Florida’s Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio has already made it abundantly clear that he is not serious about addressing the country’s long-term structural deficit, as he is in favor of permanently extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich — at a cost of $830 billion over ten years — and proposes a slew of new budget busting tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. He even wants to implement a supermajority requirement for any tax increase, which, as California shows, makes responsible budgeting next to impossible.
But just in case we needed some more evidence of Rubio’s deficit peacockery, he was happy to provide it during an interview last night with Fox Business’ David Asman. Rubio said that his plan for addressing the nation’s fiscal situation amounts to a constitutional amendment requiring a federal balanced budget, banning earmarks, unspecified entitlement reform, and putting “term limits” on federal agencies — excluding defense, of course:
RUBIO: The second thing we have to do is spending constraints. That means a constitutionally balanced budget, that means banning the practice of earmarks, and ultimately that means entitlement reform. [...]
ASMAN: Might you also have to go even farther than Ronald Reagan did and reversing thing like the department — when Jimmy Carter started the Department of Education, he said it would improve our test scores and make schools more efficient. In fact, we’ve had just the opposite. When he created the Department of Energy, that was to get us off of a dependence on foreign oil. Well guess what, we’re a lot more dependent on foreign oil. What about getting rid of two departments like these?
RUBIO: Well, here’s what I think. I think every non-defense department, every non-defense discretionary spending program should be sunsetted every 10 years. Every 10 years, those programs should sunset and we should require that they be reauthorized by Congress. That means they’re going to have to justify their existence. Look at it this way, it’s like term limits on agencies.
Rubio’s plan for reforming entitlements is shockingly non-specific, but in the past he has been sympathetic to simply slicing benefits for younger Americans. Earmarks, meanwhile, constitute less than one percent of federal discretionary spending, so eliminating them entirely does essentially nothing to the structural deficit.
As for the rest, a balanced budget amendment not only would take forever to pass, it would be incredibly destructive, as it would prevent the government from running a deficit when the situation calls for it (such as now, as the country tries to recover from a financial crisis). And even conservatives think it’s a dumb idea. “The amendment’s requirement that the federal government annually spend no more than it collects is, quite simply, insane. Debt in itself is not harmful, neither for governments nor for households,” wrote Scott Galupo, a former staffer for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH).
Meanwhile, eliminating entire non-defense agencies or programs still doesn’t take a significant chunk out of the budget. Spending on education, for instance, makes up only three percent of the entire budget (but funds critical programs, particularly for traditionally under served communities). So, to sum up, Rubio suggests a bunch of pipe dreams and small ball measures for reducing spending, while turning a blind eye to two of the largest drivers of the deficit: huge tax cuts for the rich and defense spending.
Michael Linden, CAP’s Associate Director for Tax and Budget Policy, sends along an additional point:
Rubio says, “I think every non-defense department, every non-defense discretionary spending program should be sunsetted every 10 years.”
Every dollar of discretionary spending already has to be reappropriated every single year. That, in fact, is the defining characteristic of a discretionary program. Indeed, the whole point of the annual budget process is to give Congress the opportunity to change the funding or even eliminate the funding for any discretionary program it likes. The key word there was “annual.” It happens every year. Already.
Wow. Who is this guy’s budget advisor? He should get a new one.