House Republicans Aren't Serious About Balancing the Budget

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

House Republicans have made no secret of their desire to leverage the fight over the debt ceiling to achieve deep cuts in our trillion-dollar budget deficit. They’ve solemnly declared their intention to balance the federal budget in 7-10 years. This is a wonderful goal. And when they figure out how to do it, I’m sure they’ll let us know.


Whether you believe that trading a debt limit increase for massive cuts in spending is the right thing to do is immaterial. The way that Republicans want to get to a zero-deficit universe is not possible.

No cuts in defense spending? No increase in taxes? Cutting Social Security and Medicare? None of that is going to happen because belonging to the Republican Party is not a political suicide pact. There are going to be cuts in future defense outlays. There is going to be an increase in taxes and fees. And there aren’t going to be cuts in Medicare or Social Security — at least not without both parties signing on.

Washington Post:

So far, the party has focused its attention on slimming down federal health care, education, science and labor programs, perhaps by billions of dollars. But some Republicans also have pitched a deeper examination of entitlements, which account for much of the government’s annual spending — and reflect some of the greatest looming fiscal challenges facing the United States.

In recent days, a group of GOP lawmakers has called for the creation of special panels that might recommend changes to Social Security and Medicare, which face genuine solvency issues that could result in benefit cuts within the next decade. Others in the party have resurfaced more detailed plans to cut costs, including by raising the Social Security retirement age to 70, targeting younger Americans who have yet to obtain federal benefits.


“We have no choice but to make hard decisions,” said Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), the leader of the Republican Study Committee told the Post. “Everybody has to look at everything.”

But the Democrats aren’t interested in cutting a single, solitary dollar from any federal program except defense. And that’s a problem. After spending more than $5 trillion since 2021, the Democrats are digging in to protect all the goodies they’ve given to their supporters. They will not be easily dislodged.

Any plan to rethink entitlements is likely to face steep opposition in the Democratic-led Senate and may never gain meaningful traction even among other Republicans in the House. Adding to the political challenge, former president DonaldTrump waded into the debate Friday, warning his party publicly against cutting “a single penny from Medicare or Social Security.”

Democrats, meanwhile, have been unsparing in their criticisms, saying millions of Americans could see their benefits cut at the hands of the new House GOP majority. President Biden has stressed he will not negotiate such a deal with Republicans, as he prepares to discuss a raft of fiscal issues with McCarthy in the coming days.

Biden continues to insist that he won’t even negotiate with the GOP on spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. It may be dangerous and stupid to hold the debt ceiling vote hostage but it’s also dangerous and stupid to refuse to talk to the opposition. Seventy million people did not vote for Biden in the 2020 election. To dismiss their representatives because you believe you have a corner on goodness and wisdom is arrogant and foolish.


Related: 56% of U.S. Voters Prefer Government Shutdown to Raising Debt Ceiling

Biden will come to the table. And when he does, the GOP better have some realistic ideas on how to cut the budget deficit — ideas that don’t include cutting benefits from the two most popular programs offered by the federal government.


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