Pledging a Deficit
While I have been accused of being a typical liberal, I am actually a fiscal conservative. This means that I think that we should be careful in our expenditures and be certain that what we are getting is worth the cost. I am also not a big fan of taxes. In general, I think that I can spend my money more wisely that the folks in Congress. However, I do recognize the need to fund essential public goods and services, such as education, defense (against enemies foreign, domestic and medical), and infrastructure.
When Republicans talk about cutting the deficit and reducing taxes, my ears perk up a little bit (they would perk up more, but I am familiar with their past promises). Seeing their actual plans, in contrast, makes my eyes sad. This was true in the Contract with America and is also true in regards to the latest Republican “X to/with/on/behind America.”
In addition to the usual vague statements about “traditional family values” and reducing the deficit, they also present a fiscal agenda. Unfortunately, this agenda is inconsistent with reducing the deficit.
First, they plan to extend all the Bush tax cuts. While this is supposed to help the economy, the fact that these tax cuts have been in effect through the recession should indicate something about how effective they are in that regard. As far as the deficit goes, the estimate is that keeping all the cuts in place will increase the deficit about $4 trillion by 2020.
Second, they plan to offer small businesses new tax breaks over the next two years to the tune of $25 billion. While the received wisdom is that small businesses create jobs, the actual job numbers seems to contradict this. If this is the case, than tax cuts for small businesses would not be a wise investment and would seem to primarily serve to increase the deficit. Of course, politics is a largely about perception and not reality and the perception is that small business is the key to American employment.
Third, they explicitly leave national security funding out of the cuts, despite the fact that defense and security spending are truly massive. It is indeed ironic that one area in which some meaningful and effective cuts could be made is being placed off limits. Lest anyone think I am anti-defense liberal, my view on defense spending is largely influenced by Eisenhower and Gates. As such, I am for an effective defense while being against the defense of the bloated and wasteful.
Fourth, as far as what they plan on cutting, they point to $100 billion in discretionary spending that is not related to security. However, this is a rather small amount and the plan is currently lacking details as to what, exactly will be cut. They also say they will push back Obamacare while also suggesting that any popular aspects of the plan will be retained.
In light of this, it seems unreasonable to believe that the Republicans plan would actually reduce the deficit. In fact, it seems reasonable to expect that it would actually increase it. They, as politicians do, rely on the hope that people will be taken in by their vague promises while not actually looking at the details. The Republicans promised fiscal restraint years ago and then spent eight years amassing a mountain of debt. I suspect that they will do the same if given the chance.
Lest anyone leap in and accuse me of favoring the Democrats, I will say that Clinton did a good job, but that it seems equally unlikely that the Democrats will do anything meaningful about the deficit. I had hoped that the Tea Party would have had more of an impact on the Republicans, but it seems that spending is now hardwired into both parties.