House Republicans are promising to cut $100 billion from the federal budget, but they're not quite ready to explain how just yet. What they won't cut is homeland security, the military, and services for veterans--a nice gesture after a decade of war, but one that means the other federal programs, like transportation and education, would have to be cut by about 20 percent. That could mean, for example, Pell grants would be cut by $700 for 8 million students, 40,000 teachers and school aides would lose their jobs, and funding for research and cops would drop, to say nothing of laid off federal employees and absent state and local government grants. The proposed cuts are so steep that Senate Republicans are not signing onto the pledge, The New York Times' Jackie Calmes reports. Furthermore, many economists--not to mention governors, farmers, and businesses--oppose such steep budget slashing, arguing that it could endanger the economy's modest recovery.The cuts are unlikely to actually be enacted, given Democrats' Senate majority and President Obama's veto power. "But the effort is more than symbolic: in particular it could give House Republicans increased leverage in budget negotiations with the White House this winter and spring," Calmes writes. Here's what traditional media commentators and bloggers alike are already saying about the proposal.
- A Good Start, The Washington Examiner's James A. Bacon Jr. writes. "That will close only one-tenth of the $1 trillion-a-year budget gap that needs addressing, but it's a start. We have to be realistic: There is only so much domestic spending that can be cut while Democrats still control the Senate, the presidency and... the mainstream media. Cutting spending by $100 billion a year is progress of a sort."
- Don't Underestimate House Republicans, The New Republic's Jonathan Chait warns. "As you watch Democrats lacerate Republicans for risking the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, keep in mind that they all voted against raising the debt ceiling when Republicans held the White House." But the "difference is that Democrats were merely posturing, while Republicans seem to be trying to extract substantive policy concessions. In any case, the posturing is over whether the minority gets to merely embarrass the president, as has been the case before, or actually gets to force the president to give them something tangible."
- GOP Now Has the Power to Fight Washington Inertia, The National Review's Rich Lowry writes. "Since the end of the Bush administration, the Democratic plaint has been that Republicans are shameless budget poseurs. They talk like fiscal hawks, but they never deliver. The Tea Party opposes government only in theory. This line of argument will soon be abandoned in favor of the charge that Republicans are waging an unprecedentedly cruel assault on the federal budget."
- We Could See Something Like the Tax Cut Deal, Powerline's Paul Mirengoff says, laying out what "another grand bargain" might look like:
In this scenario, the Democrats would accept significant spending cuts and in exchange the Republicans would keep the government afloat and grudgingly raise the debt limit. However, such a deal won't come easily. In one important respect, the Republicans will be in a stronger negotiating position than they were in December, now that they control the House. On the other hand, the Democrats knew in December that they would bear much of the blame if taxes went up in January. This time around, they may feel (rightly or wrongly) that a government shut-down would swing public opinion against the Republicans, as it did in 1995.
- The Whole Budget Process Is Messed Up, Bruce Barlett argues for The Fiscal Times. Thanks to the creation of the Congressional Budget Office in 1974, Congress is free to ignore the president's budget and draft its own. But in recent years that means the budget process takes too long, and appropriations bills are passed late. Bartlett suggests that instead of spending four months on the presidential budget, only to ignore it, "Congress could start the budget process in the fall so that it could get the appropriations process started as soon as it reconvenes in January. The president's budget message could be reformed to emphasize long-term trends and structural imbalances." Right now, he writes, "there is far too much attention paid to trivialities such as earmarks and insufficient attention to entitlement programs such as Medicare. And the nonsensical Republican belief that tax cuts have no effect on the deficit needs to be refuted before it bankrupts the country."