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Friday, January 21, 2011

Republicans Strike Another Blow in the War on Math

The Republican War on Math marches on, as the House's farthest-right members, in the form of the Republican Study Committee, put forward a list of cuts they say amount to $2.5 trillion over ten years. By cutting, non-defense discretionary spending, and then holding spending to 1996 levels for ten years, they promise it's going to save a specific amount. However, when asked how these savings are going to be achieved at this specific level, things get a little murky -- as Rep. John Campbell demonstrates:

Partial transcript from Think Progress (emphasis their's):

CAVUTO: I don't want to pick it apart too much, because you always appreciate the efforts at spending cuts, but a lot of these eliminations and reductions, Congressman, realistically come to $330 billion of the $2.5 trillion of proposed cuts. So, in other words, the real meat, up-front cuts, while still substantial, about $330 billion, ain't the $2.5 trillion. So what is the more realistic figure?

CAMPBELL: The more realistic figure than the two, oh, you mean other than what's listed on here?

"It's not surprising, of course, that the RSC would be hesitant to place on paper the practical implications of its plan," TP explains. "Returning non-defense discretionary spending to the 2006 level -- and then keeping it there -- would result in billions of dollars in cuts to vital and popular programs and agencies like Pell Grants, the FBI, the Coast Guard, the National Institutes of Health and the federal prison system."

As Frank James put it for NPR, "[I]f this list creates any winners, it will be the lobbyists who will bill a lot of hours for trying to ease their clients off the trapdoor." Unfortunately, the increase in jobs for lobbyists won't offset the decrease in jobs for everyone else.

Steve Benen:

To get there, these Republicans would go after plenty of familiar targets: the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Arts, Amtrak, and U.S. Agency for International Development. But given that the U.S. just doesn't spend that much on any of this, the Republican Study Committee has to dig much deeper, going after transportation and infrastructure projects, energy research, aid to states, legal assistance for low-income families, family planning funds, and assistance to American businesses seeking to export their products overseas.


Instead of working on creating jobs, we're left with a new House majority that either (a) wants to ignore the problem; or (b) wants to deliberately make it worse. For all the Republican excitement about the midterm results, I suspect the GOP just wasn't listening very closely to what Americans said they're concerned about most.

All of this puts House Speaker John Boehner on the spot. He's already getting flack for not being serious about cuts. Imagine what things will be like when he fails to deliver on the empty promises of the RSC. The whole thing seems designed to make absolutely no one happy -- in part because it's never going to happen anyway and in part because it leaves the bloated military budget untouched, while a majority of voters -- even Republicans -- want to see the military cut. We aren't in the Cold War anymore, after all -- we don't need a overly-expensive Cold War military.

The problem with the Republican War on Math is that math is reality. Pick a fight with reality and you're going to lose. It doesn't matter if you make up crazy numbers or believe with all your little wingnut heart that your plan will work. What matters are the numbers and the numbers just don't work.


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