Politics Magazine

House GOP Wants To Cut Spending - But Doesn't Know How

Posted on the 25 January 2023 by Jobsanger
House GOP Wants To Cut Spending - But Doesn't Know How 

The following is part of an op-ed in The Washington Post by Catherine Rampell:

Republicans have Very Serious budget demands. Unfortunately, they can’t identify what any of those demands are.

They say they want to reduce deficits — but meanwhile have ruled out virtually every path for doing so (cuts to defense, cuts to entitlements, wiping out nondefense discretionary spending, or raising taxes). . . .

Republicans say they want lower deficits — in fact, they have pledged to balance the budget (that is, no deficit at all) within seven or 10 years. But they have not laid out any plausible mathematical path for arriving at that destination. They promise to cut “wastefulspending” ... but can’t agree on what counts as “waste.”

Some Republican House members want to cut military spending, which both House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Rep. Jim Jordan(Ohio) have indicated they’re on board with. But others, including influential House Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger (Tex.), have said defense spending cuts are definitely not on the table.

“We’ve got to get spending under control, but we are not going to do it on the backs of our troops and our military,” Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) said

Instead, Waltz said, Republicans should focus on “entitlements programs,” jargon for mandatory spending programs including Social Security and Medicare. These programs are in long-term fiscal trouble, given demographic trends. Yet the popularity of these benefits has long made proposals to revamp them a third rail.

Understandably, then, other influential Republicans have disqualified entitlements from consideration for cuts.

On Sunday, when asked to name “one thing you’re ready to put on the table as a spending cut that you think both parties can accept,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) instead stated things she wouldn’t put on the table. “Well, obviously no cuts to Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security,” she said. “That’s a nonstarter for either side.” Former president Donald Trump apparently agrees

Of course, deficits could be narrowed by focusing on the other side of the ledger — that is, by increasing tax revenue. But Republicans have ruled that out, too.

Instead they’re proposing more tax cuts, which they have tacitly admitted might worsen deficits. Republicans are also working to gut tax enforcement, which would grind down federal revenue further.

So what options are left?

McCarthy, for his part, has proposed “eliminat[ing] all the money spent on ‘wokeism.’ ” (How big is the official “wokeism” line item? TBD.) But more broadly, once you reject any trims to entitlements or defense spending and bake in the cost of the GOP’s proposed tax cuts, you’re left with a roughly $20 trillion hole in budgets over the next decade.

Closing that gap would require eliminating nearly all other domestic spending, as the Tax Policy Center’s Howard Gleckman recently noted. That means axing border protection, air-traffic control, farm subsidies, infrastructure and many other categories that both voters and elected officials hold dear.

Republicans don’t seem so seem keen on cutting those things, either.

In short, virtually every possible avenue available for reducing the deficit would be unpopular. Which probably explains why supposedly fiscally conservative Republicans chose not to take them when they controlled both houses of Congress during Trump’s presidency.

The White House is expected to release a detailed budget by early March, building upon budgets it has released previously. Beyond a vague strategy document from last summer and the cacophony of contradictory comments from House leaders, Republicans still lack a formal counterproposal.

But even if McCarthy managed to whip something up: Who in their right mind would trust the rest of his caucus to stand by it?

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