Kelly Ayotte, the front-runner for the Republican senate nomination in New Hampshire, likes to portray herself as a fierce fiscal hawk. “The spend-a-thon in Washington must stop. That means stopping anymore spending that adds to our deficit and debt,” she has said, adding that “spending cuts must be made with a hatchet, not a scalpel.”
But if her sit-down with the Foster’s Daily Democrat’s editorial board is any indication, Ayotte is a bit clueless when it comes to the federal budget, as her prime deficit reduction strategy would actually result in the deficit increasing:
One way Ayotte wants to cut the deficit is repeal the $900 billion health care reform bill. She noted many components don’t kick in until after the presidential election in 2012. “That’s why it’s important to keep the repeal effort alive,” she said. “What we owe is not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue. It’s an American issue.”
Of course, as Matt Finkelstein notes, “according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the Affordable Care Act will reduce the deficit by $130 billion in the first ten years (and up to $1.3 trillion by 2029).” So repealing it will have the opposite effect of that which Ayotte claims she’s going for.
But this performance is really in line with the rest of Ayotte’s deficit peacockery. In an op-ed in the Nashua Telegraph — entitled “Time to stop the spendathon in Washington” — Ayotte outlined five steps that she thinks will fix the deficit. The first, a balanced budget amendment, is a pipe dream that even Republicans realize will be horribly destructive for the economy.
The next, repealing what’s left of the stimulus bill, only cuts spending in the short term and would necessitate repealing money dedicated to middle class tax cuts, thus increasing taxes on the middle class. She would also end earmarks, which amount to less than one percent of the federal budget, and add a “sunset” provision to federal programs, even though discretionary spending programs already have to be renewed every year.
Finally, she would indiscriminately cut every federal agency by 20 percent. I’m curious if she’s really in favor of downsizing the Defense Department, border enforcement, the FBI, the Coast Guard, and a whole host of other vital programs like food inspection or port security, by 20 percent overnight.
Note that none of Ayotte’s solutions have anything to do with the structural causes of the deficit. They’re simply the kinds of ideas conservatives like to tout even when the deficit isn’t a concern. If this is the best she can come up with, no one should be talking Ayotte’s deficit-cutting credentials seriously.