There is so much awful and ridiculous about the House Republican budget that it can be difficult to explain the severity of its impact without getting lost in a blizzard of numbers and jargon. To its authors, that is a feature, not a bug.
But why worry about picking out the specific areas of our federal government it would abolish, when you can cut to the chase? It would get rid of nearly all of our federal government.
According to the budget office, which analyzed the plan using assumptions dictated by House Republicans, the proposal calls for spending on items other than Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — but including defense — to fall from 12 percent of G.D.P. last year to 6 percent of G.D.P. in 2022, and just 3.5 percent of G.D.P. in the long run.
That last number is less than we currently spend on defense alone; it’s not much bigger than federal spending when Calvin Coolidge was president, and the United States, among other things, had only a tiny military establishment. How could such a drastic shrinking of government take place without crippling essential public functions? The plan doesn’t say.
Today, the Financial Times’ Martin Wolf also expresses horror at the havoc the House Republican budget would wreak:
…non-health, non-social security and non-interest, spending (“the residual”) would be cut to 6 per cent of GDP in 2022 and be constant in real terms after 2021.
This residual category includes defence, most veterans’ programmes, mandatory spending on federal civilian and military retirement, unemployment compensation, earned income and child tax credits, scientific research and much else.
The plan entails the almost complete disappearance of these residual functions other than defence, since it is hard to see why spending on the latter should fall much from the average of 4½ per cent of GDP of the past decade. The rest would then be down to 1½ per cent of GDP by 2022.
Indeed, in the very long run, even spending on defence would collapse. Assume, for example, that spending on all the non-defence areas in the “residual” would be 1½ per cent of GDP in 2050. Then defence spending would be a mere 2 per cent of GDP. Is this a Republican plan? …
…It would turn the government into a miserly provider of pensions and health insurance.
So if you believe our federal government shouldn’t do much of anything — conduct scientific research, build highways and train tracks, inspect food, clean up toxic waste, patrol bankers, prevent veterans from ending up on the streets, let the unemployed eat — the House Republican budget is the plan for you.
But for the vast majority of Americans who aren’t pining for a mindless anarchist state where we are “free” to eat bacteria and sleep on dirt, the House Republican budget is a reminder of the disastrous conservative path we were on in the last decade — the one that led to that little financial market meltdown — and chose to get off.
Politico reports that some Republican congresspeople recognize that the upcoming vote on their party’s budget “may be one of the most treacherous votes of the year” and are not too pleased that “the Republican leadership is asking its members to take a tough vote on a bill that has no chance of becoming law.”
“Tough vote” is being charitable.
To call this bill a budget is an insult to budgets. “Budgets” imply thoughtfulness, planning and responsibility. The House Republican plan would be the biggest denial of responsibility for America’s safety and prosperity in our country’s history.
We’ll see if any lawmaker that votes for it will take responsibility for what it would actually do.