senators just voted for would fail to meet the targets they will endorse tomorrow. More ironic still, with their new balanced budget amendment, Republicans would turn the sainted Ronald Reagan into a constitutional criminal.
Before they bless the emerging McConnell-Reid "Plan B" proposal to boost the debt ceiling and avoid a U.S. default, Republicans leaders will first give the default deniers and debt kamikazes of their Tea Party zealots another chance to grandstand. As The Hill reported, different House and Senate versions of the balanced budget amendment are set to come up for a vote this week:
The balanced-budget amendment needs a two-thirds vote in each chamber and cannot pass without at least 48 Democrats in the House. It is much more stringent than a balanced-budget amendment from the 1990s in that it caps spending at 18 percent of GDP and requires a two-thirds vote to raise taxes.
Of course, neither version will pass. Which, ironically, is actually good news for its GOP supporters.
Leave aside for the moment that Americans overwhelming disapprove of the Republicans' handling of the debt ceiling crisis they manufactured or that the Cut, Cap and Balance Act doesn't lay out what spending cuts they would make. (As Utah Senator Orrin Hatch put it, "When the time comes, I'll name them. I don't want to do it right now, because we have to pass that amendment.") As it turns out, the 98% of Republicans in Congress voted for Paul Ryan's budget plan would fail their own Cut, Cap and Balance test.
As Ezra Klein explained in April:
House Republicans voted to make the Ryan budget law. But the Ryan budget includes $6 trillion in new debt over the next 10 years, which means that to become law, the Ryan budget would require a substantial increase in the debt ceiling. But before the Republicans agree to increase the debt ceiling so that the budget they passed can become law, Republicans are demanding the passage of either a balanced budget amendment that would make the Ryan budget unconstitutional or a spending cap that the Ryan budget would, in certain years (and if you're using more realistic numbers, in all years), exceed.
Sadly for the Republican slash and burn crowd, outlays by the federal government haven't been as low as 18% of GDP since 1966. (That's why the Simpson-Bowles Commission created by President Obama and opposed by Senate Republicans set a still-difficult 21% target.) Which means that if a reanimated Ronald Reagan were president today, Congressional Republicans would have to impeach him.
It's not just that the supposed icon of small government never reduced federal spending below 21% of GDP. If today's Republican extortionists needed any more inspiration to back down from their debt ceiling blackmail scheme, Reagan provided it in 1983:
"The full consequences of a default -- or even the serious prospect of default -- by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and the value of the dollar."
Reagan knew what he was talking about. After all, the hemorrhage of red ink at the U.S. Treasury began on his watch.
As most analysts predicted, Reagan's massive $749 billion supply-side tax cuts in 1981 quickly produced even more massive annual budget deficits. Combined with his rapid increase in defense spending, Reagan delivered not the balanced budgets he promised, but record-setting debt. Forced to raise taxes eleven times to avert financial catastrophe, the Gipper nonetheless presided over a tripling of the American national debt. By the time he left office in 1989, Ronald Reagan signed a stunning 17 debt ceiling increases into law and more than equaled the entire debt burden produced by the previous 200 years of American history. It's no wonder the Gipper cited the skyrocketing deficits he bequeathed to America as his greatest regret.
Politico summed up the irony of the GOP's looming Cut, Cap and Balance vote:
But Republican congressional leaders still want a 10-year, $1.8 trillion cut from nondefense appropriations and have added a balanced-budget constitutional amendment that so restricts future tax legislation that even President Ronald Reagan might have opposed it in the 1980s.
Indeed, much of the deficit-reduction legislation signed by Reagan would not qualify under the new tea-party-driven standards. And even the famed Reagan-Tip O'Neill Social Security compromise -- which raised payroll taxes -- passed the House in 1983 well short of the 290 votes that would be required under the constitutional amendments being promoted by the GOP.
Of course, Reagan's red ink is no problem for Republicans this week, provided they pretend it never happened. (The same is true of much of the RINO Reagan record, which if acknowledged by today's Tea Party purists would lead them to cast him into wilderness as a Republican in Name Only.) Paul Ryan and every Republican who voted for his budget this spring would also run afoul of the GOP debt legislation.
All of which shows the pathetic theater of Tuesday's GOP debt votes. To "cut, cap and balance" is not only to make a mockery of the Republicans' own budget, but to slash, burn and bury the legacy of Ronald Reagan.