Monday, July 19, 2010

Eric Cantor's piddly YouCut site proves Republicans aren't serious about cutting the deficit

Via Twitter, Peter Suderman points out that Republicans plan on campaigning this fall against the federal deficit, but have no plans to actually do anything about it if they take Congress. See Sunday's "Meet The Press" for confirmation. In response to such complaints, National Review's Robert Costa points to Eric Cantor's YouCut website, which he describes:
Cantor debuted YouCut [in May]. Its premise is simple: Each week, Americans can vote for their favorite of five potential spending cuts on the web (or via text message to 68398). Cantor works to bring the winner to the House floor. With one click, you can help to shape the House GOP agenda.

“It allows us to focus on out-of-control federal spending, the number-one issue for millions of Americans,” Cantor says. “For us, it is an unprecedented online project.”
Unprecedented? Whatever. It's also incredibly piddly and lame. Look at the current options YouCut offers for a vote.
* Eliminating unnecessary Congressional spending: Potential savings of $35 million over 10 years.

* Eliminate the "Dodd Earmark" from "ObamaCare:" Savings of $100 million over 10 years.

* Prohibiting first class subsidies on Amtrak: Potential savings of $1.2 billion over 10 years.

* Reform the Energy Star program: $655 million over 10 years.

* Prevent energy assistance payments to dead people: "Hundreds of millions of dollars" over 10 years.
Notice a common attribute? All these options are piddly rounding errors in the gargantuan federal budget, eliminating -- at most -- $120 million a year out of a $3.55 trillion budget! It's simply not a serious attempt to address budget fears; it looks a lot more like feeble, ineffective pandering. Real austerity is going to force people to give up stuff they want or like getting from government. And not just the poor, "unproductive" people. Hard, politically unpopular choices will have to be made. Republicans have never shown the ability to make those choices. Eric Cantor's "unprecedented" web site proves the point.


KhabaLox said...

Nice post Joel. :)

For some reason, I read the "piddly and lame" line in the voice of the Alien from Monsters vs. Aliens (played by Dwight from The Office). It's one of my son's current favorite movies, so I've heard the line, "Omega quadrant? Lame." a hundred times or so, and it still makes me chuckle.

Deregulator said...

Yes, you're right. True fiscal discipline will require "bending the curve" a lot more than Cantor's proposal would accomplish.

But you have to start somewhere, which is more than I can say for the administration or congressional Dems.

Obama asked his Cabinet to come up with a similarly piddly and lame $100 million last year ... it's not clear they ever occurred, and besides, the $787 billion stimulus overwhelmed any piddly $100 million cuts.

Moreover, the YouCut site inspired a bill to end the use of stimulus dollars to pay for signs ... to promote the stimulus package. Potential savings? $200 million. The proposal was voted down, 238-184, with only 11 Dems voting to cut spending.

KhabaLox said...

Regarding your last paragraph, Deregulator, it doesn't make much sense to cut a one-time spending bill that will directly increase job growth. Those signs have to be made by someone, and if we cut that $200 million that is that many more jobs that wouldn't be created or that would be cut.

You are right to be concerned about the deficit, but you are wrong to take a short term outlook. We need to look at making long term, structural changes to the way we spend money and collect taxes if we are going to dig ourselves out of debt. It makes a hell of a lot more sense to cut $50M from the Defense (or SS) budget than it does to cut $200M from the stimulus package.

You're also right to point out that Democrats bear their share of the blame. Both sides need to relax their positions - Democrats need to agree to spending cuts and Republicans need to agree to tax increases - if we want to really address the problem.

Deregulator said...

Oh my goodness, K. Seems to me that making signs for a single piece of legislation might not be a sound, long-term career move. And we can argue whether the stimulus bill really created any jobs (created or saved, HA!!, what BS). From what I recall, a significant amount of the money went to bail out state and local governments which then used it to fund recurring programs that will have to be funded further when the stimulus funds expire.

But have fun on Fantasy Island if you can.

The problem with contemporary lefties chiding anyone about fiscal discipline is that I fear few of them really believe spending should ever be cut (unless it's for the military, which is an ever-shrinking proportion of the budget).

But K, you get my goat. So I'll go away not.

Deregulator said...

Or go away now. (I'm in such a hurry to leave ...)

Joel said...

D, I think you're right: Lefties don't really want to cut spending from most domestic programs. If we're to get serious about the deficit, though, we'll have to make some compromises.

On the other hand, I think the idea that the military is a "shrinking proportion of the budget" is somewhat misleading. The defense budget always gets bigger. Some years it gets bigger faster than others -- but even in slow years manages to outpace military spending by, well, the rest of the world. I think it's probably essential that we contemplate what a sustainable defense of our country really looks like.

Rick said...

Agreed, Joel, we should have a serious debate about the proper use of U.S. military forces at home and abroad. A significant proportion of those forces are anachronisms.

But my larger point stands. As a percentage of GDP and as a percentage of overall federal spending, the military absorbs less than it has at any time since the end of the Cold War -- about 20 percent now. (It's ticking up just a bit, but still it's nowhere near the 30 percent to 70 percent it took up then ... when the welfare/entitlement state was a lot smaller than it is now and it's going to be.)