How The Republican Budget Cons Conservatives

Bill Scher

In March I asked “Are Republicans Insane Enough To Propose a Balanced Budget?” because balancing the budget in 10 years without any tax increases would mean embracing politically suicidal cuts.

The answer: Yes, they are! Republicans not only proposed it, they passed it, with the support of every vulnerable incumbent senator up for re-election next year.

I’ve already discussed the risk this radical budget puts on those swing-state Republicans. But there’s another risk to the GOP.

That the conservatives in the Republican base soon realize this budget is a con.

There will be no dramatic cuts. There will be no drastic shrinkage of government. The Republican leadership knows it, and they won’t be straight with their own voters.

The budget resolution that just passed is just that: a resolution, not a law. It is not signed by the president. It is a nonbinding document that is supposed to serve as a guide to the 12 appropriations subcommittees that hammer out the spending bills that keep our government open.

But this budget isn’t a real guide. The purpose isn’t to help the individual subcommittees efficiently produce spending bills. It’s to pander to the delusions of the economically illiterate Republican base, who wrongly believe that America will disintegrate without a “balanced” budget in short order.

Conservatives will soon be rudely awakened from their warm and fuzzy austerity dream by the end of the summer. By then, if any of the 12 appropriations bills aren’t signed by President Obama, then those agencies will be shut down. If none of them are signed, it’s a complete government shutdown.

Since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker John Boehner have been crystal clear they won’t tolerate another shutdown, that means Obama has considerable leverage in shaping the appropriations. If Republicans make unreasonable demands, the blame for the shutdown rests on them.

But Republican leaders are doing nothing to prepare their rank-and-file. Worse, the deadline approaches just as the presidential primary debates begin. It will be peak Grandstanding Season for the four senators running, making it extra hard for the rest of the Republican Congress to act responsibly.

Yet they must, for a shutdown in the middle of the campaign season is just what the Democrats need to paint the Republican field as another clown show.

Capitulation is inevitable. The Republican leadership’s commitment to a rapidly balanced budget will be proved nonexistent.

If the GOP elders don’t cop to that now, they are going to have a very tough conversation with their base come fall, as well as over the course of next year.

Over in the United Kingdom, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron is hemorrhaging right-wing support because five years ago he made a pandering promise he couldn’t keep: to cut the level of immigration.

In America, Republicans can’t keep their promise to cut spending down to a level not seen since before the New Deal. They can admit it now, or pay a price later.

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