Let's make sure we understand the Republican ground rules for reducing the deficit.
- No tax increases, especially for upper-income earners.
A Rasmussen Reports survey finds that while 50% of Republicans would rather see the United States run a budget deficit by keeping tax cuts in place, a plurality of Democrats (46%) favor the opposite approach -- a balanced budget with higher taxes. Voters not affiliated with either party are evenly divided on the question.
When asked if it was possible to balance the federal budget without raising taxes, 47% of Republicans think it's possible while 53% of Democrats do not think so.
Interestingly, TPM notes that only a very small minority knew the correct answer to this question: "Is the following statement true or false? Most federal spending is spent on only three programs -- Social Security, Medicare and national defense."
The correct answer is "True," but only 35% got it right with a 44% plurality saying it was false.[More]
- Slashing spending (except in Republican districts).
Republican lawmakers continue to bash President Obama's budget for failing to effectively control spending and adding to the nation's long-term debt.
But many of the same lawmakers are complaining about the spending cuts that affect their own communities, often aiming those comments at their constituents back home.
Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.), for example, lashed out at Obama for "the same old big government budget that will spend too much, borrow too much, and tax too much." He said: "I'm feeling a lot like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day."
But at the same time, Bond issued a statement criticizing Obama's proposed cuts in the military's C-17 aircraft program -- cuts that happen to affect thousands of jobs in Missouri.
"Despite the need for the proven, on-time, and on-budget workhorse, the President once again wants to shut down our nation's only large airlift line in production," Bond said in a statement.
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), called Obama's budget "another massive budget filled with even more spending than last year's record totals."
But in the Lexington Herald-Leader back home, a McConnell spokesman made it clear that the senator opposes Obama's proposal to slash coal subsidies by $2.3 billion over 10 years as part of his climate change legislation. [More]
This is not to say Democrats have better ideas, just if Republicans have no clue, that's a hint which way to bet.
Besides, lost in the condemnation of the very ugly HCR legislation is the sad truth that doing nothing isn't going to work. And until now, there has been no counteroffer from the opposition. I have some hope, however that fact is finally sinking in on both sides.
The "Ryan Plan" is a brave plan with much I could embrace* - heck, I'd sign on to the whole thing. But it isn't exactly popular with the GOP.
House Republicans are at pains to point out that a far-reaching budget roadmap unveiled by their top budget guy, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), isn't their budget, but when asked today at a press conference what about Ryan's budget he disagreed with, Minority Leader John Boehner couldn't name anything.
"Off the top of my head, I couldn't tell you," Boehner said.
Despite the apparent lack of substantive disagreement, though, Boehner wants to keep the Ryan plan from sticking to the GOP.
"Paul Ryan, who's the ranking member on our budget committee, has done an awful lot of work in putting together his roadmap," Boehner said. "But it's his. And I know the Democrats are trying to say that it's the Republican leadership. But they know that's not the case."
Ryan's detailed long-term budget roadmap has awakened Democrats, who are beginning to make political hay of his proposal's call for privatizing and slashing Social Security and Medicare benefits. It's a tough spot the Republicans have been trying to avoid. On the one hand, touting that they have a deficit reduction plan better than President Obama's. On the other hand, being careful not to hitch themselves to a plan full of politically unpopular cuts in the middle of an election year. [More]
This is what is disappointing - the fear of participating in the debate because actually offering ideas has been proven to be nothing more than slapping a bulls-eye on your back.
We've proven our abilities at damaging our economic and political systems, let's see if we can actually fix something.
*More later after I have read some details.