Although the House held a one-day session today in order to pass a bill giving $26 billion in badly-needed aid to states, members will be heading right back to their districts to continue talking to voters during the August congressional recess. Last week, as an aid to its conference, the Republican leadership released a 15-page document of advice and talking points to be used over the break.
The document — entitled “Tread Boldly” — decries Washington’s “reckless spending binge” and claims to have answers for issues like high unemployment and rising federal debt. In fact, the tag line of the pamphlet is “solutions, hard work, and no regrets.”
However, the proposed “solutions” are nothing but platitudes. In a front page article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, Carolyn Lochhead slams the GOP’s deficit reducing ideas, as they wouldn’t actually do anything to reduce the deficit:
Among the ideas for reducing the nation’s $13 trillion debt (mislabeled “deficit” in the pamphlet) is a call to “eliminate unnecessary and duplicative federal programs,” a well-worn bullet point that fails to name any such program. Others, such as canceling what’s left of the bank rescue and President Obama’s stimulus in addition to freezing federal hiring, are slightly more specific but yield sums nowhere near what’s necessary to tame the rising debt.
The document calls for extending $3.1 trillion in expiring Bush administration tax cuts, the vast majority of which Obama and Democratic leaders wholeheartedly embrace, except for the tax cuts for high earners. Defense spending, which has more than doubled since 2001, dwarfing every other budget category, goes unmentioned. The most telling omission is Medicare, the jet engine of U.S. deficits.
Conservative economist and National Review contributor Veronique de Rugy added that “Republicans don’t have a plan” to cut spending. In fact, they don’t have any kind of plan to reduce deficits at all. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the House Minority Whip, made that perfectly clear last week when he admitted that extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy would “dig the hole deeper” on the deficit, but supported them anyway.
In fact, just last Friday, Cantor was given multiple chances but couldn’t name a single specific spending cut he would recommend. Before that, MSNBC’s Mike Barnacle begged Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) to “start with just one program you’d cut” to reduce the deficit, but Shadegg couldn’t name one.
If Cantor, Shadegg, and the rest of the House Republicans need some ideas for responsible cuts and revenue boosters, we have them right here. But don’t expect an actual GOP agenda to emerge anytime soon – they wouldn’t want to scoop themselves.