Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Leadership on the Budget

I think I agree with much of Matt Yglesias's post on the budget yesterday...but I really didn't like the title he gave it: "Conservatives Must Lead on the Deficit."

Lead? It's far too late for that. The Democrats, and the Obama administration, took the lead one year ago by "dealing with entitlements" -- that is, by slashing Medicare spending and enacting long-term cost controls. That's ACA. Yes, we have no idea how well the cost controls in ACA will work, and yes, Republicans in some unreal theoretical word would have proposed some other type of entitlement reform...but in this world, Democrats acted and Republicans opposed without proposing an alternative.

Then, as Yglesias points out, Barack Obama has a budget proposal. Republicans do not have a budget proposal. I have serious doubts about whether Republicans will ever have a budget proposal. (Not a GOP specialty, of course; Congressional Democrats didn't bother to pass a budget proposal last year, and they didn't even have the excuse of divided government). Yes, again, in some unreal theoretical world Republicans might be proposing lower deficits than Obama and the Democrats...but once again, in this world, Republican plans as they exist to date appear to offer higher deficits in the middle and long term than what Obama proposed.

It's far, far too late for Republicans to lead on the deficit. If they want to get in the game, however, they need to put a proposal on the table. Until they do so, or at least until their separate proposals would add up to a lower deficit than what Obama proposed, there's really no reason for either the president or the Democrats in Congress to be at all defensive about deficits. Nor, in my view, is it wise for them to open negotiations (beyond the current fiscal year, for which the GOP has in fact made their bid) without insisting that Republicans put a budget on the table.


  1. I think MY was joking by imitating the faux-solemn pronouncements that "the President must lead by doing X," where "doing X" usually means "taking the hit for advocating the politically unpopular thing that I wish would happen."

  2. What alkali said - MY's title is clearly a riff off what Serious Washington budget scolds routinely pronounce.

    The reality is that Republicans 'have' to do nothing of the sort. Budget vagueness and deficit scoldery work well for them; why would they want to spoil it?


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