Are Republicans in Congress Serious About Deficits?

January 31, 2010

As Pres. Obama releases his budget Monday, you can be assured of one thing: Republicans will take aim at the president for the massive deficit projections that the president's budget will include.

Just like Democrats did when Pres. Bush released his annual deficit-ridden budget every February, Republicans will talk a good game about the huge deficits that the country is facing. But let's look at this seriously for a second. While the deficit has grown in part as a result of Obama's policies (most notably the stimulus bill), there would still be significant deficits had Obama done nothing, and there are massive deficits on the horizon having little to do with the stimulus bill.

If Republicans want to be taken seriously on the deficit issue by anybody who actually understands the reality of the fiscal situation of the government, they have to answer yes to one or more of the following questions:

(1) Do you support reducing spending on Social Security?
(2) Do you support reducing spending on Medicare?
(3) Do you support reducing spending on national defense?
(4) Do you support raising taxes?

As my former colleague Josh Barro pointed out on his Twitter page, "the GOP position of no new taxes, no Social Security cuts, no Medicare cuts, and no Defense cuts is fantasyland budgeting."

Regarding the Social Security option, last week when the Senate debated the existence of a fiscal task force, every Republican in the Senate supported the Baucus Amendment, which read: "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, it shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill or resolution pursuant to any expedited procedure to consider the recommendations of a Task Force for Responsible Fiscal Action or other commission that contains recommendations with respect to the old-age, survivors, and disability insurance program established under title II of the Social Security Act."

Regarding the Republican position on Medicare, GOP Chairman Michael Steele said that issue's off the table too, as he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed back in August: "That is why Republicans support a Seniors' Health Care Bill of Rights, which we are introducing today, to ensure that our greatest generation will receive access to quality health care. We also believe that any health-care reform should be fully paid for, but not funded on the backs of our nation's senior citizens."

Regarding Republican cuts to national defense, there's about a 1 in a 100 chance of that happening.

Regarding Republicans raising taxes, that's about a 1 in a million chance.

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