Last month, Florida’s Republican senate nominee, Marco Rubio, explained that his plan for balancing the budget amounted to cutting earmarks (which account for less than one percent of federal spending) and instituting a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, which former Reagan economic official Bruce Bartlett rightly characterized as a “phony solution.”
And if anyone needed more evidence that Rubio is not serious about reducing the deficit, he provided it during a recent meeting with the editorial board of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Rubio pitched his balanced budget amendment, as well as his desire to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but refused to name any actual cuts that he would make to reduce federal spending:
Rubio favors a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. “You have to have spending reductions and spending discipline.” Yet he favors extension of all the Bush-era tax cuts, including those benefiting families earning more than $250,000 a year, which would add an estimated $700 billion to the federal deficit over 10 years. And he declined to identify a specific program that benefits Broward or Palm Beach county residents that should be cut because the government can’t afford it.
Rubio joined an ever-growing list of Republican candidates and lawmakers who can’t provide a single item they would cut from the budget. That Rubio’s unable to name one cut while simultaneously preaching “spending reductions and spending discipline” — and throwing in $830 billion in tax cuts for the rich on top — is doubly galling.
In addition to extending the Bush tax cuts, Rubio has proposed blowing more holes in the budget with an unspecified corporate tax cut and by eliminating the estate tax, which costs $784 billion over ten years. So getting to the balance budget that Rubio says he wants will be that much harder; and of course he flatly rules out any tax increase.
All of which goes to show that Rubio is either ignorant as to how the federal budget works or he’s willing to explode the deficit, as long as the benefits go to the rich and to big corporations.
And lest we open ourselves up to the same line of criticism, here are some spending cuts that could be made, as a decent start towards a responsible budget: $100 billion in defense programs (that won’t compromise national security), $45 billion in subsidies to oil companies, $1 billion in tax expenditures for big agricultural firms, and hundreds of millions in redundant or duplicative education programs.
But those cuts need to pared with responsible revenue increases, like allowing the Bush tax cuts for the richest two percent of Americans to expire, closing the carried-interest loophole, reinstating the estate tax, and cracking down on the use of offshore tax havens. Rubio, though, would prefer platitudes and slogans.