Today, the House is expected to approve a Republican resolution that would effectively cut all federal government "non-security" spending by nearly 20%. Their political objective is contrast Republican budget slashing to the President's support of a "spending binge" – also known as public investment to create jobs.
OK, let's contrast.
Instead of investing in clean energy, modern infrastructure and education, House Republicans would cut nearly everything we ask government to do.
College tuition aid. Highway repairs. Toxic waste cleanup. Even keeping salmonella out of our food supply. You name it.
(Maybe even law enforcement and border patrol, but we can't be sure because the House leaders didn't bother to define what "non-security" means in their scant two-paragraph bill. Transparency! Democracy!)
In other words, less money for jobs that real people do which make life better for every American.
Interestingly, the text of the resolution doesn't bother to specify how much money should be cut. It reads that appropriations committees will get spending allocations "at fiscal year 2008 levels or less."
Seemingly harmless procedural phrasing. It's just the spending levels of a few years ago. What's the big deal, right?
The big deal is that there is always population growth and a degree of price inflation Reverting budget levels to a previous year means significant cuts. And that doesn't even take into account the massive financial crisis that has greatly increased the number of people who need a social safety net to survive, and the need to keep those people active in the economy.
As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explained: "[Speaker] Boehner’s proposal would represent the deepest annual cut in funding for these programs in recent U.S. history. It would remove substantial purchasing power from a weak economy, thereby costing hundreds of thousands of jobs and raising risks of a double-dip recession."
Of course, one might ask, what was so great about the budget levels of 2008? Did the 2008 spending levels somehow prevent the 2008 financial crisis and economic meltdown?
Now if you ask conservative activists about the Bush spending record, they will try to convince you that the previous President was some sort of free-spending Great Society liberal, and that's why the economy is sputtering. (I'm not exaggerating. As the CATO Institute's Chris Edwards wrote, "George W. Bush: Biggest Spender Since LBJ."
But that gives the misleading impression that President Bush spent more across-the-board, when in fact he just larded up the military-industrial complex while doing nothing to invest in America's economic foundation, create jobs and strengthen the social safety net. As his former economic adviser Keith Hennessy explained:
Average federal spending was a smaller share of the economy during the George W. Bush administration than during each of the Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Reagan administrations. … Yes, federal spending increased over President Bush’s tenure. The biggest increases were for defense and homeland security … even at its highest point during the Bush tenure, spending as a share of GDP was still lower than the lowest year of the Reagan Administration.
And what was the result of that strategy? As the Wall Street Journal put it: "Bush On Jobs: The Worst Track Record On Record."
In other words, today's House Republicans want to turn the clock back to the policies that created the worst jobs record in recorded history.
And that's the least damaging thing the House Republicans would do if given the chance. Note the resolution calls for spending levels "at fiscal year 2008 levels or less."
Those last two words were added by House leaders after the resolution was first introduced to appease the majority of the Republican caucus called for cutting spending levels down to where they were in 2006.
Or, more specifically, a 42% cut in nearly everything our federal government does. CBPP describes the carnage:
If imposed across the board, such a cut would mean 42 percent less for health care for veterans; 42 percent less for K-12 education; 42 percent less for protecting the environment; 42 percent less for the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and border security; 42 percent less for the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 42 percent less for food safety and inspection; and so on.
[That] would eviscerate the vital services and benefits that the federal government provides and that improve the living standards and quality of life for millions of Americans…
This is the path the House Republican leadership wants to put us on.
Some Republicans may want to spell it out more clearly and drive into the abyss faster. Others in the leadership hide behind paper-thin legislation with opaque language, recognizing that most voters don't want to hop on the conservative train to nowhere.
But any way you slice it, it's the American people that would suffer the cut.