Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How Liberal Budget Cutting Disappears

Really, Ross Douthat?
(Of the deep cuts the Ryan budget makes in order to bring the budget into balance, only a small fraction could be offset by repealing George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, the usual liberal answer to deficit reduction.)
 It is true that liberals like to talk a lot about taxes on rich people, probably because it's the most popular deficit-cutting option out there.

But depending on which liberals you're talking about, there's no shortage of any "liberal answer to deficit reduction." It's just that in the war on budgeting precincts that Douthat hangs out in, they don't count.

To begin with: most liberals, including Barack Obama, want significantly lower levels of military spending than, say, Mitt Romney wants. There's a lot of money in that pot!

Second, there's another fairly big pot of stuff that various different liberals are either happy or at least willing to cut from current spending: farm programs, various business subsidies, things like that. Some of them are popular, and so liberals don't want to talk about it up front, but they do support them.

Third? How about that $700B plus chunk that the ACA took out of Medicare? Okay, it's fair to point out that the Medicare cuts and the new taxes in health care reform pay for new spending in ACA. Still, worth mentioning, particularly in comparison to Medicare Part D.

And, fourth, all of the other cost-cutting measures in health care reform. Will those things work? We don't know! But they are real efforts at deficit reduction (above and beyond the cost offsets), and Democrats, liberal or not, were willing to vote for them even though they weren't very popular.

Again, it's tricky to deal with this because different liberals have different preferences, but it's almost always true that for example the Progressive Caucus budget in the House has a lower long-term budget deficit than either the Democratic or Republican budgets.

I'm going to leave the rest of Douthat's piece alone...I basically don't agree with him that Paul Ryan has been a very responsible bipartisan budget-balancer who just has been forced by circumstances to act as if he was an irresponsible math-defying partisan ideologue, but what are you going to do. But I suppose that there's perhaps enough ambiguity there that multiple interpretations are plausible. But the truth is that Democrats, including and perhaps even especially liberal Democrats, have proposed and when they had the chance enacted lots of real, specific, deficit-reducing things over the last thirty years, and Douthat is wrong to ignore them.


  1. Another dispatch from Douthat's Bizarro World. Amazingly, the column concludes that Ryan has "made his own party substantially more responsible and rigorous" right after listing a bunch of ways in which the party's refusal to be responsible and rigorous has defeated Ryan and hamstrung his proposals.

    So I guess now that he's a VP candidate, all that changes, and Ryan can now bend the GOP to his will? Right-o. And for starters he is already, and predictably, backing off on preserving the $700b Medicare "cuts."

  2. Not only are the ones you mentioned very important, but it seems like GOP'ers think that if the economy picks up, that will help the deficit problem as well, but only if Romney is president. Dems have offered several pro-growth items which help long term budget even if upfront costs ding the deficit a bit in the short term.

    Furthermore, there are the unpaid wars that are winding down and it is, to say the least, unclear whether or not they would if GOP were in power.

    Who was it that ended PAYGO?

    Finally, if economy had bounced back it would be more reasonable to begin discussion about raising income taxes for everyone, not merely the rich. Seems plausible Dems would be more willing to have this conversation than GOP'ers.

    Dems have simply been much more serious about deficit recently than GOP, and I expect that to continue regardless of who wins POTUS election this year.

    1. If you don't mind clarifying, in what way will Dems be more serious about deficit reduction than the GOP if the GOP wins the White House? I really can't picture it. (BTW, this year has shown us that when power is split, Dems have been more serious, so I agree with you there.)

    2. @ModeratePoli

      The Dems will be reluctant to extend all the Bush tax cuts or create new ones.

      The Dems will be opposed to an expansion in military spending.

      The Dems will (probably?) be opposed to eliminating all the health care cost controls they introduced in the ACA (IPAB, Medicare Advantage cuts, etc...)

      Really, being more responsible than the GOP regarding deficit reduction is pretty easy.

    3. @swain, this a good, satisfactory answer. However, I don't expect them to be as active/interested in negotiating non-defense spending cuts as they would be if they retained more power.

    4. ModeratePoli, after Obama was elected, the Democrats literally used up every bit of political capital they had, sacrificing control of the House, to reduce medical spending in Medicare and on the uninsured. You may be unaware that this is a non-defense spending cut.

    5. Right, there's the seriousness of many Dems, but also the complete absence of seriousness among many GOP'ers at this moment. For example, Romney's sketch of an outline of a plan cannot be deficit neutral unless it raises taxes somewhere. Romney would most likely not do that. So Romney will deficit spend, as well, most likely in the form of lower income tax rates for the rich, corporate tax cuts, capital gains tax cuts, eliminating estate tax, increased defense spending, etc.

  3. My reaction to this is my same reaction to all the alarmist email I get from my right-wing relatives: If there was a serious case to be made for conservative policies, conservatives would not have to lie.

    1. I know what you mean, but I would actually say that many conservative positions do have serious, coherent, underlying rationales and arguments behind them. The reason many conservatives lie -- and in particular their politicians do -- is because those policies and their reasons would be fairly unpopular if boldly stated to everyone. Many people would reject them on the grounds of self-interest and/or differing senses of morality. Conservatism as such however, even quite ideological and radical forms, are not in fact unserious.

  4. The lefty controlled US Senate hasn't passed a budget in over 3 years, so there's no way lefty "budget cutting" could "disappear", because it never appeared.

    This post sorta parallels your previous "What's a Deficit?" post. They both explain tons.

    It's the spending, stupid.

    1. I'm confused, what budget item hasn't been passed by the Senate?

      Because it seems to me that everything has been voted upon.

      Please, prove me wrong, but I'm pretty sure that every dollar that has been spent has been authorized by the Senate.

      Which makes your point kinda silly. They've already voted on lots of things. They need to vote again, to assuage you? Why?

      And what Republican in office is okay with that?

  5. What cuts has Romney suggested that would amount to more than repealing the Bush tax cuts?

  6. Representative Ryan is the main cause why America’s credit rating was down graded last year. Ryan is the main cause that the budget deal reach last year between President Obama and Representative Boener was rejected in the House of Representatives which was the main cause of Moody’s down grading America’s credit rating. Ryan objected to the plan because it included eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Ryan is one of the leaders of the tea party in Congress who has used his leadership to derail the budget plan negotiated by Obama and Boener and was the leader in the House if organizing the whole Republican Party to oppose any government help to fuel the economic growth that our country so badly needed. Ryan has been an obstructionist in Congress as he used his extortionist style of governing to get what he wanted in Congress. The Ryan budget plan now becomes the blue print for Romney economic plan which is to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich as well as cut other taxes for the rich, unnecessarily increase the military budget, cut or gut as many regulations and environmental laws as possible, give the rich freedom to again to what they want to us consumers, threaten many of the rights we Americans have obtained over the years like the right to get an abortion and make life more difficult for the middle and lower class people of America. We can’t entrust our economy to Romney and Ryan with their voodoonomics style of governing. We can’t trust Romney and Ryan to solve our environmental problems. Romney and Ryan will only make our environmental problems worse. Our environment is going through some very bad changes for the worst. We need someone like President Obama in office who will do all he can to solve our environmental problems, our economic problems, our equality problems, our social problems and the world’s problems. Our country and our troops needs a president who can bring peace to the world not a warmonger like Romney who will get us into a war with Iran & who knows who else. President Obama’s policies is pulling America out of a serious Republican caused Recession that was on the verge of a Depression. President Obama’s policies has crippled Al Qaeda and killed numerous Al Qaeda leaders including Bin Laden. President Obama’s policies has saved America’s auto industry & America’s economy. President policies has averted a war with Iran, gotten rid of Gadaffi, gotten us out of Iraq, stabilized Afghanistan, Africa & guided the Middle East through one revolution after another without the use of American troops. President Obama has earned the respect of the Arab world and has kept the violence between the Israelis & Palestinians down. I’m sure the Republicans would be proud to make the same boast but Republicans are a bunch of lying deceiving con artists who always try to twist the truth to make people vote for them. Beware of Romney Ryan and the Republicans because they are no good for America. They have proven that over and over again. Read to see why Romney and the Republicans are bad for America.

    1. And I think I'm cranky before my third cup of coffee!

  7. Ryan's huge spending cuts don't reduce the deficit, they pay for tax cuts. Since Democrats don't want to make the tax cuts that Ryan wants to enact, asking Democrats to "offset" those spending cuts makes no sense.


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