The GOP released a booklet outlining its alternative budget today, and I’m not impressed. To start, it’s difficult to judge because it’s a rather sparse 19 page pamphlet that contains no deficit projections, and it hasn’t yet been scored by the CBO. And much of it is just filled with criticism of Obama’s budget and various bubble charts. So there’s no way to measure what it would do to the debt relative to Obama’s plan. Republicans caution that this is merely a blueprint rather than a final bill, but there are still a few items worth commenting on.
The proposal has some good elements, such as allowing people to purchase health care across state lines, saying no to future bailouts, allowing for more energy exploration, removing barriers to building nuclear power plants, and creating an optional flatter tax with a 10% bracket for those earning less than $100,000 and 25% for those earning more.
Overall, the biggest problem with the Republican budget is for all of its justified outrage about the exploding debt created by Obama’s budget, it makes no serious effort to cut entitlement spending. Sure, there are some fixes around the edges. It would ask wealthier seniors on Medicare to pay more for prescription drugs, allows states more flexibility on Medicaid, and promises to reduce “waste, fraud, and abuse” of Medicare. That’s simply not going to cut it when we’re facing a $56 trillion long-term entitlement deficit. It doesn’t mention any plans for Social Security.
What’s alarming is that Republicans are surrendering too much ground to liberals. At one point, the report mentions wanting to “save” Medicare. At another point, it reads:
Instead of accelerating the demise of our nation’s large entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, and creating new unsustainable entitlements, Republicans seek to provide universal access to affordable health care and to address our entitlements’ trillion dollar unfunded liabilities with common-sense reforms that ensure our children and grandchildren can secure future benefits.
All this talk about wanting to save entitlements and secure benefits is not much different from what you’d expect from Democrats. If Republicans want to return to being the party of fiscal discipline, then they will have to be honest with the American people that the only way out of this hole is to rein in entitlements and reduce benefits. The problem is much bigger than a few “common sense reforms.” The reason why our debt is out of control is that Democrats are afraid to admit that their social agenda will require major tax increases, and Republicans want to cut taxes but are afraid to propose genuine spending cuts. Obviously, given their minority status, Republicans don’t have any hope of passing their budget proposals. However, they could have used an alternative budget as an oppourtunity to act as grownups amid all of the fairytale thinking coming out of the White House. I’ll look forward to more detailed proposals, but for now it looks like a blown opportunity.