He promised a “net spending cut.” It’s up to House Republicans to help him keep that promise.
The mistake that most commentators are making on the budget is the idea that a bill has to be passed to cut spending. For much of the 2012 budget, which Congress is now debating, that is not true. In many cases, the absence of legislation can cut spending. With Republicans thoroughly in control of one house of Congress, that legislative reality leaves them with great power to cut spending.
Moreover, today’s new political realities, as evidenced by the historic 2010 election, sharply constrain the budget positions President Obama and Democrats in Congress can take. Many of these Democrats, including the President, got elected on the pretense that they would control spending better than the Republicans. In a nationally televised debate in 2008, President Obama pledged to the nation that his plan for the budget would involve a “net spending cut.” The federal budget then was $2.982 trillion. President Obama’s budget last year projected spending for the current fiscal year, 2011, to be $3.882 trillion. Speaker Boehner should ask for a personal meeting with the President, to which he would bring a dictionary to go over the meaning of the word “net.”
The political reality is that President Obama and his left/liberal Democrats must be careful not to be exposed in this budget debate as the big spenders they are. That is another big advantage that the Republicans need to be aware of, and exploit.
Finally, where they can’t cut spending because Obama and the Democrats stand in the way, House Republicans should frame the debate for 2012 by passing budget cutting legislation that would be popular in the current political climate and show what Republicans would do with an even more sweeping victory in 2012.
The Ryan Budget
The last, Democrat-controlled Congress never got around to passing an actual budget. The failure of the omnibus spending bill in the lame duck session means that not even all the appropriations bills for the current fiscal year, over one-fourth of which has now passed, have even been enacted. The government is operating today under a continuing resolution, which expires in early March. This means that much of federal spending even for the current fiscal year can be cut just by not passing appropriations bills authorizing increased spending. (No, I am not saying the Republicans should not pass regular appropriations bills.)
Soon, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan will reveal his budget, the sooner the better. In fact, he should seize the moment and release the Republican House budget even before President Obama’s dilatory administration gets around to releasing theirs. Because no budget or appropriations bills were passed by the last Congress for this fiscal year, the Ryan budget can effectively be a year and a half budget.
That budget must include a sharp cut in federal spending sufficient to inspire wildly enthusiastic, grassroots, Tea Party support. The touchstone of that budget should be to reduce all federal spending items except Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and federal debt interest at least to their levels in 2008. That alone would save $345 billion in the very first year, by my rough calculations, based on Obama’s published budget from last year. Even better would be to take it back to the 2007 budget spending levels. That would save roughly $527 billion in year one alone. Two thousand seven was just four years ago, and America survived fine with those levels of federal spending. That would provide for a much better defense budget as well than Obama’s unilateral disarmament of America defense budget.
Such a budget strategy would inherently involve terminating all unspent funding from the abusive, intellectually indefensible, utterly failed 2009 Obama stimulus. It would also inherently involve ending all further TARP spending, though formal legislation to terminate any further TARP authority may be worthwhile as well.
Some other items should also be zeroed out in the Republican budget. That would include federal funding for National Public Radio (NPR) and public television broadcasting. There is no reason why these operations, to the extent they are worthy, can’t find private sector financing. We can’t be borrowing still more money from the Chinese, and adding still further to our national debt, to fund such unnecessary federal projects. And that should be the test for every line item. Should we borrow money from the Chinese and add still further to the national debt, to finance this?
The House should then swiftly pass that Ryan budget. That budget then becomes the governing document for all House committees, regardless of what the Senate or President Obama have to say about it. That budget does not have to pass the Senate to become effective for the House. Congressional budget resolutions do not even go to the President for his signature or veto.
House Speaker Boehner should then send that budget to President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, fresh from his stolen election in Nevada in my opinion, with a cover letter saying simply, “This is the House budget and we are sticking to it.”
Regardless of what President Obama or the Democrat-controlled Senate want, if the House doesn’t pass an appropriations bill spending any particular dollar on any particular program, it doesn’t get spent. No need to negotiate with Obama or Reid on any of this.
Yes, this doesn’t apply to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, which are on automatic pilot. Further entitlement reforms will have to be enacted by legislation to balance the federal budget over the long term. More on that below. And, of course, it doesn’t apply to federal debt interest, which must be paid in any event. But that still leaves plenty of room to cut. In fact, if they maintain strict limits on all discretionary spending growth for long enough, providing for any essential defense increases by cutting other spending even further, I believe they could even balance the budget for a time within the 10-year budget window, though, again, permanent, long-term balance would require entitlement reforms.
This is where the political reality kicks in for Obama and the Democrats. In the current political climate, President Obama cannot rally the nation against the Republican budget because it does not spend enough! That would just tear off the fiscal conservatism mask that Obama and much of the remaining Democrats used to trick the public into electing them in the first place. (This same political dynamic applies to any old bull Republicans that may want to resist the Ryan budget internally. Ryan should recognize this and aggressively bypass any such internal Republican opposition.)
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?