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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cantor Unveils Plan to Eliminate Deficit Within 100,000 Years

Washington is spending way too much of your money on crazy things like keeping you healthy and keeping our economy afloat. After years of spending money hand over fist, without any thought to where that money was going to come from, Republicans have suddenly woken up to the idea that deficits are bad. That'd be news to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who famously told former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, "You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don't matter. We won the midterms. This is our due." For his weird fetishism over the deficit, O'Neill was fired a month later -- by Cheney.

But there is no more zealous believer than the convert. Dick, George, and their free-spending White House crew are gone, so it's time to tighten the belt to pay for all the money that Dick, George, and their free-spending White House crew threw down the rathole. Luckily for America, House Republicans have an awesome idea on how to whittle that deficit down to nothing in no time:

The new GOP page explains:

YouCut – a first-of-its-kind project - is designed to defeat the permissive culture of runaway spending in Congress. It allows you to vote, both online and on your cell phone, on spending cuts that you want to see the House enact. Vote on this page today for your priorities and together we can begin to change Washington's culture of spending into a culture of savings.

Yay for Republicans!

There's just one little problem, none of the ideas you're allowed to vote on (you can't submit your own ideas) add up to jack. Savings range from $600 million to a mere $1 million. The federal budget deficit last year was $1.4 trillion. Not only aren't Republicans willing to make the tough choices, they aren't even willing to make the easy ones. Not on their own, anyway. They need you to decide what chicken feed gets cut. But you get to vote every week, so I guess it adds up. Or not.

"What's especially interesting, though, is that all of the proposals don't amount to much given the larger budget picture," writes Steve Benen. "Merit aside, if officials were to scrap every penny of the spending on Cantor's list, it would save taxpayers about $1.1 billion a year."

At that rate, this new Republican idea should eliminate the deficit in... quick back of the envelope calculation... Oh, about 20,000 years. Of course, that's not the rate at which Cantor's willing to cut. Remember, you get to choose one, not all. There are five possibilities this go-round, so if that's any indication of how this thing's going to work going forward, we should be out of the deficit hole in about 100,000 years. It's that sort of lightning-quick action we really need these days.

It strikes me that it's probably not a coincidence that Cantor's new big idea follows an Economist/YouGov poll last month showing that, when it comes to the budget, the average person is largely ignorant. And who can blame us? We've got our own budgets to keep an eye on. That's why we elect people to keep an eye on the federal budget for us and pay them to do it. It's worth pointing out that Cantor's all but admitting that he's unwilling to do that job.

According to the poll, 71% believe we should reduce foreign aid to cut the deficit. But foreign aid accounts for less than %1 of all government spending. We could eliminate it entirely and not even put a dent in the deficit. Starting to see a similarity here between the popular notion of what reduces the deficit and Cantor's little gimmick? Yeah, me too.

"In contrast, Democratic plans on health care, student loans, and energy policy would produce significant budget savings," Benen writes, "but generated apoplectic opposition from Cantor and other Republicans." See, those are Democratic ideas to reduce the deficit, which are socialism! Apparently, real capitalist deficit reduction takes about as long as the process of fossilization.

Of course, Cantor's little project is nothing but a gimmick. He wants you to believe that the ideas presented represent government waste, but number one on the list is eliminating the Presidential Election Fund, which provides matching funds for presidential candidates. Cantor says this will save $260 million in savings, but you probably know this better as the $1 check-off on your tax form. It's a voluntary program. It wouldn't save anything because, if the program ended, so would that check-off and so would the revenue generated by it. We'd be able to raid that fund once as we eliminated it -- if we were smart about it -- but after that we'd get nothing. There's a good chance we could reduce the deficit more with a yearly telethon, bake sale or fun run.

But, of course, this isn't a serious attempt to reduce the deficit at all. It's just the Republican Party trying -- and, one would hope, failing -- to rehab their image as hopeless spendthrifts. It's what they've been doing since Obama took office. If they want to get back into power, gimmicks might do the trick. However, if they want to stay in power, this isn't going to cut it. They're going to have to come up with real ideas and real solutions. I'm not holding my breath. What they've come up with so far is a joke. Instead of solving problems, they pretend to solve problems. And reality TV-style "vote them off the island" games are no way to govern.


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Currently, some federal employees spend up to 100% of their workweek, paid by taxpayers, doing work for their union.

Currently, some federal workers spend up to 100% of their workweek, paid by taxpayers, proselytizing for religion. Why can't I vote to eliminate that?

To Eric Cantor, in the words of Dick Cheney, go fuck yourself.