Monday, July 12, 2010


You may already know that the Obama budget commission is likely to propose a deficit reduction plan that's mostly spending cuts:

[Commission co-chair Erskine] Bowles pointed to steps taken recently by the new coalition government in Britain ... as a guide to the formula the commission might use in its recommendations. That would mean about three-quarters of the deficit reduction would be accomplished through spending cuts and the remainder with additional revenues.

And you may have seen Matt Yglesias's pithy summation of the likely fate of this set of proposals:

That sounds like a classic pleases no one, goes nowhere package. Since it includes tax increases, zero Republicans will vote for it. But since it's mostly weighted to spending cuts, most Democrats will reject it.

I think the GOP reaction is going to be even more infantile than their usual "WAHHH! WAHHH! NO TAX INCREASES! EVER!" whine. I say that because it seems quite likely that this commission is probably going to proposal real cuts that would cause pain for real people (and by "real people" I mean middle-class suburban and exurban white people): restrictions on the mortgage interest deduction, reductions in Social Security and Medicare, changes in eligibility for the latter programs, and so on.

And if that happens, I predict that Republicans -- for all the tea party complaints about free-spending government and red ink -- are going to attack Obama from the left, arguing that, say, restricting the mortgage interest deduction or raising the Social Security or Medicare eligibility age is just another Obama attack on ordinary Americans.

Too shameless even for Republicans, you say? Surely you jest. Weren't these the same folks (and weren't their teabagging constituents the same voters) who last year were simulataneously saying "NO GOVERNMENT TAKEOVER OF HEALTH CARE!" and (after fears of "death panels" began to spread) "DON'T TOUCH MY MEDICARE"?

As Steve Benen and Ezra Klein have noted, we have Senator Jon Kyl saying the budget-busting Bush tax cuts for the wealthy shouldn't even be allowed to expire -- there should never be the need for spending cuts to offset tax cuts, Kyl says. (He's echoed by Judd Gregg and Eric Cantor.) But Laffer Curve-ism is only one part of the right's magical thinking. Not only do righties think that tax cuts effortlessly pay for themselves (or, as Arthur Laffer says, actually increase government revenues), righties also believe that budgets can be balanced simply by cutting (as the saying goes) waste, fraud, and abuse -- in other words, just by cutting pork and money that goes to undeserving brown people (or perhaps these days, those undeserving long-term unemployed).

OK -- I don't know if elected D.C. righties really believe that. But all their voters do -- and I think GOP officeholders will play on that belief. I think they'll turn around and attack real cuts as elitist-liberal cruelty toward hard-workin' heartlanders. I think they'd rather do this than acknowledge that, absent some serious tax increases on someone, you have to cut a lot of spending to get budgets under control. They're going to insist that only "undeserving" people (i.e., people who aren't potentially their voters) need to suffer to balance our books.

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