To get House conservatives to capitulate on temporarily suspending the debt limit without securing any spending cuts, Boehner made a stunning pledge: the upcoming House budget would eliminate the deficit in 10 years.
As a talking point, that sounds great. As a budget, it is literally double the crazy of the last House Republican budget, written and personified by failed VP candidate Paul Ryan.
That budget immediately cost Republicans a House seat in a 2011 special election, branded the party as enemies of Medicare and twisted Mitt Romney in knots throughout the presidential campaign.
But while the previous Republican budget had steep spending cuts, much of was back-loaded. Combined with the plan’s massive tax breaks for the wealthy, the previous budget didn’t achieve a surplus until about 2040.
Now Boehner, and Ryan, are set on 2023. If they were using a crude meat ax before, now they will be using a nuclear bomb.
The old Republican budget cut $5 trillion in government spending over a decade. This one will have to cut $10 trillion, literally double the cuts of the last wildly unpopular Republican budget — assuming there aren’t more tax breaks for the wealthy, which would force the cuts to go even deeper.
If deeper would even be possible.
The Fiscal Times reports Medicare and Social Security would be mercilessly whacked:
To produce a surplus in 10 years, House Republicans would likely need to swing an axe at Social Security and Medicare, reducing benefits for the millions already supported by the programs … [Ryan] claimed at a Wednesday breakfast with reporters sponsored by The Wall Street Journal that today’s senior citizens would still be protected from any reductions … When budget experts examined the 10-year time frame, their basic conclusion was that the GOP will either need to break its pledge against taxes or its promises to seniors.
Or, they could shred the safety net for the poor. New York’s Jonathan Chait:
. According to Richard Kogan of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, balancing the budget in 2023 will require an estimated $800 billion in savings that year … Republicans have insisted that, as a basic principle of fairness, we cannot touch those programs for anybody 55 years or older … So what’s left? You have, mainly, programs for the poor and very sick, like Medicaid, child nutrition, unemployment benefits, and so on. Then you have domestic discretionary spending, which is basically all the major functions of government that aren’t either defense or writing a check to people — infrastructure, food inspectors, scientific research, and on and on … the pot of available savings [is] around a trillion and a half dollars in 2023. So, that means House Republicans will have to cut domestic discretionary programs and spending for the poor by about half.
As one budget expert told The Fiscal Times, “It’s mathematically impossible and an absurd objective.” Even one the top austerity proponents, Concord Coalition’s Robert Bixby, told Reuters flatly, “I don’t see it.”
But the Republican flag has been planted. They have no choice now but to produce a budget by April on these terms. No talking point will be a big enough fig leaf to cover the horror of the numbers which will be inside.