YouCut Deficit Sham is Cantor's Latest Gimmick
Just days after he acknowledged the collapse of his effort to rebrand the GOP, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) is resorting to yet another gimmick to resuscitate his party. On Wednesday, Cantor debuted "YouCut," a campaign which promises that House Republicans will call for spending cuts chosen by online voters. As it turns out, Cantor's ballot of deficit-cutting options would only trim millions from the proposed $3.8 trillion federal budget. And as recent surveys suggest, when it comes to spending cuts, that's probably about all hard-line conservatives - and the American people - will agree to.
Joining the born-again deficit hawks whose revisionist history excludes Ronald Reagan tripling the national debt only to see George W. Bush double it again, Eric Cantor rolled out the YouCut campaign on his Republican House Whip web site. (His wethepeopleplan.org site for the now-defunct National Council for a New America no longer exists.) Now, as The Hill reports:
People can vote online or through text message on a list of five proposals to reduce types of spending, on which House Republicans will then force a vote in the House the following week.
"People will have the power and the ability to make Congress consider votes that will save people money with the click of a button or a simple text message," said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for Cantor.
The project, which Cantor will unveil in a Wednesday afternoon press conference, is being promoted by the GOP as a first-of-its-kind effort at engagement between lawmakers and constituents.
First of its kind - and hopefully the last.
The five spending cut options Cantor presents to voters as arcane as they are small (and, for that matter, partisan). Ending the "HUD Program for Doctoral Dissertations" would save Uncle Sam $1 million over five years; removing wealthier cities and towns from the Community Development Block Grant program would net $2.6 billion in the same time frame.
Given the Republican Party's history of fiscal recklessness, it's no surprise that Eric Cantor and his House colleagues want to outsource responsibility to the conservative activists that will traffic his web site. But their fuzzy math doesn't work. Even as the GOP and its Tea Party base calls for a balanced budget, they want the Treasury-draining Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to be made permanent.
Of course, a balanced budget could theoretically still be achieved if the GOP and its Tea Party storm troopers were willing to make draconian budget cuts to the $3.8 trillion federal budget proposed by President Obama. But these faux fiscal conservatives won't make the choices. We know this, because they told us so.
A quick note on the basic math of the budget. President Obama's proposed $3.8 trillion budget for 2011 is forecast to produce a $1.3 trillion deficit (down from $1.6 trillion in 2010). National defense and Social Security each come in at $738 billion. Medicare totals $498 billion, while Medicaid and other health care services add $260 billion and $25 billion, respectively. Throw in the required $251 billion in required interest payments on the national debt, and those portions alone of Washington's bill total over $2.5 trillion. Meanwhile, given that the Bush tax cuts accounted for half of the deficits during his tenure and more than half over the next decade, the Obama budget rightly calls for letting the Bush tax cuts expire for Americans earning over $250,000. (For more details, see this convenient New York Times interactive budget chart.)
But as a recent survey from the CBS and the New York Times made clear, the Tea Partiers themselves have taken the big ticket items off table when it comes to budget cuts:
Despite their push for smaller government, they think that Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost to taxpayers...
And nearly three-quarters of those who favor smaller government said they would prefer it even if it meant spending on domestic programs would be cut.
But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security -- the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on "waste."
Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.
If defense, Social Security, Medicare and the required interest on the national debt are untouched, that's over $2.2 trillion. Somehow, Tea Partiers would have to magically cut $1.3 trillion of the remaining $1.6 in FY 2010 spending.
For her part, 62 year old Tea Party support Jodine White acknowledged to the Times:
"That's a conundrum, isn't it? I don't know what to say. Maybe I don't want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security." She added, "I didn't look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I've changed my mind."
She's far from alone. A recent poll by the Economist found that the only area of the federal budget which more than one-third of Americans supported cutting was foreign aid. "Bummer, then," Ezra Klein of the Washington Post wrote, "that it accounts for less than a single percent of the budget." (For more on this stunning chart of what Americans are willing to cut [in blue] versus where their government actually spends their money [in red], see Annie Lowrey.)
Ironically, Eric Cantor launched his charade on the same day the New York Times' David Leonhardt and the Washington Post's Steve Pearlstein discussed the hard choices on spending and taxes Americans will have to make to reverse the long term federal debt problem. But Cantor's gimmick shows that Republicans aren't serious about cutting the deficit. And the history of the last 30 years testifies, they never were.
Is cutting Cantor's salary on the list?
Remember when "leadership" meant something more than pandering to the least common denominator?
Remember when politicians would stoop to help . . . instead of just to pick up loose change that slipped out of someone else's pocket.
Let's see if we can resurrect those times --