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Thursday, January 06, 2011

The GOP's $100 Billion Lie

Yesterday, I mentioned that Republicans began their first day of their new House Majority by breaking one of their oaths made in their Sacred Pledge. Where the party had sworn in their "Pledge to America" to make cuts that "will save $100 billion in first year alone," they now say the number -- which they'd apparently reached into their pants to retrieve -- was merely "hypothetical."

But words mean things. The only way that number could be hypothetical would be if the GOP had asked voters, "If we promised you an insanely large, made-up number -- say, $100 billion -- in spending cuts, would you elect us?" But they didn't. At least, not straight out like that. "Will save" means "will save," not "could save." It's a definite statement and, when written in the body of a signed document with the word "pledge" in the title, constitutes a concrete promise. Once again, Republicans -- with the help of a credulous and/or uncritical media -- lied to the American people. Clearly, there was no math behind the figure, no one sat down at a ledger book and added up all the savings. It was merely an impressively large number that could be used for a bait-and-switch.

If you doubt that $100 billion was an invented number, consider that the new House Republican Budget Czar, Paul Ryan, has no idea what they're planning on cutting. "That is what is gonna happen in the appropriations process down the road," he said when asked for specific cuts. "So I can't tell you the answer to that because, as a budget committee person, we simply lower the cap and then those things go down. We're gonna be reducing all domestic discretionary spending. I can't tell you by what amount and which program, but all of it is going to be going down, and the aggregate amount will be back to 2008 levels before the spending binge occurred."

Ryan needs a history refresher course on when this "spending binge" began. Seems to me it was about 2001. Still, he can't enumerate any cuts "by what amount and which program" now, but before the elections it was definitely going to be $100 billion dollars -- at least. And Republican plans already start hundreds of billions of dollars in the hole, assuming they're serious about repealing healthcare reform. The reform is projected by the CBO to reduce the deficit by about $200 billion by 2019. So, math wise, even if the GOP's "hypothetical" $100 billion savings were less hypothetical and more concrete, it'd be a wash. Save $100 billion, then spend $200 billion. Then we're back to square one, where health insurers can deny coverage to babies for being too fat, and nothing to show for it. It's just a gimmick designed to turn America back to a previous and unsustainable status quo. In fact, since the $100 billion isn't even real, it's just a gimmick within a gimmick. Three Card Monty is a more honest game.

Still, there's an upside. Just not much of one.

Steve Benen:

To be sure, I'm delighted Republicans aren't actually going to pursue this indefensible [$100 billion] goal. When political leaders start breaking high-profile promises right out of the gate, it's generally not a positive development, but in this case, we're all better off with GOP leaders having changed their minds.

Of course, this doesn't change the fact that Republicans never should have made this promise to begin with, and shouldn't have put themselves in a position in which they're breaking their own pledge immediately after taking office.

So we can be grateful that the GOP didn't run the nation straight off the cliff on their first day as the House majority. Splendid.

This gives us an idea of what a House led by John Boehner will look like. The party's rhetoric will not be based on what they can do, but on what they believe they can get away with. And this should come as no surprise. As Matt Taibbi wrote on the occasion of Boehner's ascension to the highest constitutional office he'll (one hopes) ever hold, "John Boehner is the ultimate Beltway hack, a man whose unmatched and self-serving skill at political survival has made him, after two decades in Washington, the hairy blue mold on the American congressional sandwich. The biographer who somewhere down the line tackles the question of Boehner's legacy will do well to simply throw out any references to party affiliation, because the thing that has made Boehner who he is -- the thing that has finally lifted him to the apex of legislative power in America -- has almost nothing to do with his being a Republican." What brought Boehner to his current station, according to Taibbi, is the fact that he's "the quintessential example of the kind of glad-handing, double-talking, K Street toady who has dominated the politics of both parties for decades." In short, the lobbyist as legislator. The fob that keeps congress from slipping out of the corporate pocket.

So of course they'll lie. That's the whole strategy. They aren't interested in representing you, they're interested in tricking you into representing them. What do you think this whole Tea Party thing is about? Founded by billionaires and powerful Washington insiders, the Tea Party is merely a PR effort assembled from gullible fools and blind partisans, designed by corporate interests. And so is our present House of Representatives, where Boehner rules from a platform of empty promises with a comically oversized gavel.

A $100 billion dollar lie? All in a day's work for a party whose only strategy is deception.


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