More Tricks than Treats in Democrats' Deficit Reduction Plan
The Democrats are getting into the spirit of the season and putting out a deficit reduction plan just in time for Halloween. This isn't surprising. After all, congressmen are, at bottom, a lot like little kids. They are irresponsible, spoiled rotten by perks, oblivious to the consequences of their actions, and whine when they don't get their way. This makes Halloween the perfect time to issue a deficit reduction plan that doesn't have a ghost of a chance of passage, while scaring the heebie-jeebies out of seniors with proposed cuts in Medicare benefits.
The plan is short on specifics, except for the Medicare cut of $400 billion split between reductions in benefits and cuts to health care providers. Where the rest of the $2.6 billion will come from -- including a promised increase in revenues -- only the zombies know at this point.
To top it off, the plan proposes between $200 and $300 billion in new stimulus spending. And you thought that this was a deficit reduction measure? Silly, you. Just close your eyes, click your heels together three times, and whisper: "The stimulus will be offset by reductions in interest payments from ... reducing the deficit."
Follow the logic: a plan to reduce the deficit includes spending increases that are going to be paid for by less money spent servicing the debt because the deficit is going to go down ... except when it goes up because of the spending increases.
My head hurts.
The Democrats made this proposal at a hush-hush meeting of the super secretive deficit-reduction supercommittee. It's called a supercommittee because ... well, because that's what Congress is calling it. Considering the lineup of political hacks, non-entities, and near half-wits who make up its membership, there doesn't seem to be anything "super" about it. Any committee that features John Kerry as one of the leading lights can lay no claim to "super" anything except perhaps "super boring." And to give you an idea of the supercommittee's leadership, co-chair Senator Patty Murray, who made a name for herself by praising Osama bin Laden after 9/11 for building schools and medical facilities, is in the top tenth percentile of dumbest people in Congress.
Since cutting $1.2 trillion from the budget over a 10-year period would appear to average folk as something of a no-brainer, perhaps that's why Harry Reid named her to the committee? Sorry, no. There is never such a thing as a "no brainer" when it comes to separating Congress from its addiction -- the absolute necessity of spending every dime it can get its hands on and when that runs out, spending your children's dimes, and the dimes of their children.
Besides, it's not about cutting anything. The reason for the supercommittee, you will recall, came about when an agreement was struck to raise the debt ceiling. In return for lifting borrowing limits above $15 trillion, Congress agreed to form a committee that is supposed to save it from its own worst impulses. The supercommittee comes up with $1.2 trillion in savings over the next 10 years and Congress approves the package or else; that is to say, or else there will be across the board cuts in everything from defense and Medicare to cowboy poetry festivals. Why Congress has to point a gun at its own head to act responsibly is a mystery. It's like the scene in Blazing Saddles where black Sheriff Bart is about to be lynched by the good townsfolk when he points a gun at his own head and says, "One more step and the ni***r gets it." The townsfolk were fooled. Does Congress expect the same of the voters?
The giveaway to this Kabuki dance is the simple notion that whatever Congress does, it can undo. If the supercommittee fails to reach agreement by the time Congress recesses for Thanksgiving, or if the Congress votes down whatever product emerges from their negotiations, the chances of Democrats allowing massive cuts in entitlements and Republicans allowing massive cuts in defense spending are as close to zero as you can get. Since there is no way to compromise on the supercommittee's deal, it is likely that Ccongress will declare the deficit agreement dead and the business of creating more trillion dollar deficits in future years will continue apace.
But the proprieties must be observed, tradition honored, and the motions gone through. Hence, we have the unnecessary drama of the supercommittee meeting in secrecy all these weeks. No doubt they've created a secret handshake by this time and developed a secret decoder ring. The purpose of the secrecy is ... well, it sounds cool. And it's supposed to keep greedy lobbyists from gumming up the workings of the committee.
The Constitutional Convention met in secret but at least they were responsible adults who could be trusted to do a good job. Lord knows what these jokers have been up to for the last few weeks. What little that has leaked out has not been encouraging. Prior to this Democratic deficit reduction plan being proposed today, the position of the donks was set in stone: no cuts to Medicare. The GOP was apparently going them one better by refusing to abide tax increases while also making Pentagon spending sacrosanct.
The fact that the Democrats have proposed cuts in Medicare means that they are pretty confident the GOP will reject the deal and they think they will score huge points with the voters for appearing "reasonable." Before you wonder how they believe such transparent tomfoolery will work, recall first, that politicians aren't very bright, and secondly, neither are most voters. So when the deal goes south and Harry Reid, looking sad and forlorn, appears before the cameras to blame Republicans for the impasse, the voters are likely to give Democrats the benefit of the doubt. Large majorities believe the rich aren't paying their "fair share" and breaking a deficit reduction deal because the GOP won't raise taxes on anybody will not play well.
In the end, cutting $200 billion or so from the budget every year for 10 years is a drop in the bucket. Projected deficits that will exceed at least $9 trillion are forecast, and that's under best case scenarios of low interest rates and low inflation. The supercommittee debacle -- failing to cut less than 4% of total spending over the next 10 years -- is more proof, as if any were needed, that Congress is beyond dysfunctional. It is regressing to infantile status because of its inability to meet the crisis as any grown-up would: with responsible action to save the nation from catastrophe.