This week, a spokesman for Kentucky’s Republican senate nominee Rand Paul said that, if he’s elected, Paul “will vote against and filibuster any unbalanced budget proposal in the Senate.” Leaving aside Paul’s ignorance regarding whether or not budgets can be filibustered at all (they can’t), eliminating a $1.3 trillion deficit in a single year is economic insanity and totally unrealistic. In fact, Rudolph Penner, who ran the Congressional Budget Office under President Reagan, called it “implausible.”
And the task is going to get a whole lot harder if Paul has his way when it comes to the Bush tax cuts, as he told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he would “absolutely” vote to extend all of the tax cuts, even if they aren’t paired with corresponding spending cuts:
Paul, who has built his campaign around opposing big government and a $13.4 trillion national debt, said it would be better to pair the tax cuts with a plan to reduce spending. However, asked if he would vote to extend the tax cuts without corresponding spending cuts, Paul said, “Absolutely. The money is not the government’s. It is ours.”
President Obama, of course, has proposed extending the tax cuts for the middle class, while allowing those on for the richest two percent of Americans to expire. The entire package costs more than $3 trillion over ten years, while extending just the tax cuts for the rich costs $830 billion over ten years (and $36 billion next year alone). So Paul would dig the fiscal hole that much deeper before turning to the spending side of the ledger.
But let’s take a look at what Paul would have to cut just to eliminate a $1.3 trillion deficit. Discretionary spending — inclusive of defense spending — in 2010 will be about $1.4 trillion. So Paul would have to get rid of almost the entire discretionary side of the budget (which includes some veteran’s benefits, operational funding for Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Nuclear Security Administration) to achieve his goal.
The non-defense discretionary side of the budget — which is where education funding, housing assistance, FEMA, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Secret Service all reside — comes to about $530 billion, nowhere near enough to close the gap Paul wants to eliminate.
So the upshot is that Paul would have to raid the mandatory budget — which is largely composed of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security — to entirely eliminate the deficit in a single year, unless he is planning to ditch the FBI and the Secret Service overboard. And extending all of the Bush tax cuts only makes the problem worse. All of which goes to show that Paul is a deficit peacock: happy to score political points by railing against government spending, but willing to increase that spending by hundreds of billion if it means cutting taxes for rich people.