John Boehner's Fuzzy Math and Missing Cojones
With his much-hyped call for the firing of President Obama's economic team, House Minority Leader John Boehner ensured his speech in Cleveland today would get a lot of attention. But sadly for the would-be House Speaker, the address also spotlighted his unique combination of political cowardice and fuzzy math. After all, while Boehner claimed to be "serious about bringing down the deficits that threaten our economy," he conveniently omitted both the $700 billion lost to the Treasury for another tax cut windfall for the wealthy and any specifics on what budget cuts Republicans plan to make.
By now, John Boehner's cognitive struggles with basic budget math are legendary. In June, Boehner comically insisted that the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 did not contribute to the federal government's exploding budget deficits. On August 8th, Boehner tried - and failed - five times to evade Meet the Press host David Gregory's simple question about the GOP talking point that "tax cuts pay for themselves." As Nancy Pelosi's would-be replacement put it:
"Listen, what you are trying to do is get into this Washington game and their funny accounting over there."
Of course, there's nothing funny about the fiscal devastation wrought by the Bush tax cuts. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities demolished the mythology promoted by President Bush ("You cut taxes and the tax revenues increase") and the usual suspects on the right. CBPP found that Bush tax cuts accounted for almost half of the mushrooming deficits during his tenure. And as another recent CBPP analysis revealed, over the next 10 years, the Bush tax cuts if made permanent will contribute more to the U.S. budget deficit than the Obama stimulus, the TARP program, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and revenue lost to the recession put together. That's why, after the national debt tripled under Ronald Reagan, it doubled again under George W. Bush.
While neither President Obama nor Congressional Democrats have called for the expiration of tax cuts for households making less than $250,000 a year, John Boehner nevertheless warned that "raising taxes on families and small businesses during a recession is a recipe for disaster - both for our economy and for the deficit." As it turns out, only 2% of American taxpayers are impacted by the Democratic proposal, a group who windfall Boehner's GOP wants to protect at all costs. As a nonpartisan assessment of the Republicans' latest $700 billion giveaway to the gilded class concluded this month:
New data from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation show that households earning more than $1 million a year would reap nearly $31 billion in tax breaks under the GOP plan in 2011, for an average tax cut per household of about $100,000.
As it turns out, John Boehner not only can't add and subtract. He refuses to even try.
That was clear in his grandstanding today on spending:
Fourth, President Obama should submit to Congress for its immediate consideration an aggressive spending reduction package.
When Congress returns, we should force Washington to cut non-defense discretionary spending to 2008 levels - before the 'stimulus' was put into place. This would show Washington is ready to get serious about bringing down the deficits that threaten our economy.
Of course, if John Boehner was serious about spending reduction, he might mention what cuts he had in mind. As it turns out, not so much:
Republicans on the House Budget Committee, led by Congressman Paul Ryan, have already identified $1.3 trillion in specific spending cuts that could be implemented immediately.
These are common-sense steps - like canceling unspent 'stimulus' and TARP bailout funds - that put the brakes on Washington's out-of-control spending spree.
Republicans have also proposed establishing strict budget caps to limit federal spending on an annual basis
But TARP is winding down and the stimulus (including remaining infrastructure spending and middle class tax cuts) will end after this fiscal year. And the bulk of that $1.3 trillion in savings over the next decade comes from $925 billion in unidentified cuts Rep. Ryan and House Republicans hyped in May. Their "Cut Spending Now" proposal only mentions the "how much" and not the all-important "where":
Cut and Cap Discretionary Spending. Return non-defense discretionary spending to pre-Obama (fiscal year 2008) baseline levels. Saves up to $925 billion. Legislation introduced by Reps. Ryan and Hensarling (H.R. 3964) and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio (H.R 3298) include caps on discretionary spending.
(As an aside, the endorsement Tuesday of Paul Ryan's budget thinking is a little ironic, given John Boehner's comical contortionist act to distance himself from Ryan's proposals to privatize Social Security and ration Medicare.)
And so it goes. Despite the protests from Boehner and his Senate counterpart Mitch McConnell ("Why did it all of a sudden become something that we, quote, 'pay for'?"), giving rich people gigantic tax cuts costs the rest of the American people a lot of money. And while talking tough about cutting trillions in spending is easy, actually telling voters what you plan to cut takes, as Sarah Palin would say, "cojones."