Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cut, Cap, and Balance: Republican's Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

(Excepted from Jared Bernstein's article for CNN - My remarks in parentheses.)

The Cut, Cap and Balance Act that the House Republicans passed is just that - an "act".

Absent the courage of their convictions, it's another backdoor way, like the Grover Norquist pledge or the Mitch McConnell debt ceiling scheme, to accomplish their goals without constituents knowing what they're up to. In this case, it's worse. They can cloak their actions in the soothing words of "budget balance," a phrase that polls through the roof. But let's look at the impact of this bill.

1) Its annual spending caps would take away the ability of the federal government to respond to recessions. Unemployment insurance, medical coverage, nutritional programs -- none of these would be able to expand to offset the downturn.

2) It would cut Medicare deeper than Rep. Paul Ryan's budget, and cut Medicaid, nutritional assistance and income support for the elderly and disabled by more than half by the end of the decade.

3) It holds the debt ceiling increase hostage, requiring a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution before the ceiling can be raised. Congress would be required to cut spending to stay under the caps, and it would be able to do so with simple majorities. But if members wanted to raise revenues through the tax code to take some of the pressure off those spending cuts, they would need two-thirds majorities in both chambers, an insurmountable burden (and making the Bush Tax cuts for the rich would be permanent, the Republicans true goal, always watching out for the interests of big corporations and the wealthiest among us...not regular working people, the disabled, the elderly, the sick, or unemployed).

4) The bill would cap spending at 18% of the value of our economy, or GDP. The last time federal outlays were 18% of GDP was in the 1960s. Since then, life expectancy is up, as is the median age of the population and, most important, the share of people over 65 (who are growing by the numbers every day, driving elderly retired Americans further and further into oblivion).

* See Jared Bernstein's full post here

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