Political Animal @ Washington Monthly 4/21/2011
Congressional Republicans are making a couple of sweeping demands at the same time, and it's important to appreciate the extent to which they contradict each other.
On the one hand, the GOP is pushing a radical budget agenda that would gut entitlements and other domestic priorities, while cutting taxes for the wealthy. The plan is both cruel and fraudulent, burdened by numbers that don't add up.
On the other hand, the GOP is also executing a reckless hostage strategy, vowing to block a debt-limit extension, and do critical damage to the economy in the process, unless it receives structural "reforms." And what might they include? Truly ridiculous ideas such as statutory spending caps, a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, and a new required supermajority for tax and debt-limit increases.
But there's a catch -- if Republicans succeed on the latter, they can't have the former. Ezra Klein explained this very well.
House Republicans voted to make the Ryan budget law. But the Ryan budget includes $6 trillion in new debt over the next 10 years, which means that to become law, the Ryan budget would require a substantial increase in the debt ceiling. But before the Republicans agree to increase the debt ceiling so that the budget they passed can become law, Republicans are demanding the passage of either a balanced budget amendment that would make the Ryan budget unconstitutional or a spending cap that the Ryan budget would, in certain years (and if you're using more realistic numbers, in all years), exceed.
The point? Republicans have done a lot more thinking about how to run against spending, debt and deficits than thinking about how to handle them going forward. The specific plan they voted for blows through both their spending and debt caps, and that's if you grant a series of assumptions it makes about health-care spending that even conservative wonks agree are "magical." You simply can't run the government under the sorts of targets Republicans are endorsing, and if you look at their budget, you'll realize that some of them, at least, know that.
Exactly. We're talking about Republican leaders who don't understand the basics of their own strategy. They're calling for procedural and structural changes that would make any kind of progressive government impossible for decades, blissfully unaware of the fact that these same changes would also prohibit passage of their own budget plan.
Similarly, the GOP message is so incoherent, it's driven poor Matt Miller to the edge of some kind of breakdown: "[D]ebt limit mania has driven me to a similar frenzied state [to the one seen in 'The Shining']. If my wife came across my manuscript it would read, 'The House Republican budget adds $6 trillion to the debt in the next decade yet the GOP is balking at raising the debt limit. The House Republican budget adds $6 trillion to the debt in the next decade yet the GOP is balking at raising the debt limit.'"