You wonder how many of the pundits who described the House Republican budget as “phony” or “unrealistic” or “make-believe” will say the same of the Senate Democrats’ effort.
Senate Democrats unveiled a largely stand-pat budget Wednesday that calls for $1 trillion in new tax revenues over the coming decade but actually increases spending, while protecting the party’s domestic policy priorities and adding $4 trillion more to the national debt than a slashing alternative from House Republicans.
The plan by Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., blends about $1 trillion in modest cuts to health care providers, the Pentagon, domestic agencies and interest payments on the debt with an equal amount in new revenue claimed by closing tax breaks.
But because Democrats want to restore $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts over the same period — cuts imposed by Washington’s failure to strike a broader budget pact — Murray’s blueprint increases spending slightly when compared with current policies.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, summarized the contents of that budget effort: “The Senate Democrat plan offers $7.3 trillion in new debt in the first 10 years, with interest payments climbing to $791 billion in the tenth year and total debt rising to $24.4 trillion. Debt remains permanently elevated above the danger zone of 90 percent of GDP, resulting in slower growth and lost wages. Excluding war spending gimmicks, net deficit reduction is only $279 billion. In the Senate Democrat plan, the deficit in 2023 is $566 billion; the House Republican plan, in contrast, produces a surplus in the tenth year.”
It turn out his staff found even more taxes than Murray had let on: “After much diligent work, our budget committee’s expert technical staff have discovered the Murray’s budget not only increases spending $162 billion next year from today’s budget levels – and $645 billion above projected growth over the next decade – but the tax hike it contains is significantly larger than advertised: $1.5 trillion.”
In addition, Murray leaves in place half the defense sequester, making the cuts, I suppose, only half as devastating as those the former secretary of defense decried.
So Murray’s budget is extraordinarily ideological, is it not? It is not a budget any Republican would sign on to, so is it phony and irresponsible? Only a dyed-in-the-wool leftist would think it is “conservative.” (Murray wouldn’t say so, and actual conservatives surely would not.) Well, one thing it is not is “serious.”
Irresponsible, yes. Revealing? Definitely. The GOP wants to trim the rate of the increase in spending and reach a balanced budget, reducing our debt by about $5 trillion. The Democrats have a huge tax hike not to reduce the debt but to fund more spending. They contend there is no debt crisis, as the president pronounced. (Are red state Democrats going to run on this?)
You can understand why the president’s visit to Capitol Hill reportedly left House Republicans “skeptical.” Maybe nonplussed is a better description.
If by some miracle the Democratic budget passes, one can only imagine the reaction of the bond and stock markets, investors and employers. But all of that is remote and irrelevant to the Democrats. There is apparently no amount of taxes, debt and government regulation and growth that is harmful to the economy in their eyes. (And you wonder why this has been the worst recovery since the Great Depression?)
There is, of course, a center-right solution: Enact entitlement reforms sooner rather than later by gradually increasing the retirement age and shifting more costs to wealthier retirees; reduce increases in domestic spending but without the rush to get to a balanced budget in 10 years; and enact tax reform that gets rid of loopholes, spurs growth and thereby adds revenue. Hey. Wait a minute. Wasn’t that pretty much the Grand Bargain of 2011? Hmm. I wonder why the president didn’t take it. Maybe he was never serious?
The budget talks are beginning to resemble the moribund “peace process.” Everyone insist the answer to unlocking a deal is “obvious” and the parties are “very close” to a deal. In fact, that isn’t the case at all. We have a president and a Senate that plans on adding to the debt. In fact, unlike every bipartisan commission to look at this and House Republicans, the president and Senate Democrats don’t even think there’s much of a problem and indeed are fine adding to the debt. Pretty unusual, if you ask me.