Since Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) released a proposed House budget on Tuesday, Republicans have been touting it as a balanced, bipartisan approach to balancing the budget. In reality, the Ryan plan resembles last year’s House GOP budget proposal as well as the Romney-Ryan plan we saw in the 2012 election.
One must wonder what Rep. Ryan believes is bipartisan about his budget, since it proposes $4.6 trillion in spending cuts, no revenue through tax increases, and relies on the deeply unrealistic prospect of repealing Obamacare to make the numbers work. Thus far, the House budget proposal has gained nothing but criticism from Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney are a few of the strongest voices in opposition to the House proposal.
On Tuesday, the general numbers of the Senate Budget Proposal were released, detailing a more balanced approach. What Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senate Democrats have formulated is a plan that would incorporate $100 billion in stimulus, $975 billion in tax increases, and $975 billion in spending cuts — a far more bipartisan theory than Rep. Ryan’s approach of merely slashing spending.
Representatives of both parties have fought against relinquishing their principles for the sake of reaching an agreement. During Tuesday’s press conference, Rep. Ryan stated, “The election didn’t go our way. Believe me, I know what that feels like. That means we surrender our principles? That means we stop believing in what we believe in?”
Similarly, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) said, “We’re not willing to go so far as to negotiate away our principles and what we think is best. We’re just not.”
While a majority of Americans want Congress to reach a compromise on the budget — consisting of both spending cuts and tax revenue — there seems to be little hope that this can actually happen. Despite a concerted attempt on behalf of Senate Democrats to take a bipartisan approach, Murray’s budget has slim to no chance of passing the House.
Still, the Senate proposal is far more realistic as a budget than Ryan’s alternative. The House plan claims it will cut spending and balance the budget, but refuses to lay out specifically how it will do so.
Republicans will criticize Murray’s plan for merely cutting the deficit to under 3 percent of GDP, instead of completely balancing the budget. But leading economists agree with Senate Democrats that balancing the budget simply isn’t crucial to fixing the economy. In a Wednesday New York Times article, former senator Pete V. Domenici (R-NM) agreed, saying, “The really important thing is to keep the debt from growing faster than the economy.”
Even Josh Barro, a conservative blogger for Bloomberg, wrote, “We should strive for budget sustainability, as we historically have. But we should not start making a fetish of actual budget balance.” And a Wednesday Bloomberg article states that the U.S. hasn’t actually balanced a budget since 1929 and this isn’t reason for alarm, so long as the ratio of debt to GDP stays small.
During an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos set to air on Wednesday, President Obama said, “My goal is not to chase a balanced budget just for the sake of balance. My goal is, how do we grow the economy, put people back to work, and if we do that, we’re going to be bringing in more revenue, if we control spending and we’ve got a smart entitlement package, then potentially what you have is balance.” Then taking aim at Rep. Ryan’s budget, the president continued, “But it’s not balance on the backs of the poor, the elderly, students who need student loans, families who’ve got disabled kids — that’s not the right way to balance our budget.”
While compromise is unlikely, the Senate Democrats’ proposal offers an actual path to prosperity that would benefit the majority of Americans. Making claims to “balance a budget” is much more about rhetoric than effective policy. The House GOP budget proposal is austerity packaged and sold as a serious plan, and would only harm poor and middle-class Americans.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster