Divorcing Fiscal Restraint from Social Conservatism

The GOP hasn’t done it. So far, we’ve seen attempts to defund:

Here’s a serious question, to answer an unserious group of legislators: can the Republican Party address budget cuts, without framing it as a culture war issue, and without letting literally insignificant savings on hot-button issues take center stage, and drown out any potentially meaningful debate? We’re quickly gearing up for the healthcare debate, redux, with Republicans offering inflammatory, off-topic counters to stymie actually important reform. Again.


  1. Why take those off the table? Because they don’t want to deal with liberal hissy fits? There are a LOT of people working on Capital Hill. Surely they can multi-task?

    1. Sure they can – at the staff level. But Congress has one, read that again, one job to do according to the Constitution – pass federal appropriations. Federal statutes says they had to do it by last October 1. We still have no budget, and we can neither start anything, nor terminate anything. Both of those things, FWIW, are the Fault of Democrats who couldn’t get their house in order in either chamber. But the fact that they couldn’t do it by the deadline shows that no, the elected politicians can’t.

  2. The total federal expenses for the NEA and PP are about 500 million, and NPR can’t be much more. I’d say Ames is being pretty charitable by calling that an insignificant saving – microscopic is more like it.

    It’s obvious that they’re motivated by pure ideology, not any genuine desire to deal with the real deficit.

    1. Why not do both? There are plenty of non-fiscal problems associated with funding the above institutions.

  3. It’s like saying “Hey, let’s work together on this important project! Also, your wife is ugly. And I should know because I slept with her last night.” What are we going to focus on?

    1. Or like, “We should have a discussion about the tone of political discourse in this country, but just for the record it’s totally your fault.”

      You all are grown-ups. You should be able to discuss de-funding those things without neglecting the larger fiscal discussion.

      1. You are right, and WE here can have that discussion. But the politicians on the Hill obviously can’t which is what Ames is after in his original post. I know you don’t like it, but your party is making repeated statements (to which a vast swath of the public listens) that the best way to start dealing with past irresponsible spending by both Parties is to cut – what 15% out of the 12% of the federal budget that is “non-military, non-security discretionary spending”. Cutting PBS funding – while it may make sense on ideological grounds to you (and I have yet to hear a coherent argument as to why that is)- is not going to do a single thing about the deficit or the debt, which Republicans are running around arm waving as the BIG SCARY MONSTERS that keep the economy in shambles. The best solutions – which Bowles-Simpson laid out so eloquently – rest with restructuring Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, as well as tax code revisions to increase federal revenues. Where I have the biggest problem with your side of the aisle Mike is that, as a professional federal budgeteer, I see no way for these cuts to do anything except tick people off. They are too small (both singularly and in the aggregate) to tackle the problems Republican politicians claim they are tackling. So why bother? I mean, when the Secretary of Defense tells Congress to can $78Billion in future spending that the services don’t need, why is he rejected in favor if cutting a couple hundred million from PBS (which, let’s be clear, doesn’t imperil PBS at all financially).

        1. But the alternative, as proposed by the Left, seems to be to cut nothing. Is that acceptable?

          1. Nothing? The left has proposed letting the Bush tax cuts expire. The Right screamed bloody murder. The left said, “Hey, let’s not get involved in two wars in the Middle East”. The Right called the left terrorist sympathizers. I bet there’s a lot on the left (Congresscritters in defense-heavy districts notwithstanding) that would like to see defense spending cut significantly. The Right says we hate the troops.

            So it’s not exactly “nothing”.

            1. Then why were there no spending cuts in the Obama budget?

              And asking for more taxes is what I would expect liberals to advocate for. I was hoping for something more focused on austerity – and I think the majority of the voting public was too.

              1. http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/TRS

                There you’ll find 200 pages worth of terminated programs at a total of $20 billion a year. True, that won’t fix the deficit overnight, but it’s still 40 times as much as cutting both PP and NEA would save.

                1. Is there a overall net reduction in costs?

                  1. Total expenditures in 2012 are estimated to drop by about $100 billion and the deficit by about $500 billion compared to the 2011 budget (which was never actually passed, though).

                    1. I was talking specifically about military spending – but I’m glad they made some overall changes.

              2. Austerity? Really? 2/3rdsof the budget go for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest on the national debt. Republicans propose cutting 15% or so of the spending from 12% of the budget. That’s about a 1% total reduction. If that’s your definition of austerity, you could probably get elected prime minister in Greece right now, where they are rioting over REAL austerity. What you call austerity is just window dressing, and both Parties know it.

                1. Phillip, You seem to be using the tu quoque or ‘you-too’ defense here. I’m asking specifically why the president’s budget did not tackle serious austerity measures and even more specifically why he didn’t go after entitlements. If the GOP releases a similarly lackluster budget I’ll be happy to be critical of that as well. I’m so fed up with the fiscal mismanagement in Washington that any team loyalty is out the window on this issue.

  4. No. Next question?

  5. Two thoughts. First, funding for all of those falls into the Good Policy/Unconstitutional box in the Matrix Of Possible Legislation (the other three are of course Bad Policy/Unconstitutional, Good Policy/Constitutional, and Bad Policy/Constitutional). I give money to Planned Parenthood. We all know I love abortions, think they make the world a better place by increasing the sum of human happiness, and that they should be available like burgers at Burger King (“her way, right away”). But funding Planned Parenthood, I can’t think of a legitimate way to read the Constitution as granting Congress that power.

    Two, I agree with you. Hacking apart the New Deal/Great Society welfare state is what they should be doing to address budgetary problems. Although, cutting handouts to vermin is arguably a social issue, so maybe social issues and economic issues are inseparable?

    1. But funding Planned Parenthood, I can’t think of a legitimate way to read the Constitution as granting Congress that power.

      It would fall under the General Welfare Clause, I’d imagine.

    2. Vermin? Really? Human beings are vermin?

      What are you? A Social Darwinist? Or just Voldemort?

      1. Yes, vermin.

        I’m a Social Darwinist. I’m certain we’ve been over this before.

      2. Probably not. I don’t remember you from anywhere.

        I’ll continue to think you’re Voldemort though.

        1. Found it, and it appears you didn’t comment on that post. So while I have said before here that I’m a Social Darwinist (which I think would be obvious from what I have to say, anyway), you weren’t part of the conversation. And it was a long time ago.

  6. If they were serious about the budget then they would also be looking to decrease the military budget. That is where the big savings can be found.

    No. I don’t hate America.

    1. The Secretary of Defense has proposed $78 Billion in terminations for FY 2011 but Congress rejected them. Seems they know better then he does how much he needs.

    2. By “he” you must also mean SecDef, who requested the same.

      Oops you said that, nevermind :)

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