Liberals are fond of saying that we must have both new revenue and entitlement reform to get our fiscal house in order. As a factual matter, this is wrong.
For the third consecutive year, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will offer a budget that does get our fiscal crisis under control in a budget with no new revenue. This year he will get to a balanced budget in 10 years. By contrast the Senate Democrats’ budget with more revenue on top of the fiscal cliff deal never balances.
The more accurate statement is that it is impossible to balance the budget without systemic entitlement reform and liberals don’t want to make mandatory and/or discretionary cuts of sufficient magnitude to make tax increases unnecessary. That liberals feel compelled to recite an untrue mantra — tax hikes MUST be included (rather than please include them so domestic spending can continue to increase at a faster rate) — explains, in large part, why we are deadlocked.
Republicans, by the way, aren’t opposed to new revenue, so long as it comes from growth spurred by a revised tax code. The Republican interest in a flatter, fairer tax code is not matched on the left, where they just want to stick it to the rich again, getting relatively little bang for their buck, but keeping their base energized in a never-ending game of class warfare.
The Senate budget will make plain that Democrats have no interest in entitlement reform, which IS essential to fiscal sanity. They will also reveal how little they care about income inequality. It is also foolhardy to preserve benefits for older, richer Americans while ladling debt on to the young, making cuts only in discretionary spending.
Frankly, Republicans made an error in not going after Medicare savings quickly enough. By giving seniors 10 years grace, more cuts must come from discretionary spending. Ryan unfortunately could not persuade “moderates” in the House (moderates in favor of deeper discretionary cuts?) from moving up implementation of his reforms by a year. I would like to see Ryan option A and B, one with the 9-year window and one with the 10-year gap and the domestic discretionary cuts required under each scenario.
At any rate the president is entirely irrelevant and will be, we are told, two months late with a budget, by which time both the Senate and House will have passed theirs and be onto further negotiations (or not). The complete absence of responsible leadership should appall voters and pundits on both sides, but the palace guard pundits aren’t inclined to heap scorn on the White House.
The president’s absence is a good thing, making clear where the two parties’ lawmakers stand. Clarity is necessary so there can be accountability. It also increases whatever slim chances there are for a deal, grand or not.
Republicans should make several points in rolling out their budget: 1) Between the fiscal cliff deal and anticipated revenue increases from tax reform, theirs is the only budget with the “balance” the president insists upon. 2) It is the only budget that balances ( Senate Republicans will have some alternatives, no doubt.; 3) They increase federal spending every year — we are talking about a decline in the rate of increased spending from year to year. 4) Entitlement reform which has the rich pay more is the fairest way of restraining spending and fixing our fiscal mess. 5) Coupled with new trade agreements, regulatory reform and domestic energy development are a recipe for domestic economic growth, something the president apparently has given up on addressing.
Republicans are on firmer ground than they have been in recent months. Now they need to explain what they are doing and why.